In an area dominated by white wines, with only one red wine Grand Cru, lies a village that has become so crucial for its village-level, lieu-dit and Premier Cru wine as to even surpass the one Grand Cru, Corton. Pommard's Premier Cru wine is certainly comparable to that of Côte de Nuits villages such as Chambolle-Musigny and Morey-St-Denis, although not that of their Grands Crus. Pommard's intense, firm wines contrast directly with the soft, feminine wines of the competing Volnay, which lies slightly southwest of Pommard.
Pommard can make more concentrated wine than Corton itself and makes some of the most powerful Pinots in the world. While not as refined or elegant as most Grand Crus, the wines are at the very least important and distinctive. Also, prices are much lower than in competing Volnay.
The wines, which are all red, are made in the village of the same name. This village, which is slightly less than 4 square miles in size, encompasses almost 800 acres of vineyards. This is more than Corton and Volnay combined. Less than 300 of these acres are devoted to the 27 Premiers Crus of the village.
The historic village of Pommard was one of the first villages in Burgundy to become popular for red wine. Pommard's firm reputation for intense, structured Pinot Noir red wine was officially confirmed and regulated in 1937, along with the entire first wave of Burgundy AOCs. The alcohol level was set at 10.5 percent for village wine and 11 percent for all Premiers Crus, a regulation which has been in effect ever since. Also, production of white wine in the area was outlawed.
Since then, Pommard's reputation has remained solid even throughout various dips and ruts in general Burgundian quality. Surprisingly, none of the great Premiers Crus have ever been promoted to Grand Cru, but with modern critics their reputations are firmly cemented.
Climate and Viticulture
Why is it that Pommard has no Grands Crus? After all, the vineyards are sufficiently cool for Pinot Noir to grow, have just the right amount of rain, and have densely concentrated limestone soil that provides the wine with its firm, powerful flavors and dusty tannins. There's no logical answer to this question, except for perhaps the fact that Pommard is not on a hill. The hill appellations, for complex viticultural reasons, make more complex wines.
But despite this inherent disadvantage, Pommard has apparently managed to compensate for it with its distinctive style. And since it is surrounded by hills, Pommard effectively has the second best thing: shelter from wind, storms, and horizontal rain. Highly concentrated limestone helps to make the wine intense and serious, but at the best Premier Cru vineyard site, Les Rugiens, the soil actually has high iron content.
- Pinot Noir: Although Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris are allowed to be blended in, Pinot Noir is the king grape of Pommard. Famous for their firm, powerful flavors and dusty tannins, Pommard's wines don't have extremely elegant flavors, instead favoring power. Tastes range from round, meaty flavors of smoke and game, to more earthy notes of soil, to Pinot's typical red fruit flavors of plum and cherry, but with a firmer edge. Considering the depth, complexity, and concentration of these wines, comparable to those of the Côte de Nuits neighbors, the price point of $50-$175 starts to seem awfully competitive. Like most red Burgundies, the best wines need a good amount of time to mature and early drinkers will be at risk of not getting their money's worth. In fact, give one of these wines 10 years in the cellar if you give it any time at all. They can easily last 20-25 years before the tannins and fruit start to fade away.
In this area, even boutique producer Domaine Leroy charges only about $150 per bottle. In fact, most of these wines can be had for under $100. This isn't anywhere near a bargain, but on relative terms all the producers listed here have to be considered to beat the Côte de Nuits on value.
We have isolated 13 producers that we consider to be Pommard leaders.
- Jean-Marc Boillot
- Bouchard Pere et Fils
- Domaine Comte Armand
- Domaine de Courcel
- Domaine Jean Garaudet
- Domaine Michel Lafarge
- Dominique Laurent
- Lucien Le Moine
- Domaine de Montille
- Nicolas Potel
- Domaine de la Pousse d'Or
With no Grands Crus and few lieux-dits of significance, Pommard is a village whose market runs entirely on the reputation of their 27 Premiers Crus. Here is the list of these premier vineyards.
- Les Arvelets
- Les Bertins
- Les Boucherottes
- La Chanière
- Les Chanlins-Bas
- Les Chaponnières: In the late 1990s Girardin was a leading producer here, and these wines should still be drinkable if you can find them.
- Les Charmots: This is one of the more common Pommard Premiers Crus, with offerings from Dominique Laurent and Domaine Jean Garaudet taking the lead. The former is more intense, while the latter is sweeter and less concentrated. Girardin has been known to produce wine here as well.
- Clos Blanc: This one can be seen occasionally; Jadot made the best wine here at one point.
- Clos de la Commaraine: This monopole of Jadot makes one of the more exclusive Pommard offerings. Prices are unbecoming of a monopole—often under $30! The reason is that this is not really a leading vineyard, although the sweet, relatively easygoing cherry-based wine can be good.
- Clos des Épeneaux: This monopole, entirely owned by famous world-class producer Comte Armand, makes for some of the best wine in Pommard. These are extraordinarily spicy wines, with the earthy characteristic of most Pommards, along with some cherry and plum flavors. The wine builds slowly and has a nearly infinite finish of truffles and other exotic notes. This wine rivals Bordeauxs in terms of intensity, depth, and concentration. But it also has an underlying elegance and class, especially after the requisite aging. Prices vary between about $120 and $200.
- Clos Micault
- Clos de Verger
- Les Combes-Dessus: The Bouchard offering here is by far the best, with subtlety to back up the usual firm tannins and earthy flavors.
- Les Croix Noires: Earthy, classic and consistent, the Courcel is probably the best wine here.
- Derrière Saint-Jean
- En Largillière
- Les Épenots: Although slightly inferior to the appropriately named Les Grands Épenots, the basic Les Épenots vineyard is still a Pommard leader. Most producers will have at least one offering in this vineyard; few label it by its technical name, Les Petits Épenots. Five producers are notable. Jadot's wine has the most simple and elegant flavors, although they are a bit underdeveloped. Lucien Le Moine has pleasant but not leading wine with smoky, redcurranty flavors tinged with sweetness. Richer and more ripe are the Potel offerings, but they need aging to show their better side. Domaine de Montille's great cuvée is the most balanced, but at the same time firm; this one is difficult to find. The generally agreed leader is Dominique Laurent, whose Épenots has wonderfully concentrated soil and earth notes as well as great aging potential.
- Les Fremiers: The best wine here is made by Courcel. With a boatload of intensity and tannin, it is often accused of being unrefined but is a distinctive style nonetheless.
- Les Grands Épenots: This is one of the most important Premiers Crus in Pommard for sure, although its superiority to Les Épenots is not always as certain as the name might suggest. By far the classiest wine comes from Lucien Le Moine, but it has enough intensity to age well. More lush and juicy, the Girardin is also pleasant. Domaine de Courcel has proved itself to be the king of this vineyard, though: with classically austere but ripe flavors, dusty tannins, and a dry texture, Courcel's cuvée is an old-fashioned but superiorly complex red Burgundy.
- Les Jarollières: The two important competitors here are Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot and Domaine de la Pousse d'Or. In both cases, the dark wines have enough intensity and concentration to distinguish them as Pommard, but also a more silky, refined texture to differentiate them from the more masculine styles. Both have ripe, dense flavors, and can age well.
- Les Pézerolles: This rather popular Premier Cru is home to wines from several of our leading producers. Potel makes wine of good character, but it can sometimes be youthfully disjointed. Bouchard's wine is a bit more elegant than usual, with red fruit flavor, while Montille's cuvée is smoky but the most sweet and lively of their Pommard lineup. Michel Lafarge's cuvée is the best though, austere and heavy but full of flavor.
- La Platière
- Les Poutures
- La Refène
- Les Rugiens-Bas: Most of the wines labeled Pommard-Rugiens originate from this vineyard and/or Les Rugiens-Haut. Thanks to the reputation of this name, most widespread producers at least have some holdings here; simply put, it's the most desirable vineyard in Pommard. Those lucky enough to own a share of this vineyard usually claim the resulting wine as their best, and it almost always is in the minds of critics. The general style in Rugiens is definitive Pommard: dusty and earthy, with soil notes along with the usual Pinot Noir red fruit complex, backed up by tannic power. Jean-Marc Boillot's Rugiens is the most concentrated of Boillot's Pommards, with rich smoke flavors and excellent texture. Bouchard's is also deep and broad, their best Pommard. Earthy and wild, the Courcel is made in an unusual style but is equally good. Dominique Laurent's earthy example is too bitter to be drunk young, but can age. Girardin's smoky, rich example is their best, and other négociants Jadot, Lucien Le Moine, and Potel make similar examples. Domaine de Montille's Rugiens is notably soil-rich, with a smoky tinge as well, their best wine. It's hard to declare a clear leader in this vineyard.
- Les Rugiens-Haut: The second vineyard used for many Rugiens wines. See Les Rugiens-Bas.
- Les Saucilles: Practically the only wine from this Premier Cru is made by Domaine Jean-Marc Boillot. It is elegant and round, but should still be aged.