Château La Cabanne, Pomerol – a vertical tasting

Château La Cabanne, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France

A Vertical Tasting

During lockdown, it was, not surprisingly, rather challenging coming by tasting samples.  Tasting samples fuel my wine writing and they populate this website, which is how I make a living.  Some wineries shut up shop, while others frantically shipped unstable barrel samples around the world leaving tasters to try to imagine what the wines would have tasted like in ideal circumstances – i.e. out of the actual barrel, at the respective Château.  Covid-19 has certainly made tasting wine tricky, but some wineries have excelled at communicating and I am very excited to report that there has been, thankfully, a lot of activity from all corners of the globe.  In fact, I have been tasting nearly as many wines as I managed to achieve in pre-Coronatimes and the only downside is the mountain of recycling I have been living under.

One such enchanting delivery was a mixed case from the wonderful François Estager of Château La Cabanne, among others.  I have listed my notes below and you can find these wines on the internet if you are keen to buy a few cases.  In addition, François sent me a short history on his property which I have copied below.  Right at the end of this piece, I have made a montage of the back labels of La Cabanne.  An eccentric chap, François adds two new ‘health warnings’ to the obligatory ‘pregnancy’ one each year for our amusement.  He might be the custodian of a handful of venerable properties in one of the most important wine regions in the world, but he still has a refreshing sense of humour.

I would like to thank François for allowing me to taste this fascinating vertical from La Cabanne.

A Short History by François Estager

Château La Cabanne was created many centuries ago. The name comes from the fact that, in this area, there were many cabins where serfs who worked in the vineyards lived, while the rich owners lived in the city of Libourne.
1952: My grandfather, François Estager, bought Château La Cabanne. Before that, he came from Corrèze, in 1912 to begin working in the wine business. He bought his first vineyard, Château La Papeterie, Montagne St-Emilion, in 1934.
1966: My grandfather passed away and my father, Jean-Pierre, took over.
1995: After studying Economics and initially working in professional sportswear, I join the family company.
2001: At the end of the harvest, with many technical concerns, my father died of a heart attack. Fortunately, I had worked with him for six years and the show must go on!
2002: Florent Faure, our current technical manager and oenologist, joined the company after obtaining his DNO in Montpellier (Oenology diploma). He already knew our vineyards well because he had done several internships in previous vintages. From this date, we were able to start a program of restructuring the vineyard and undertake a slightly more modern approach in the making of our wines.
2010: A fire at Château La Cabanne, just before bottling, caused us to lose 100% of our 2008 vintage which was ready and resting in vats. Our other Pomerol wines (Ch. Haut-Maillet and Ch. Plincette), as well as our St-Emilion (Domaine des Gourdins), were also affected. Fortunately, the 2009 wines were mostly in barrel, on the other side of the Château, and these were therefore not affected by the fire.
As the vat room was unusable, we set up a large tent in front of Château La Papeterie (Montagne St-Emilion) with our new ‘tronconiques’ vats and we used temporary thermoregulation of Ch. Soutard which had just finished its new building. After a lot of stress, the harvest went very well. I call my 2010 vintage ‘camping wine’ because it was made under canvas.
2011: We finished work on our new vat room in September, just before the harvest. Finally, we took advantage of our ‘tronconiques’ vats with very cold temperatures for pre-fermentation maceration. It was hard for 18 months, but after this episode, we were happy to work in this simple, but very practical building.
2012: I have always worked with Gilles Pauquet (he started in the early 70s) and he retired in 2012 and we very quickly thought about his successor. Indeed, Gilles had been working with Thomas Duclos for a few years and therefore we knew him well and had a very good feeling with him from the beginning. It was, therefore, quite natural that Thomas took over from Gilles from this vintage.
Since then, we continue to evolve our viticulture and vinification and we use no sulfites in the winery. We have been certified ‘High Environmental Value’ (HVE3) since 2018.

1989 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

92% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc

At 31 years old, this is a lovely old, gamey and sweetly-red-fruited wine and while it is well past its prime it is still delicious and nostalgic with cherry and plum notes and a faint savoury, leathery tang on the finish. 16.5/20

2000 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

94% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc

Ripe, proud, fresh and alive, this is not a dark, black, sweet wine but a red-fruited, lithe, freshly tannic red with energy and spice and it is medium-weight, not powerful, and so it harks back to a civilised era in this millennium vintage.  17+/20

2001 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

94% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc

There is a more herbal nose here than found on the 2000 and a sour, almost minty edge with refreshes and breaks up the fruit.  There is a touch of barrel tone here, too, which brings in a brûlée note, which is interesting, but it also adds dryness.  Approaching its peak this is a good effort in a less than straightforward vintage. 17/20

2006 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

92% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc

There is depth and power here and this is still a dark and firm wine.  The fruit is more sauvage and blacker in tone than the older wines and the oak is perfectly integrated.  This is a good wine and while it is not too powerful or extracted it is a more muscular style and it looks superb.  Drinking now but with enough tension to hold well, this is a fine effort.  17.5+/20

2007 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

94% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc

Light, fresh, red berry and leaf notes mark this as a much lighter and less structured vintage, but there is more than enough acidity and bite to balance the juiciness and despite the supposed frailties of 2007 this wine is still very much in balance and also drinking well already.  16/20

2009 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

94% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc

This vintage is, on the one hand, more modern and fruit-driven in terms of the ripeness and juiciness of the red and black notes, but it is also a more extracted and tannic wine, too.  Fascinating and not, strictly speaking, drinking, this is a pensive wine and it is too closed and hard on the finish right now.  I suspect that we need to wait three or four more years minimum for this wine to mellow enough to drink at the top of its game.  16.5+/20

2010 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

94% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc

Brilliant, spicy and dynamic on the palate, this is a multifaceted wine and yet I would warn against opening it up any time soon because the tannins are proud and active.  In terms of the fruit, it is not too hard or sweet, staying calm but also compact and the length is very encouraging indeed. 17.5+/20

2012 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

100% Merlot

This is a delicious 2012 given that the fruit is suave, mellow, velvety and enticing.  At only eight years old, it is juicy, indulgent, forward-drinking and in no mood to give up or slow down for at least another five years.  This is a fabulous surprise and it is a classic La Cabanne, showing the control and tenderness of this estate.  17/20

2013 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

98% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc

This is a little solid and square on the palate and there is a lack of juiciness here which means that this is a wine which will always be chunkier and less pliable than most other vintages.  While there is tannin here I doubt that these astringent tones will soften the fruit enough, even given time.  16/20

2014 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

97% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc

This is another lovely wine and this time there is exoticism and flair in abundance.  While too young to drink, there is clearly a great future here and this is not a particularly juicy style but it is certainly complex and perfectly well balanced.  17+/20

2015 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

95% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc

Big and proud with a muscular framework and firm tannins, there is a long while to wait for this vintage to come around, but I like the weight and energy here and the fruit is spot on.  You will need to wait a decade for this wine to harmonise fully and I suspect it will always be a little brutish and lacking in elegance.  16.5+/20

2016 Château La Cabanne, Pomerol

96% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc

A mightily impressive wine with a full array of flavours and a freshness beneath the clean, bright tannins.  This is one of the finest vintages I have tasted from this estate and it will live 20 years with no problem whatsoever. 17.5+/20