Lalande-de-Pomerol lies just to the north of its famous ‘big brother’ appellation, the legendary red wine territory of Pomerol. Capable of producing excellent wines in its own right, such proximity to one of the world’s most important fine wine villages is a doubled-edged sword. Inevitably the appellation benefits from comparisons, while at the same time, is frequently thought of as an inferior neighbour. Regardless of our perspectives, the 2018 has delivered some fantastic blends worthy of our consideration.

Separated from Pomerol by the Barbanne stream, a natural frontier that also marks the boundary between Saint-Émilion and its satellites, the appellation comprises two communes: Néac and Lalande-de-Pomerol. The wines from the former are generally considered to offer higher quality due to better terroir - gentle slopes and gravely soils with some intrusions of the sticky clay (“argiles gonflantes”) which Pomerol is famous for.

Although Lalande-de-Pomerol AOC is one of the earliest French appellations, created in 1936, its syndicate, the producers’ association, is proven to be the oldest in France. Founded in 1886 under the name “Association syndicate de lutte contre le phylloxera” (Association-Syndicate of the Fight Against Phylloxera), it united growers heavily hit by the plague. They shared experiences and best practices on how to adapt to the new realities facing the industry.

In the 1930s, on the dawn of the French appellation system, many producers from Néac assumed that they, based on the soil’s similarities, should be a part of Pomerol rather than Lalande. Today, some tiny parts of Lalande are included in Pomerol AOC but the area is only 3.5ha, an area belonging to Château De Sales, Pomerol’s biggest property. Some producers from Néac are still fighting to be a part of the more prestigious appellation - without success.

Merlot vineyards cover around 80% of Lalande-de-Pomerol with Cabernet Franc being the second most planted grape, giving extra freshness and elegance to local wines. Generally, wines coming from the sandier soils of Lalande-de-Pomerol are lighter, somewhat simpler and designed to be consumed younger, while those from the gravel and clays of Néac show greater complexity and provide greater persistence and age-worthiness.

Whether or not we should view Lalande-de-Pomerol as playing a supporting role, they are often great value wines. Producers still benefit from showcasing the word “Pomerol” on the label, but keep their prices reasonable. In trying to change the image of “Poor man’s Pomerol”, the appellation pursues some of the most rigorous production rules and strategies in France - aiming above all to control quality, promote environmental initiatives, and communicate to professionals and wine lovers around the world.