A Stone's Throw from Pétrus: Catherine Deneuve's Château Tournefeuille
We first read about régisseur Emeric Petit’s steep terraces while seated at an open-air cafe on the Place des Vosges. The story spoke of France’s movie stars, the restaurants they frequented, and the wines they favored. It seems Catherine Deneuve’s taste in Right Bank Bordeaux is unusually refined. While dining at Les Trois Marches in Versailles, Laurent in Paris, and La Vieille Fontaine in Maisons-Laffitte, sommeliers reported that Mme Deneuve regularly ordered a bottle of Château Petrus’ neighbor, Château Tournefeuille.
Later, it would be the brilliant young Bordelais enologist Stéphane Beuret who sang the praises of Emeric Petit’s Tournefeuille. “If I had the means to buy one château on the Right Bank, I’d pick Tournefeuille. Château Petrus is 500 meters away. Vieux Château Certan, Gazin, and La Fleur-Petrus are right next door,” Beuret said. “The only thing that keeps Tournefeuille from fetching five times the asking price is the demarcation of the appellation. The terraces are in Lalande-de-Pomerol, but they were just few hundred meters to the east, they’d not only be in Pomerol, they’d be in Petrus’ backyard!”
Last summer, when we pulled into the long gravel driveway of Tournefeuille, there were two flags flying. To the left was the French flag. But, in the time-honored tradition of the Bordelais elite, the second flag honored the day’s visitors, and may have first been sewn by Betsy Ross in a small house on Arch Street in Philadelphia.
Tournefeuille is just 500 meters from Petrus. But, Emeric Petit explained, from a balance sheet perspective, it couldn’t be further away. “Over there,” Emeric pointed across the way at Petrus — the 6’4” tall enologist can see further on the horizon than most of us — “is where the greatest red wine in the world is grown. Our soils are the same. Gravel and clay. Our terraces enjoy similar exposure. While Petrus is 100% Merlot, we are 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. Petrus is in Pomerol and sells for $3,000/bottle. Tournefeuille is just over the Lalande-de-Pomerol line.” Petit laughed. “It sells for good deal less!”
We spent an hour walking a portion of the 36-acre terraced property with the lanky winemaker whose words and winemaking are equally understated and precise. The vines average 50 years of age, not so much farmed as gardened. Petit emphasized that his goal is not to starve the vines, pushing them towards ultra-maturity (as is often the fashion these days in Pomerol and Saint-Émilion), but to guide the plants towards a balanced crop. With balance comes elegance, riper, more sumptuous tannins, and wines that are delicious out of the gate, but add weight, complexity, and charm after two decades of aging.
In a 2014 vintage that Wine Spectator called “just right” and “the region’s first consistently high quality year since 2010,” Emeric Petit crafted what he believes to be the finest wine ever drawn from the terraces of Tournefeuille.
Deep, glistening purple-black to the rim, with beautifully delineated, chiseled aromas of black cherry, crushed black fruits, and new-wood cedar. Much like the châteaux across the way, it’s the lush, silken, velour-like richness that immediately impresses. Infused with delicious crushed-black-fruit liqueur, our only criticism was that the 2014 Château Tournefeuille “La Terrasse” might start out too forward. Petit smiled, urging patience. An hour later, the wine backed off and reined itself in, becoming more honed and restrained, the fine underlying tannin structure taking center stage.
The 2014 Château Petrus goes for $1,800/bottle. La Fleur-Petrus will set you back $140. Vieux Château Certan can be had for a cool $175. As to Catherine Deneuve’s favored Bordeaux, set just at the Lalande-de-Pomerol line, it’s perfectly at home in this illustrious Right Bank neighborhood, but carries a far more proletarian price tag. Normally $50 (if you can find it,) just $27 today on WineAccess. Shipping included on 4 — direct from the cellars in Pomerol.