There is one overriding factor that really makes Château Lafleur different and distinct from many of its neighbours. It comes down to the unique varietal Château Lafleur has spent a huge amount of time bringing back from the brink of extinction. The varietal is Bouchet and it is perhaps best understood as being the original pre-clonal Cabernet Franc varietal grown in Bordeaux prior to the great frost of 1956. The great frost of 1956 was a devastating blow to the Bordeaux region which led to a major restructuring of the regions vineyards. Pomerol was one of the worst hit areas, with up to 90% of all its vineyards destroyed. Very little of the Bouchet vines survived the frost and today it is believed that just Château Lafleur, Château Ausone, Château Cheval Blanc and a few vines in Château Angélus remain.
It was then that Château Lafleur first committed to not only protect their remaining vines of Bouchet, but to propagate them and create their own heritage nursery of Bouchet vines in order to protect the almost lost genetic make-up of the varietal. Located opposite Pétrus, it is important to note that the geographical proximity of these two estates in no way leads to similar final products. Whereas the vineyards at Pétrus are planted with 100% Merlot, the proportion of Merlot at Lafleur is 50% with the other 50% being dedicated to Bouchet, one of the highest proportions of Cabernet Franc planted in any estate in Pomerol. The significant role that this grape variety plays in the final blend brings aromatic intensity and depth, and helps to place Lafleur firmly apart from the other wines in the region, and even in the whole of Bordeaux. This original clone of Cabernet Franc is quite different from the current genetic clones of Cabernet Franc that are currently being planted in Bordeaux.
These are commercial clones, originating from the Loire Valley. Château Lafleur believes this pre-clonal selection varietal behaves very differently to its modern Cabernet Franc cousin. For a start, Bouchet is much more drought resistant which means it performs much more evenly in the recent droughts in Pomerol over the last 5 years. Secondly, the taste and the colour are completely distinct with the flavour profile being somewhere in the middle between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has the tannic structure of Cabernet Sauvignon but the tannins are less blunt and more refined. It is also much better at keeping the freshness than Merlot and it doesn’t have any of the green pepper herbaceous notes of the commercial clones of Cabernet Franc.