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Tasting with Christian Moueix

An overview of the 2010 vintage at top Right Bank estates, including Lafleur-Pétrus and Trotanoy
Photo by: Jon Wyand
Christian and Edouard Moueix are associated with some of the top châteaus on Bordeaux's Right Bank.

Posted: Mar 22, 2011 10:00am ET

All of James Molesworth's blogs and tasting notes can be found in the complete 2010 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting Package.

The weather in Bordeaux today was simply perfect for tasting—bright and sunny, with high air pressure and a fresh, cooling breeze. It put me in a great mood as I set off for Pomerol for my first day of visits to taste the barrel samples of 2010 Bordeaux.

As if I truly needed another reason to be excited, since I was going to visit Christian Moueix. Moueix is one of the true wise men of Bordeaux, and his portfolio is rich with the jewels of the appellations of Pomerol and St.-Emilion. Though he no longer personally controls Château Pétrus (I’ll taste that wine later), there’s no better place than Moueix’s Libourne headquarters to get an overview of how the Right Bank fared in the vintage. (For more on Christian Moueix and his son Edouard, check out my December 2010 blog entry featuring a video of Christian giving a lesson in pruning.)

Moueix is never given to overstatement or unbridled enthusiasm; he is always restrained and objective. I found him a touch apprehensive at the start of the tasting, noting that the ’10s had taken longer than usual to finish their malolactic fermentations. As a result, the wines were taking longer to define themselves.

“They’ve been a bit severe and in need of more educating,” says Moueix. “The key in ’10 was to capture the freshness of the fruit. 2009 was easy; everything was so delicious. But in ’10, the wines need to be worked a little more. We might rack every two and a half months for instance, instead of every three months. We shall see.”

For me, tasting Moueix’s lineup of ’10s showed the wide range of terroir on display across the Right Bank—from fruit-forward wines to those with more minerality or dark, brooding muscle.

“I like minerality in a wine,” says Moueix. “But it is always a question of balance. Too much minerality and the wine can become austere and tough to drink.”

We began with the wines from St.-Emilion, where Moueix has expanded his holdings in recent years. (All the wines described below were tasted non-blind. As these are unfinished wines, they are scored in four-point ranges—eg. 89-92 points—to indicate that the ratings are still preliminary.)

The Château La Serre St.-Emilion 2010 is superfresh, with racy red licorice and cassis. It shows bright acidity and a very sleek finish. Sourced from parcels on the limestone plateau above the town, near Trottevieille and Troplong-Mondot, it’s a fine introduction to the minerally side of the appellation (92-95 points).

Château Magdelaine is one of the St.-Emilion estates currently being replanted by Moueix, and so the vineyard’s normal mix of two-thirds limestone and one-third clay soils is currently closer to 50/50. Consequently, the 2010 wine is rather plump, with a big core of plum and cherry. It’s long and silky too, with a weighty finish (94-97).

Château Bélair-Monange in St.-Emilion is also being replanted. The 2010 comes from a mix of two-thirds clay parcels, the rest limestone—the reverse of what it was before Moueix bought the estate. The wine shows gorgeous blackberry and fig fruit with a laser of iron-tinged minerality cutting through the middle. There’s lots of perfume on the finish already and great cut too. It’s rather defined now, with a very flattering feel, as opposed to the more austere versions of the previous owners (94-97).

Then we moved on to Pomerol, where the Cabernet Franc that is so important in St.-Emilion gives way to nearly pure Merlot.

The Château Plince Pomerol 2010 offers up-front, plump and juicy plum and blackberry fruit with lots of dark spice and anise notes chiming in on the fleshy finish. It sports a little punch too (91-94).

The Château Lafleur-Gazin 2010 is in a similar vein; with a muscular core of blackberry and fig and a nice smoke- and spice-filled finish, it offers appeal up front. But there’s lots of acidity nicely buried on the finish and a hint of plum peel lends an ever-so-slightly chewy edge, so this will need a touch more time to settle into itself (92-95).

The Château La Grave à Pomerol 2010 is almost too easy right now, with a velvety feel and lush blackberry, blueberry and plum fruit. It has lovely spice shadings with a dash of anise. It’s very flattering, but stays focused all the way through and is thoroughly delicious (93-96).

In contrast, the Château Bourgneuf Pomerol 2010 is a more powerful style, with a core of anise and red licorice and very solid grip and definition already (93-96).

The Providence Pomerol 2010 is sleek, with a beautiful beam of red licorice and cassis. Long and supple, with dense structure but thoroughly integrated. It has lots in reserve, with lots of spice too (94-97).

The Château Latour à Pomerol 2010 is a gorgeous wine in the making. It marries power and finesse with a large core of smoldering fig and blackberry fruit, offset by black tea and aromatic spice notes. Big and fleshy, but still stylish (95-98).

The Château Certan de May Pomerol 2010 has stunning depth and drive, with a deep well of blackberry and plum sauce. Lush structure. Superlong, with spice and anise echoing on (95-98).

The Château Hosanna Pomerol 2010 has a hefty 30 percent old-vine Cabernet Franc, and it shows in the dark baker’s chocolate note that runs from start to finish, along with almost flashy fruitcake, licorice, blueberry and plum sauce flavors (95-98).

The Château La Fleur-Pétrus Pomerol 2010 is creamy and lush, with layers of red, black and purple fruits. It shows muscle on the finish, but the fruit is here in spades, with terrific polish. It’s a great combination of power and freshness and reminds me of the ’98, but with more polish (96-99).

The star of stars here is unquestionably the Château Trotanoy Pomerol 2010. Moueix wondered if it might flirt with being too powerful in a tannin-driven vintage like 2010. “Trotanoy is always tannic. This was where we really had to be extra selective. In ’10, some vats could be a little harsh. We wound up with 1,500 cases of Trotanoy in ’10, versus 2,000 cases in ’09,” says Moueix.

The wine is extremely formidable from the start, with a wall of tannin-driven power that pushes the core of plum, fig and blackberry fruit to the background for now. But it has loads of flesh, despite the tannic surge returning on the finish. Assuming Moueix can wrestle it into form during the élevage, it should be one of the top wines of the vintage (96-99).

I guess you could call today a good start. Tomorrow, I’ll head up to Margaux, so stay tuned for more notes.

Meanwhile … I often ask the vignerons I see on my visits a set of standard questions, as I try to get a gauge on the vintage at hand. I’ll post the questions and one vigneron’s answers in each blog entry. Today Moueix is on the hot seat:

Is there more pressure to make an excellent wine in a difficult year and exceed expectations, or to make a great wine in a great year and match expectations?

There is more pressure on a great vintage. There is no excuse to miss a great vintage. They are the reference points for 20 years or more. We have to be more selective to make sure we don’t miss them. In a year like ’07, when the wines are for more immediate drinking, you can be less selective.

It’s early, but how do you think ’10 measures up to ’09 in terms of quality and style?

2010 is a very different year. The acidity is higher. With the dry summer, there was a blockage in maturity and the alcohol and acidity was higher. So the vintage won’t be as charming as ’09 was early on, and they will probably last a little longer. ’09 was so amazing right from the beginning, a blend of ’82, ’89 and ’90. But ’10 is still a bit austere and it will take some time to define itself.

Do you look for finesse more than power in a wine, and if so, how do you handle a vintage like ’10?

Yes, you can say I prefer wines of finesse. In ’10, even if you picked at the best time, you got wines that were 13.5 or 14 percent [alcohol], for sure higher than usual. You could’ve gotten 14.5 or more even, if you waited. We shortened the maceration by three to five days. Pumping over was mild and less frequent. And most important, no press wine at all was added to any of the final blends.

Suddenly, ’05 seems to have become a forgotten vintage. Does it measure up to ’09 and ’10?

You’ll be back in a year, and everyone will be talking about ’11, no matter how good or bad it is. That’s just the way it goes. But ’05 is so classic, it’s in the same league for sure. ’09 will probably be the top of the three, but then ’05 and ’10 are right there, with ’05 the more elegant, ’10 the more muscular year.

All of James Molesworth's blogs and tasting notes can be found in the complete 2010 Bordeaux Barrel Tasting Package.

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