Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is in France for his 2016 vintage Bordeaux barrel tastings. While there, he's visiting the châteaus of some of the region's top estates, as well as some up-and-coming new producers.
Christian Moueix's stable of Right Bank properties need little introduction. Along with his son Edouard, Moueix has piloted the family business founded by his late father into position atop the Bordeaux hierarchy, driven primarily by his flagship estates, Châteaus Trotanoy and La Fleur-Pétrus in Pomerol and Bélair-Monange in St.-Emilion.
But while the Moueix name has become synonymous with elite Right Bank wines, the vintner also has a plethora of values in his portfolio (which includes estates he owns along with others he works with in some capacity, including distribution). I'd be remiss if I didn't cast a light on these wines, particularly in a vintage as promising as 2016. Some of these values will reward cellaring, while others are geared for more immediate consumption, making them perfect buy-by-the-case wines while you wait for the big boys to mature. The wines listed here have historically been priced at $45 or less (official prices for 2016s have yet to be released).
Château Puy-Blanquet St.-Emilion: Moueix has been working exclusively with this estate since 1962, advising on winemaking and viticulture, along with helping to make the blend. The 2016 is lively, with red currant and plum fruit bouncing along, backed by enticing floral and spice notes. It stays fresh on the finish, with a light mineral accent.
Château La Serre St.-Emilion: This estate's wines have been distributed exclusively by Moueix for the past 10 years. The 2016 shows really good, sleek cherry and raspberry coulis flavors, with fresh acidity and light spice accents on the finish.
Clos St.-Martin St.-Emilion: Clos St.-Martin is relatively new to the group, as Moueix has been exclusively distributing the wines for the past three years. Owned by Sophie Fourcade, this property is just 3.2 acres, located between Beau-Séjour Bécot and Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarosse. It's also the only wine in the Moueix group where Michel Rolland helps make the wine. The 2016 delivers enticing plum cake and blueberry reduction notes with a warm, fleshy feel, but this stays grounded, with anise and graphite notes buttressing the finish. Good latent grip too, with a buried chalky edge.
Château de Bel-Air Lalande-de-Pomerol: Historically considered one of Lalande's better properties, Moueix had exclusivity here for 40 years before it was sold about 10 years ago. It flipped hands once more, and Moueix picked it up again in 2014. The wine has a fresh, breezy feel, with dark cherry and plum fruit pushed by a lively licorice snap note, staying supple and open through the finish.
Château Plince Pomerol: An exclusive of Moueix's since 1970, the longtime friendly relationship with Plince's Moreau family brings a smile to Moueix's face as he talks about it. The 2016 is vivid, with blueberry and boysenberry flavors that glide through, staying fresh and open in feel while pretty spice hints fill in on the finish. A light mineral edge gives it some persistence.
Château Lagrange Pomerol: Located next to Le Gay on the north side of Pomerol, this was purchased along with Trotanoy in 1953 by Moueix's father. It was replanted in the 1970s by Christian, but drainage was an issue, so he replanted it again 10 years ago. As this is a wetter section of Pomerol, it did particularly well in the dry 2016 vintage. The wine has ripe cherry and plum sauce flavors that glide along, with a flash of balsam on the finish. A touch languid in feel but the fruit is really pretty.
Château Lafleur-Gazin Pomerol: This property has been managed by Moueix since 1973. The 2016 is fresh and pure, with delightful cassis and cherry preserve notes that stream through, picking up hints of tea and mineral. This has some sneaky grip on the finish too.
Château Bourgneuf Pomerol: The relationship here with the Vayron family owners dates back to Christian's father in the 1960s. It has a solid fleshy feel in 2016, with plum and blackberry compote notes backed by a good dose of roasted apple wood and licorice root. A little on the muscular side, but it's a big ball of fruit and it has the freshness of the vintage too.
Château La Grave à Pomerol Pomerol: Owned by Moueix since 1971, this estate has dealt with leaf roll virus, and a large block is currently being replanted. Consequently, Moueix notes that quality can go up and down a bit here from year to year, but as he says, "When it's good, it's really good." The 2016 is just that, with solid guts and lots of licorice snap–driven blackberry and black currant fruit pumping along, brambly grip and a juicy, compact finish that will need a little time to unfurl. This is the savvy buy for Pomerol lovers.