Showcasing the depth of his Right Bank properties, renowned Bordeaux vintner Christian Moueix brought a cross-section of eight wines from top vintages, back to 1989, to share with the Wine Experience audience. And he had an agenda mapped out. “I’d like to show that Bordeaux is a wine for drinking, not just tasting,” he explained, urging everyone to finish their glasses.
“I can assure you this won’t be a painful experience,” said Wine Spectator senior editor James Suckling, who moderated the Friday morning conversation. He described the Pomerol and St.-Emilion appellations as the “holy grail for Merlot and Cabernet Franc.”
Moueix’s father was a successful wine merchant before he began buying vineyards in 1952. He created an empire that included Right Bank heavyweights Pétrus, Trotanoy, La Fleur-Pétrus and Magdelaine. Moueix, who attended winemaking school at the University of California at Davis, took the reins of his father’s company in 1978. Since then, he has added properties to that roster, including Château Hosanna and Château Bélair.
The first six wines came from the Pomerol appellation. The Château Providence Pomerol 2005 (95 points, $93) was tight but still balanced, and a good example, Suckling said, of why Bordeaux wines are drinkable in their youth.
The silky texture of the Château Hosanna Pomerol 2000 (95, $220), from old vines, shows off what the Right Bank can do with Cabernet Franc that so many other areas of the world cannot, said Moueix.
The Château La Fleur-Pétrus Pomerol 1998 (93, $77), from a vintage where the Right Bank fared much better than the Left, was dense and rich. Although the property sits across the road from the storied Pétrus, Moueix said, the terroir is so different that they usually pick the grapes 10 days earlier.
The Château Trotanoy 1995 (96, $75) was showing beautifully after being closed for many years, which pleased Moueix, who had brought the wine from his personal cellar and now has only two cases. “Wine is for sharing,” he said. “My father used to say, ‘A new wine will come next year.’”
The Château La Grave à Pomerol Pomerol 1990 (88, $NA) and the Château Latour à Pomerol Pomerol 1989 (90, $NA) framed a discussion on which of the two classic vintages was better overall. Moueix believes they were equal in quality, while Suckling prefers the 1989 in general. Noting that the La Grave wines typically provide excellent value, Suckling tipped off the audience to look for them on restaurant wine lists.
Busy sommeliers decant Bordeaux for the seminar guests.
Moueix used the austerity of the Latour à Pomerol as a prism to discuss traditional methods of winemaking. He has resisted the trend of maturing wines in small new oak barrels. “I have been accused of being old-fashioned,” said Moueix, who was critical of overextraction: “Bordeaux should not be overripe.” Finding an analogy for his winemaking in “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, he quoted from memory for the audience: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
For the final wines, the rich and beautiful Château Magdelaine St.-Emilion 1998 (91, $53) and the well-structured Château Bélair St.-Emilion 2005 (90, $85), Moueix explained that he usually serves the higher acidity St.-Emilion wines before the softer Pomerols. But he wanted to end the seminar with the Bélair, as he had acquired full ownership of the estate just last year, and this was the only wine poured in which he did not have a hand. His goals are to improve the estate’s vineyard management and winemaking techniques.
From Bélair, Moueix segued into his initial impressions of the 2009 vintage. “I’m usually very critical, but it may be my best vintage in my 40 years of experience,” he said, noting that the young wines reminded him of the 1982s. He predicted that there will be good wines across the board, and consumers should find many values outside of the top Bordeaux estates. With more than 12,000 producers in the region, Suckling added, people shouldn't focus only on the top châteaus.
Re-emphasizing earlier statements that Bordeaux is about wines for drinking, not old and rare collectibles, Moueix said, “It’s a big world out there.”