Bill Shepard, Wine Editor
Christian Moueix, Decanter Magazine’s “Man of the Year” for 2008, owns a number of fine properties near Bordeaux. I knew him in Bordeaux, and he allowed his 1990 Dominus label to be used on the front cover of my latest book, “The Saladin Affair.” So it was with pleasure that we attended his recent wine dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Washington, arranged by Calvert-Woodley and the Dominus Estate of Napa Valley.
As we tasted the wines and heard Christian speak of them, it struck me that such an event is also a chance to prepare for your visit to France. And so, consider this your preparation for your trip to Pomerol and St. Emilion!
These little towns are an easy hour’s drive to the east of Bordeaux, across the Garonne River. St. Emilion’s wines are rigidly classified, with a 10 year reappraisal that recently has seen court challenges. The town is glorious, on a sloping hillside, where the storied wines are grown. Christian served a 2006 Château Magdelaine (retail $85) with the first course, a beef carpaccio. I found the wine was light and flavorful, “on the grand scale.” Christian reminded me that Château Magdelaine is largely on a bed of limestone, which, he said, allows a lightness of flavor. I reminded him of the early morning that he and I had, at my request, walked the parameters of the property. I had wanted to see where the boundary was with Château Ausone, on the slope just below the St. Emilion plateau.
Most of the wines served were from his Pomerol properties. Pomerol adjoins St. Emilion and is rather flat, often with a clay subsoil. The interaction with the clay subsoil produces a sturdier wine from Merlot, which contrasts with its use to soften predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon wines in Bordeaux’s Médoc region. I was amused to note that Pomerol’s reverse snobbery still exists – its wines are not classified. The excellence of the area’s wine châteaux is too well known to need any help!
With the second course, breast of quail, we had three Pomerol wines, 2006 Château Lafleur-Gazin ($50), 2006 Château Certan-Marzelle ($73), and 2006 Château Hosanna ($150). The Lafleur-Gazin was a favorite, rich and flavorful, which went perfectly with the quail. As the name implies, the property lies between Château Gazin and the storied Lafleur estate, not far from Christian Moueix’s most celebrated property, Château Pétrus. It is a favorite wine in French restaurants, Christian told me.
The other two wines carry their own story. For many years, the Certan property, a single estate before the French Revolution, was split into three properties. Christian Moueix bought the third, Château Certan-Giraud, in 1999. The sellers did not wish to convey the family name, and so Christian renamed the larger part (10 acres) of the property, with the oldest vineyards, Château Hosanna, and the smaller portion (4.5 acres), with 20 year old vines, Château Certan-Marzelle. The latter’s wine is made with 100% Merlot, and the former with 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc. I liked the Certan-Marzelle, but found that it lacked a little character as compared with its older neighbor. Christian also noted that the 2006 vintage is lighter than the 2005, but said that one drinks the lighter vintage while waiting for the 2005 to mature.
We greatly enjoyed the Château Hosanna, and the Moueix winemaking touch is evident. The wine was young, but already exceeded in complexity and flavor the Château Certan-Giraud wines I had tasted in the past. Full maturity for Château Hosanna wines might be twenty years. Christian is hopeful that Château Hosanna will be one of the top Pomerol wines. Judging from the dinner tasting, the wine must age more, but it is already full of complex flavors. Clearly, a star is born in Pomerol.
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