Here's another edition of trip notes from my visit to Bordeaux to taste the 2005s with Jean-Marc Quarin. Here, we visited Christian Mouiex, Beauseour Duffau Lagarrosse, Vieux Chateau Certan, and le Pin.
With all of the great appointments Jean-Marc made to assess the 2005 vintage this week, it’s hard to say you look forward to one more than any other – but I love the wines of Christian Mouiex. I was convinced Thursday would be special. Of course, Wednesday was pretty special too, and following our tasting of the wines of Margaux, I didn’t get back to Marojailla until after midnight. Our early-morning appointment at Jean-Pierre Mouiex in Libourne was an hour from Jean-Marc’s office, and that meant getting up early – again.
I couldn’t help sleeping in the car on the way to the Mouiex offices. Fortunately it was Jean-Marc doing the driving. Once in Libourne, we had to take a little detour away from the river avenue that runs along the Dordogne. The tide was in and it flooded the street, blocking traffic. A few turns later, we arrived and were greeted by Christian Mouiex. For some reason, I was surprised at just how much he resembled the sixteen-year-old Dominus label I’ve come to know so well. After some more small talk, we were taken to a small rectangular tasting room with a window looking out over the river.
Christian Mouiex is a clever man – he prodded me a bit to better understand who I was that I deserved my place as Jean-Marc Quarin’s guest. Then, as if to reinforce the honor before me, he told me many people had been denied a visit before the Unions des Grands Cru tastings and of the fact that in just days, a similarly sized room would play host to over thirty tasters at a time. After I appeared sufficiently honored or embarrassed, he departed for a scheduled appointment, wished us well, and left us to consider the wines before us.
As was the case at Las Cases, this tasting room was purely functional. The walls were white and bare; the wines would speak for themselves here. Three sinks lined the center island. And about twenty different wines from St. Emilion and Pomerol were perfectly spaced in rows along the counters extending down both ends of the slender room.
This tasting offered my first glimpse at the right bank wines of 2005. The wines were consistently very good to exceptional from top to bottom. Basic offerings from St. Emilion like Chateau la Prieuré and la Serre were fresh and lively on the palate. In Pomerol, Certan Marzelle was impressive, as were Latour a Pomerol, la Fleur Petrus, and the surprisingly exotic Certan de May.
After making our way through the full line-up, we concluded with the three flagship wines of the Mouiex stable: Trotanoy, Lafleur, and Petrus. The merlot-dominated Trotanoy was very aromatic with green coffee and dark berry coulis that carries over to a palate that is amazing from beginning to end. Lafleur, with more cabernet franc, was showing off a stunning nose – arguably the best of the week. And what can you say about the truffle scented Petrus? It was dark and mysterious, filling every corner of your palate. It’s clear, these will be a great bottles of wine. In the end, Trotenoy stole the show for me – perhaps because it’s the only one my pocketbook would allow me to love.
By the time we made our way back to the car, the Dordogne had receded, allowing us return along the previously flooded route. No more sleeping in the car – we had a lot of wines to talk about. Jean-Marc made some interesting observations about the samples and seemed impressed that the they were so deep and impressive given the early harvest in 2005. From Libourne, we drove into the countryside for a visit to stunningly beautiful hillside vineyard of Chateau Beausejour Duffau-Lagarosse, located on the limestone plateau outside the ancient medieval village of St. Emilion. Msr. Jean-Michel Dubos greeted us in his office, which had views from two sides of the property its vineyards.
As usual, a place was set up for each of us with perfectly clean glasses arranged neatly in a row. I’ve come to understand that, in France, glassware always smells neutral and it never has water spots from washing. Despite this fact, we unconsciously gave each a customary rinse with wine to prepare for the tasting. Here, Jean-Michel would lead us through an educational tasting of the components that will make up the ultimate blend – three merlot samples of varying vine ages and exposures, a cabernet franc, and a cabernet sauvignon. Each offered unique appeal, but together they combined to produce a powerful and complex sample that is sure to be on my list of must-purchase wines for 2005.
The conversation was comfortable and relaxed here. As was often the case, the chateau seemed virtually deserted except for our host – and he made us feel as though we were the only thing on his calendar for the day. Actually – he made me feel as though he had no calendar. I was a bit envious – the relaxed attitude, the beautiful setting… while I didn’t ask him, I hoped Jean-Michel appreciates the idyllic lifestyle he enjoys at Beausejour Duffau. A quick walk around the grounds confirmed that this is a very special place.
Our final visit brought us to Vieux Chateau Certan, hosted by Alexandre Thienpont. Again, the pace was relaxed here. We were brought to the chais where a couple hundred or more barrels of 2004 and 2005 Vieux Chateau Certan rested. In one of the rooms, we found glasses arranged on old barrels standing upright, much like what one might see walking through the Marché aux Vins in Beaune. Unfortunately, it offered a less than ideal setting for tasting the wines, as the strong smell of oak and aging wine permeated the air. Both the 2004 and 2005 were delicious, complex, and long.
After sampling a couple of barrels of 2004, Alexandre asked if we would like to head over to taste some le Pin. I was silent – waiting anxiously for Jean-Marc’s reaction. I had never tasted the famous le Pin – and, other than it’s astronomical price – I knew little about it. Thankfully, Jean-Marc seemed excited to try it as well, and we headed up the street to Alexandre’s cousins small, cottage-like home.
We walked around back to a basement door guarded by a padlocked iron gate. Once unlocked, we walked inside the cool basement room and Alexandre quickly applied the security code. For a moment, I thought I was in a James Bond film – I wondered if a wall would magically open to reveal a cellar or rustic tasting room. We were led down a slope into another area that was maybe twice the size of my suite at Marojailla. In this small home, in this very plain basement, fewer than fifty barrels of one of the most expensive wines on earth was resting before it’s ultimate journey to some of the world’s most extravagant cellars.
We tasted a couple of different samples of the 2005 le Pin. For some reason, I expected a cough-syrup like concoction – something dense, heavy, volatile, alcoholic. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Le Pin is a Pomerol for Burgundy lovers. The wine is hauntingly aromatic – full across the palate but light as a feather – the wine floats. Those for whom money is no object are lucky indeed. After tasting the 2005, the 2004 waited for us in tank. There’s no room for two vintages at le Pin, so the 2004 was moved in preparation for bottling. The wine shows a bit more density and some sur maturité I did not notice in the fresher 2005. I preferred the 2005 here – but, there will be no complaints if I’m ever poured either. Before we left we surveyed the tiny vineyard surrounding the house. It was hard to understand how such a wonderful wine could come from such a seemingly ordinary plot of land.
Thursday was a pretty good day.
Thanks for reading.