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Merlot’s Time to Shine: Christian Moueix

By James Molesworth

19. Mai 2023

From Trotanoy, Bélair-Monange, La Fleur-Pétrus, Hosanna and many more, 18 barrel samples confirm Merlot still reigns in St.-Emilion and Pomerol

“You’ve probably heard [that] Merlot can’t adapt to the changing weather in Bordeaux these days,” says Christian Moueix as he lines up his portfolio of 2022 Bordeaux barrel samples for me to taste. “But I’m very happy. I even had some producers on the Left Bank tell me the Merlot is great this year.”

The Right Bank’s leading vintner was having a little fun at the thought of Merlot being left behind as Bordeaux's growing seasons trend warmer and drier. Merlot is back in a big way in 2022, showing incredible consistency and quality across Bordeaux's major appellations.

“The [3 inches] of rain in June had a huge impact, giving vineyards what they needed to make it through the dry period until harvest,” says Moueix. “We had the most sun in August ever, an average of 11 hours and 15 minutes per day. It was such a sunny vintage. Really marvelous.”

In comparing 2022 to previous benchmark vintages, I ask him why it’s so stylistically different from 2010.

“The difference between ’10 and ’22, was in ’10 we were pumping-over 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening,” says Moueix. “In ’22 we pumped-over maybe 5 minutes each, and had some days we didn’t pump-over at all. The extraction was so easy, and we have learned we don’t need to do so much.”

Moueix’s portfolio includes his family-owned properties as well as several others for which he handles distribution. He notes his Pomerol estates averaged 1.8 tons per acre in 2022, driven by cluster thinning from seven to six clusters per vine to hedge against the drought. But at his St.-Emilion property, Bélair-Monange, the yield was a healthy 2.5 tons per acre, “because the limestone [in the soil] keeps the [moisture], so the vines never stressed.”

Always modest in tone and messaging, Moueix feels that the wines here are “a very good success this year” …. Ya think?

The  2022 Château Peymouton St.-Emilion is sourced from part of Château Laroque’s vineyards. It delivers very fresh raspberry and red cherry compote notes, with a burst of red licorice and a floral thread tying up the finish. A light mineral echo leaves a charming impression.

The  2022 Château Pindefleurs  St.-Emilion is very floral and bright, with a mix of damson, Bing cherry and mulberry notes. It has good juicy energy and a pretty chalky spine amid the fruit. It displays good tension for a modestly scaled wine.

The  2022 Château La Serre  St.-Emilion is in its usual approachable, fan-friendly style, with a core of supple dark plum and black cherry puree flavors underscored by a hint of singed wood and licorice. The bright finish has pretty floral life.

The  2022 Clos St.-Martin  St.-Emilion is a perennial sleeper, if you can find it: The vineyard is only about 3 acres. This vintage is dark and winey, with steeped black cherry and mulberry fruit flavors laced with a nervy mineral edge. There’s a pretty black tea accent on the caressing finish.

The  2022 Château Chantalouette Pomerol is the second wine of Château de Sales. It’s plump and friendly, with plum paste and cherry preserve notes backed by an open, gently toasted finish that has a light tug of earth.

The 2022 Château de Sales Pomerol grand vin shows a bit more substance than usual for this oft-light-bodied and gently edged Pomerol from sandy soils on the outer ring of the AOC. There’s good plum purée and melted red licorice notes, with a dusting of savory. Good cut on the finish, too, as a mineral note extends it.

The 2022 Château Moulinet-Lasserre Pomerol offers engaging mulberry and raspberry pâte de fruit notes, guided by gently edged structure but extending nicely through an anise- and ganache-accented finish. It stays approachable overall.

The  2022 Château Plince Pomerol is modest in scale, but alluring for its velvety edged core of dark plum and black cherry compote flavors infused with black tea and dried anise notes. There’s a subtle tug of earth through the finish, too, where there’s a bit more stuffing than initially realized. Tasty wine.

The  2022 Château Lagrange Pomerol  is sleek and focused, with a core of dark cherry, açaì and blackberry puree flavors inlaid with very silky tannins and finishing with a dash of ganache and apple wood. There’s pretty perfume here, too, and it puts on a little weight in the glass. A pure Merlot that shows just how solid the varietal did in 2022.

The  2022 Château Lafleur-Gazin Pomerol is similarly sleek and focused in style, but has a redder profile, with red tea and sandalwood notes along the edges of a red currant and mulled raspberry core. There’s a pretty sanguine thread through the finish.

The  2022 Château La Grave à Pomerol Pomerol is plush and warm in feel, with cassis, plum and black cherry compote notes laced gently with singed earth and sweet tobacco. There’s a light iron echo on the finish, where the Cabernet Franc (11 percent) shows itself a bit more, adding structure and freshness.

The  2022 Château Bourgneuf Pomerol shows as it did during my very recent visit to the estate, with a primal core of kirsch and Bing cherry and lots of lively licorice, spice and tea notes. It has polish over its bramble aspect, and stays very, very fresh through the finish. This is another potential sleeper.

The  2022 Château Latour à Pomerol Pomerol, 100 percent Merlot, is shining right now, with very pure and sleek cassis and cherry reduction notes, along with red licorice, red tea and sweet spice details. The core feels lush, but the edges have nice cut for contrast, and this should put on a touch of weight through the élevage. A late tug of tobacco and warm earth is nice too.

The  2022 Château Certan de May Pomerol is distinctive for its vibrant rooibos tea note amid very silky and perfumed red currant, raspberry and blood orange notes. In line with the vintage profile, it’s sleek and super fresh, with a subtle flicker of savory in the background as it streams through a refined finish. A very consistent performer in profile and quality.

The  2022 Château Hosanna Pomerol has some kick this year, with a large, youthfully coiled core of blackberry, raspberry and blueberry fruit carried by a very polished structure and juicy, vibrant acidity. It’s gilded with black tea, sweet toast and melted black licorice notes. An iron note is buried deeply on the finish as the fruit stays very assertive here from start to end. A very strong showing today.

The  2022 Château La Fleur-Pétrus Pomerol is very well-built, capturing the sleek, vibrant fruit of the vintage without any extra bombast. Its pure beam of cassis, plum reduction and blackberry preserve flavors is already very well melded together, with a backdrop of apple wood, licorice and black tea. Very refined and very long, with a blaze of iron buried through the finish. Another gorgeous LFP in the making.

The  2022 Château Trotanoy Pomerol is dark, winey and really well-built, with a seriously endowed core of dark currant and plum reduction flavors encased in charcoal, singed alder and warm earth notes. Loads of bass here, but there are flashes of black tea, incense and bay as well for ample range. A serious bolt of cast iron adds drive and tension to the finish. Its combo of opulence, structure and detail merits special status.

The 2022 Château Bélair-Monange St.-Emilion is a dreamy wine in the making, and a good bet to become the best Bélair-Monange to date. It offers a beautifully pure and defined core of cassis and damson plum, raspberry and red cherry puree notes that stream through in unison while violet and iris accents flash about. There’s a chalky spine, but it’s encased in the fruit, lending form and structure without any obtrusiveness, ending with mouthwatering cut and serious precision.

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