Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is in France for his 2017 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.
Among the most recognizable names in Pomerol (and on the Right Bank in general) is the négociant house of Ets. Jean-Pierre Moueix, run by Christian Moueix and his son Edouard. Owner and managers of a cluster of estates, this is a critical stop for me each year when I swing through to learn about the new vintage.
"The worst case in Pomerol was de Sales, down 40 percent from the frost," says Christian of the 2017 vintage. "At Lafleur-Gazin and La Grave there were some parcels affected, and the loss there is about 20 percent. Generally speaking for Pomerol, even in those châteaus not affected by frost, the crop is down 10 percent from '16."
"The vintage is less uneven than I feared. Obviously the big factor is the frost: Those not affected by frost did well. The one negative during the season was July was dry and cloudy. We would prefer rain or sun but July had neither. That's why the vintage lacks the sense of ripeness you get from a great year," Christian says. "The rains in September gave us normal phenolics resulting in a good vintage. We reached ripeness but not overripeness. I don't look for overripeness per se, but I like to approach this point, and in '17 we really just approached normal ripeness. It's a good vintage that is easy to approach."
Note: These wines were tasted non-blind. See the full 2017 Bordeaux barrel tastings report for more than 250 official barrel scores and tasting notes for wines submitted to Wine Spectator's blind tasting here in Bordeaux.
As usual, the portfolio of wines here totals over a dozen. A few St.-Emilions are in the mix, including the 2017 La Serre, which is perfumy, with light cherry and raspberry notes.
The 2017 Clos La Madeleine marks the first vintage this newly acquired property is fully under Moueix control. Among the immediate changes was a reduction in the toast used on the barrels. The 76 percent Merlot, 24 Cabernet Franc, blend from just 5.7 acres shows a markedly fresher profile than previous vintages under the previous ownership, with a floral edge out front along with bergamot, cherry and damson plum flavors. It has lightly dusty tannins with a flash of chalk through the perfumy finish.
The 2017 Clos St.-Martin is a wine that continues to impress me over recent vintages. The 75 percent Merlot, 15 Cabernet Franc, 10 Cabernet Sauvignon blend has a core of ripe plum and blackberry fruit, plush in feel, but bright with alluring spice and black tea accents on the finish. There's latent chalky minerality too.
One of Moueix's flagship estates, the 2017 Bélair-Monange is tightly focused, with a racy feel to the raspberry and red cherry fruit flavors that are gilded with floral and tea accents. The long finish is quite refined, with a subtle chalky minerality showing at the very end.
The Pomerol group leads off with the 2017 Plince and its lively raspberry and boysenberry coulis notes that glide along with enticing black tea and incense notes. It's not dense, but it's a pretty wine for more near-term drinking.
The 2017 Lagrange isand round in feel with a ball of cherry and plum paste wrapped with red licorice.
The 2017 Lafleur-Gazin is juicy, showing similar plum and cherry fruit flavors but with a slightly more compact feel than Lagrange, backed by a light tarry hint on the finish. It's a slightly more muscular style, delivering a good blast of fruit.
The 2017 La Grave à Pomerol is solid, with dark plum and fig notes carried by a graphite spine, picking up black licorice and fruitcake notes through the finish. It has a good fleshy feel throughout.
The 2017 Bourgneuf is very open in feel, with charming raspberry and Bing cherry fruit, giving way to light incense and rooibos tea notes. Its gentle finish has a flash of minerality and this will be a charming, pure, expressive wine.
The 2017 Latour à Pomerol is well-built, as usual, with a solid graphite and warm gravel underpinning to the dark cherry and plum fruit. It has a grippy feel along the edges while the fruit drives through the finish energetically.
The 2017 Certan de May is plump and open in feel with lively raspberry, blood orange and red currant compote notes laced with singed sandalwood and tea. It has very fine-grained tannins and fresh, well-embedded acidity carrying the finish. Stylish and distinctive always.
The 2017 Hosanna has plush tannins that carry a focused core of dark plum and blackberry compote flavors. Light anise and singed apple wood notes fill in through the finish. Solidly built too.
The 2017 La Fleur-Pétrus is a notable step up in class, with a broad, slightly tarry frame around the core of plum, raspberry and blackberry confiture. It has a gorgeous graphite feel through the finish that gives it serious drive.
The 2017 Trotanoy is a brick house, though not as densely built as the '15, with ganache and graphite notes holding the core of black currant and fig paste back for now. Waves of warm earth and tobacco power through the finish. Grippy but fresh, it will be among the elite wines of the appellation in this vintage, and need some cellaring despite the overall more approachable profile of the vintage.