One of the last things that Christian Moueix said to me at his winemaker dinner showcasing Château La Fleur-Pétrus was, “Love is never lost. It’s diffused in wine.”
His sentiment would sum up the evening at SW Steakhouse in Wynn Las Vegas, where 20 guests gathered to taste his wines from the darling appellation of Pomerol. In Bordeaux’s Merlot-driven Right Bank, where Pomerol is located, wines tend to be more immediately seductive, supple and fleshy, next to the more rugged and masculine wines from say, the Médoc, where Cabernet Sauvignon dominates.
Two more reasons why Moueix’s guests had full hearts? They experienced the relatively rare Pomerol and indulged in chef David Walzog’s stunning meal that showcased La Fleur-Pétrus.
Situated between Châteaux Lafleur and Petrus, Château La Fleur-Pétrus (among other Moueix family’s owned estates) has long been overshadowed by their own Château Pétrus, which produces Pomerol wines that are among the most expensive and sought-after in the world.
Moueix’s brother Jean-François runs Pétrus today; Moueix, who managed Pétrus for some 40 years, devotes his attention to many interests. They include Dominus in Napa Valley and ChâteauLa Fleur-Pétrus, the first estate his father, Jean-Pierre, a wine merchant from Libourne, purchased in 1950.
Shifting his focus away from himself and his lifelong success, Moueix’s modesty brings him to admitting that love is what drives him, and first and foremost is his affection for his terroir from which his wines are produced.
His terroir is on the Pomerol plateau. Rising to nearly 40 meters above sea level, this is where the best wines in Pomerol hail. However, Moueix reminds us that this plateau is by no means uniform.
“La Fleur-Pétrus is completely different than Pétrus because of the terroir. Pétrus is on clay, and La Fleur-Pétrus is on gravelly soil,” Moueix said.
And within these pebbly soils, there is variation. The northern parcel yields a wine of great elegance with notes of black cherries. The center plot produces a wine of tremendous suppleness with a hint of plum. Wine from the southern parcel is more velvety, dense, structured.
Blended, these three singular terroirs with complementary characteristics produce a generous, expressive wine with apparent tapestry of structure, remarkable refinement and complexity. La Fleur-Pétrus is composed predominantly of Merlot, which lends silkiness and generosity with apparent notes that remind of red and black orchard fruits and bramble.
“Pomerol comes from a Latin word ‘pomorum,’ which means orchard, and here we are talking about cherries to plums,” Moueix said. “It’s very interesting to think that the grapes take the character of taste and smell from the dominant culture that existed before.”
Moueix’s intuitive nature, quest for perfection in expressing his terroir, intelligent rigor and meticulous skill in the vineyard have made him an inspiration to winemakers around the globe. All this and more contribute to his success story, and he always remembers to mention his father.
“He was a simple man, a farmer of a different caliber than I [am],” said Moueix. Under his father’s stern direction, he says he didn’t have a choice to do anything else but to work in wine. But clearly, it is his love and his life. He counts his blessings.
While he speaks highly of his father, Moueix, whose own career speaks for itself, is not short of passion nor the “quest for perfection,” according to his longtime wife and partner, Cherise.
“He is always pushing himself. Never feeling that he’s good enough has propelled him to achieve greatness,” she said.
And so in the private dining room that evening, Moueix continued to talk about terroir as guests enjoyed Walzog’s meal, which was expertly prepared for the wines: salt-roasted beets with the lighter mouthfeel and finesse of the 2006; roasted squab with 2008’s more dense, silky, undeniable appeal; the 80-day dry-aged long-bone rib roast, with the 2014 and 2015 (the first year he introduced Petit Verdot in the blend), which though young, carried elegance and richness; and finally, a selection of cheeses and handcrafted chocolates with a sensually voluptuous 1998.
Feeling fortunate, Moueix is compelled to pay it forward. “I appreciate how lucky I am,” he said. “I love the people so much, and I know it sounds pretentious but I’m devoted to my workers,” Moueix said.
“I try to convey my love, so they love what they do. I want to make people feel that what they are doing is important. For me this is essential. I work with my people in the field where you foresee the production for years to come. I work with them, and that changes everything.”
Indeed, “love is never lost” when passed on to others who become enlightened. Pomerol is fortunate to have a guardian such as Christian Moueix, who continues the work of his father while imparting the love to his people and to the people who drink his wine.