Moving Through Moulis
A great deal of wine education involves learning about what you personally like (at least it should), but if you're constantly around other people who like to drink you're undoubtedly going to be influenced by their tastes and introduced to their passions. When it comes to Bordeaux, I have my own beloved producers, but hanging around with my boss Clyde Beffa Jr. has opened my eyes to a few châteaux I might never have tried on my own. Clyde loves an overachieving value from Bordeaux almost as much as my grandmother loved finding a deal at a garage sale. One such example is Châteaux Poujeaux, a blue chip estate in the oft overlooked region of Moulis that typically gets buried under the hype of classified growths and historic appellations. Few people I know sit around anxiously awaiting the en primeur releases from Moulis each year, but—tucked into the middle of the Haut-Médoc—it's an area that can produce stunning expressions (Baron Rothschild famously once mistook the 1953 Poujeaux for Château Lafite) and even better values. For that reason, the wines tend to end up in the collections of K&L employees more often than K&L customers.
While there are no classified growths in Moulis, there are indeed thirty-one different Cru Bourgeois properties and a number of them use the name "Grand-Poujeaux" due to their proximity to the Moulis subregion of the same name—a gravel mound located in the northeast of the appellation where the soil is stony and has the best drainage. Château Poujeaux proper is considered the best of these estates and is one of the oldest, having been founded in the mid-sixteenth century, but over the last thirty years there has been great progress made in Moulis on the whole in terms of quality. When we visit Bordeaux and meet with negotiants, we'll often peruse the Moulis options, hoping to find decent inventory on a wine that other retailers might have overlooked. Recently, we found exactly that with the 2009 Château Branas Grand Poujeaux, a thirty dollar gem from a heralded vintage that has serious weight and already shows serious evolution in the bottle and is ready to be enjoyed right now. Branas itself is planted to 50% merlot and the wine has a plumpness and supple texture as a result. Another example is the 2014 Haut de Poujeaux, a side label from Château Poujeaux that delivers depth and complexity for under twenty bucks. The 2014 vintage itself is an overlooked harvest, so finding a deal within a deal is twice as sweet. In terms of comparative value, the 2009 Château Poujeaux was considered a sleeper of the vintage (as it is in just about every vintage) and outperformed a number of similarly-structured Pauillac properties that year. For under fifty bucks, it would be hard to find a better option from Bordeaux, so long as name recognition isn't your prime motive.
If you want a deeper understanding of how Moulis can hold up over decades, check out the 1988 Chasse-Spleen for seventy five dollars, an overachieving wine from a solid vintage that's far more affordable than the $200 bottle of 1988 Lynch Bages we currently have in the store. Chasse-Spleen stands alongside Château Poujeaux as one of the top Moulis estates and we currently have a number of back vintages from the property. Given its varied terroir and multitude of price points, there's a lot to discover in Moulis—despite its small stature. It's easy to overlook this seven kilometer strip between Margaux and St. Julien, but as I've come to learn during my tenure here: values in Bordeaux are rarely where you expect them to be.