Saturday, January 7, 2017

Château Poujeaux Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel Moulis en Médoc Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2000

Château Poujeaux Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, AOC Moulis en Médoc, Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2000

Cousin Anna stopped in, traveling enroute to reporting to military duty in California, so we held an impromptu family reunion for the occasion, including sis Dr Pat who came up from Indy for the occasion. Son Ryan pulled from the cellar this Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux, Château Poujeaux, to accompany Linda's homemade lasagna for the family dinner.

Good grief! No wonder folks find 'old world' (ie. French, Italian) wines mystifying. The complexity of labels and branding can be overwhelming, even for the oenophile (there we go again, aka wine geek). This complexity is due to a combination of magnitude (9000 producers with 300000 acres in Bordeaux vs 300 and 25000 in Napa) 600 different grape varietals in Italy, complexity (AOC - 57 appellations in Bordeaux vs 17 in Napa), and history (centuries vs decades), all exacerbated by difference of (foreign) language. This label is an example of history adding to the complexity and mystery of foreign labels.

Many are aware of the famous 1855 classification that categorized French Bordeaux wines into different levels based on reputation, historic consistency of quality of product. Never mind they referred to them as 'Growths' - first growth, second growth, third and so on ... which was their level based on reputation, not age of vines or any such thing.

But there were many producers not included in this classification. So in 2003, the Cru Bourgeois classification was created to recognize some of the châteaux from the Médoc, (the area of the left bank or southwest side of the Gironde River that bisects the Bordeaux growing region), from those that were not included in the 1855 Classification of Crus Classés, or Classed Growths.

Generally, the Cru Bourgeois classification is a level below Cru Classé, but still of respectable, high quality. Some say that there is some overlap in quality between the Classed Growths and the Cru Bourgeois, but the Classed Growths are generally viewed as being the better wines.

The Cru Bourgeois list was initially drawn up by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Chamber of Agriculture in 1932, selecting 444 estates for the classification. The words Cru Bourgeois were widely used on labels by the châteaux so listed, but the classification was never officially ratified. In 2000, there was a major revision of the classification, dividing it into three tiers. This new classification was finalized in 2003 and reduced the number of châteaux listed to 247. Excluding so many producers created great acrimony and controversy, resulting in legal wrangling such that the 2003 Cru Bourgeois classification was nullified by the French court in 2007, and all use of the term was banned.

The 2003 Cru Bourgeois classification, annulled in 2007, classified 247 properties in three tiers: Exceptionnel (9 properties), Supérieurs (87 properties) and straight Bourgeois (151 properties). Those Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels are the the most widely known and recognized due to their notoriety. with their level commanding a higher pricepoint and being more likely to be exported to foreign markets including the US. This is both cause and effect.

While the new Cru Bourgeois classification was being prepared, six out of nine of the former Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel decided to remain outside the new one-tier classification. Instead, they formed a group named Les Exceptionnels, primarily to collaborate in joint promotion such as common marketing events. Château Poujeaux is a member of this group, along with other better known chateaux, also likely to be found in the US market, such as Château Chasse-Spleen, Château Les Ormes-de-Pez, Château de Pez, Château Potensac, and Château Siran.

The Cru Bourgeois label was reintroduced in 2010, but in a significantly revised form, consisting of only one level, awarded annually as a mark of quality, but to wines rather than to châteaux. The designation was based on an assessment of both production methods and the finished product. Any property in the Médoc was eligible to apply for the list which was updated and published approximately 2 years after the vintage, so the 2008 list was published in 2010, and the 2009 list was published in 2011 and so on. The 2009 list includes 246 wines. 
So it is with this one sub-region of Bordeaux, the Cru Bourgeois classification.

Château Poujeaux thus lies in the wine-producing district of Moulis-en-Médoc, a commune (village) in the wine-producing area of Médoc. The commune produces wine with a good reputation which benefits from the appellation of Moulis, which is one of six communal appellations of the Haut-Médoc vineyards.

It is one of the most highly regarded wines within Moulis, alongside Château Chasse-Spleen. As explained above, Château Poujeaux was one of just nine to be placed in the highest category of the 2003 classification of Cru Bourgeois wines, Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels. The property was owned by the Theil family until early 2008, when it was bought by Philippe Cuvelier, who is also owner of Clos Fourtet. Jean Thiel is cited on this label.

Château Poujeaux' vineyards cover 52 hectares (130 acres) and produces about 25,000 cases of wine per year. The grape varieties used are the typical classic Bordeaux varietals in 'left bank' proportions, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. As is customary in the region, they also produce a second wine branded under the second label name La Salle de Poujeaux.

Interesting, that while being a rather large producer with broad distribution, they have a modest, one-page website in text only, in French only.

The 2000 vintage of Bordeaux was high quality, highly rated vintage and promises to be long-lived. At seventeen years, this is in its prime drinking window, it could continue to improve further with age and should still have a decade or more of life left at this level. As in the greater Bordeaux, this is a top rated vintage and is one of the better releases from this secondary producer. As in such top vintages, all boats rise with the tide, and as such this is a high QPR wine, more affordable than many higher rated labels from the vintage, but of  close to equivalent quality.

This was bright dark brick red colour with hues of purple, medium bodied with moderately complex concentrated blackberry fruits accented by a layer of leather with hints of truffle, herbs, and cassis, nice approachable acidity and supple round tannins on the finish.

RM 91 points.