Vertical Tasting of Château Trotanoy

Château Trotanoy is one of those places where it's truly all in the name.  The lieu-dit Trotanoy is an old Gascon name that derives from a modification of the 18th-century French "trop ennuie" (as in "a pain" or "bothersome"), as working the extremely rich clay soils of the estate has always been hard work.  Originally the property of the Giraud family, the estate was sold in 1953 to Jean-Pierre Moueix, who deserves credit for having greatly increased the fame and notoriety of Trotanoy.

Trotanoy is undoubtedly not just one of the greatest wines of Pomerol, but of all Bordeaux.  In fact, I firmly believe--and I am not alone in this conviction--that what hurts Trotanoy most is having Pétrus in the same family ownership.  Clearly, the latter wine always captures most of the spotlight.  In fact, the recent decision to have Pétrus tasted on its own during the annual Primeurs ought to prove avery good idea, as it will enable tasters who visit J. P. Moueix's bright, spacious tasting room to focus on Trotanoy's many merits, as well as on those of the other many fine wines in the Moueix portfolio.  "Trotanoy is not Pétrus's little brother, but a completely different wine," said Christian Moueix, who runs J. P. Moueix with flair, charm and passion, "and we try hard to get that message across."

The roughly 7.2 hectares of Trotanoy represent a unique terroir, mainly clay and gravel on the high plateau, then more clay on the western slope down to Pomerol's second terrace (Pomerol essentially consists of aseries of four terraces dating back to four different geological eras: the uppermost terrace is where the central plateau is found and where the best Pomerol estates are situated.)  Although Trotanoy is located only about one kilometer west of Pétrus, its soil and subsoil are very different.  "It is this unique soil and subsoil, rare in Pomerol, that gives Trotanoy its depth and massive tannins," explained Moueix.  "Simply put, it's a very tannic wine naturally, and extremely hard to judge when young."  Clearly, the natural tendencies of the wine have a strong influence on the choice of winemaking techniques."We try hard not to get carried away with extraction, limiting ourselves to about 18 days on the skins at 28°C, and using only about 40% to 50% new oak used, at most," Moueix summarized.  The property is planted to 90% merlot and 10% cabernet franc, with a density of roughly 6,200 vines per hectare.  The average age of the Trotanoy vines is 35 years, and the annual yield hovers around 39 hectoliters per hectare.

The wine itself offers a rare combination of opulence and power.  And though it is made mainly with merlot, in many years it is so massive that it almost seems to have more in common with cabernet sauvignon and some wines of the Médoc (witness the 1975, for example.)  At its best, Trotanoy always starts out brooding and muscular, then opens up slowly with bottle age to exude a fleshy succulence and great breed.  It ages extremely well, and some vintages are truly memorable.  Jean-Claude Berrouet, the long-time winemaker at J. P. Moueix who is now retired but continues to consult for the Libourne wine firm, unabashedly states that Trotanoy is his favorite of all the J. P. Moueix wines--though I suppose he would have to say that, since naming Pétrus would be too obvious.  He told me that he considers a number of Trotanoy vintages as his greatest successes ever.

In fact, many Trotanoys from the '60s and '70s are some of the best Bordeaux of all.  The estate also performed remarkably well in lesser years such as 1972 and 1974, even if those wines are now fading.  There was a short spell in the mid-'80s when the wine seemed a little lighter and less complex than before (younger vines were then just going into production), but since 1995 Trotanoy has been back in top form.  In fact, its wines since the turn of the new century are simply outstanding: very few Bordeaux properties can claim a string of successes from 2000 onward comparable to Trotanoy.  Insiders also know that, more than with other Pomerols, Trotanoy really benefits from at least ten years of bottle age (depending on the vintage, of course) to develop and begin to express its full personality.  In fact, I believe that there are few wines in all of Bordeaux that are more penalized than Trotanoy when they're consumed too early.

This tasting was conducted in Libourne last May at the spacious and mercifully quiet tasting roomof J. P. Moueix.  Christian Moueix and Frédéric Lospied organized the tasting and popped in from time to time to answer questions and taste the wines.  All the wines were served from 750-ml. bottles except for the 1962, which was in 375-ml. format, and were opened an hour before the start of the tasting; they were not decanted.  All the bottles in this tasting, save for the 1975, were taken directly from the J. P. Moueix cellars (the 1975 from Berrouet's); their cellars are pristine, as was obvious from the condition of the wines.  It is worth noting that many of the wines were still evolving in a positive way and could still improve for years ahead (the 1975 and 1982, for example).  Needless to say, this is not always the case with bottles of the same vintages tried at dinners among friends or serious collectors, which may be far more evolved due to storage, shipping and other variables.

Show all the wines (sorted by vintage)

--Ian D'Agata