Jean-Pierre Moueix, winemaker and art collector
Born: 20 August, 1913, in LiginiacDied: 29 March, 2003, in Bordeaux, aged 89
JEAN-PIERRE Moueix, who has died aged 89, was one of the most influential characters in the Bordeaux wine trade. The "Prince of Pomerol", as he was known, became a legendary figure in his own lifetime and is widely credited with building the reputation of the wines of Bordeaux’s Right Bank.
His portfolio of properties, all situated on the right bank of the Gironde, reads like a roll call of some of the world’s finest examples of the merlot grape: Chteau La Fleur-Ptrus, Latour Pomerol, Magdelaine, Trotanoy and, latterly, chteau Ptrus - consistently the world’s most expensive wine.
A tall, imposing figure, always immaculately dressed, Moueix built his empire on old-fashioned principals - good manners, modesty, fidelity and tradition.
On one occasion, when asked what happened to the grapes at Ptrus in 1956 - no wine was offered by the chteau in that frost-bitten year - his witty riposte was: "We ate them."
His dry wit, married with daring innovation and intelligence, won him many friends among the wine merchants of the world.
But it wasn’t always so. When Moueix founded his family negociant house in the thirties, the Bordeaux trade was in financial straits, suffering from a run of very bad vintages. Indeed, few estates, if any, were known from the "unfashionable" village of Pomerol.
But by the early sixties Moueix had developed an international market for his wines. He achieved this through self belief, by having an uncanny vision of greatness, and by being a man of his word. Such was his reputation that he was able to buy a half share in Ptrus from Madame Edmond Loubat, who, it was said, never made the mistake of underestimating the value of her product. It was one of his finest purchases.
Moueix was shrewd enough to recognise the unique features of this tiny parcel of land in Pomerol: its "buttonhole" of clay soil, its dominance of the merlot grape, its ancient vines and its combination of majestic power with supreme elegance, typified by a string of legendary vintages.
Granted exclusive export rights by Loubat’s niece, Lily Lacoste, he set about creating the legend that is chteau Ptrus.
It has been written that, for Moueix, Ptrus was the flagship he needed. For Pomerol, Moueix was the visionary it needed.
Jean-Pierre Moueix was born on 20 August, 1913, at Liginiac, downstream from Bort, on the Dordogne. In 1930, his father, Jean, bought the Saint Emilion property, chteau Fonroque, where the young Jean-Pierre developed his interest in the wine trade.
Moueix originally started as a negociant, acting as a broker between the winemakers of Bordeaux and the wine trade, mainly in Britain, Belgium and Holland.
In 1937, he founded his own negociant business, tablissements Jean-Pierre Moueix, in Libourne. Then, in 1953, he broadened the business into winemaking with the purchase of the Pomerol chteaux Trotanoy and La Fleur-Ptrus. This was followed by chtaeu Magdelaine in Saint Emilion in 1954.
Having taken over the sole distribution rights to chateau Ptrus in 1945 and developed its US and British markets after the post-war liberation, Moueix acquired a 50 per cent interest in the domaine in 1964. He acquired the remaining share after the death of its owner, Madame Loubat.
Moueix saw that the richer, more supple, more immediately approachable flavours of Pomerol would be far more favourable to the American palate than their more refined neighbours on the other side of the Gironde.
By the early seventies, Moueix’s vision began to pay dividends, with the first leap in prices in Pomerol. But his real stroke of luck came in 1982. A long, hot summer produced a large crop of superbly ripe wines. In Pomerol, the wines oozed richness.
Coinciding with the rise of a young US wine critic by the name of Robert Parker, who declared it the vintage of the century, Pomerol’s reputation - and that of Moueix - was made. Ptrus ’82 is still regarded by many as the finest wine ever produced.
Apart from his interest in wine, Moueix was a connoisseur of art and owned a fine collection of 19th and 20th century paintings, including works by Czanne, Monet, Dufy, Roy Liechtenstein, Dubuffet, Nicolas de Stael and Francis Bacon.
He was renowned as a patron of the arts and supported the Museum of Contemporary Art at Bordeaux and the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. He also greatly enjoyed the poetry of Corneille.
Jean-Pierre Moueix died on 29 March. He is survived by his wife, Colette, and his sons, Christian, now president of the family business, and Jean- Franois, a wine merchant in Bordeaux.