Prominent Chinese roots in Bordeaux

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CH'NG Poh Tiong's column: Zuo Wang

At last month’s Bordeaux en primeurs tasting of the 2012 vintage, Pomerol on the Right Bank emerged as producing the best wines of the vintage.

The main reason for that is because the Merlot grape which is the predominant varietal of the wines of Pomerol, is an early ripening varietal and its quality was outstanding in 2012 which proved much more challenging for the later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon.

On 9 April 2013, I tasted the wines owned and represented by the company J-P Moueix in their offices in the town of Libourne. Started by the late Jean-Pierre Moueix, this merchant house is owned and managed by Christian Moueix (whose brother Jean-Francois Moueix owns Chateau Petrus and a string of wine shops and wine companies).

I taste wine out of a five star system. Here are the top seven Pomerols tasted that afternoon. In the case of Chateau Trotanoy, I added a sixth star because it was just so sensational.

Chateau Plince Pomerol 2012 (*)

Toast and oak on the nose. Supple ripe dark cherry fruit with equally elegant tannins. Lovely texture. Almost velvet.

Chateau Lafleur-Gazin Pomerol 2012

Capsicums and bell peppers. Sweetness of fruit. Spiced. Fresh. Very balanced and well made.

Chateau Latour a Pomerol Pomerol 2012

Structure more in front than the fruit which is blueberry and bell peppery. Lots of freshness.

Chateau La Providence Pomerol 2012

Blueberries, ripe capsicums and cherries. Elegant fruit with intensity. Fine tannins and freshness. Finesse and harmony. About full-bodied.

Chateau Hosanna Pomerol 2012

Profile of capsicums and bell peppers again. With persistence. Fresh. Elegant. Fine. About full-bodied.

Chateau La Fleur Petrus Pomerol 2012

Floral, violets and capsicums. More intense and more persistent than above wines. Great freshness. And length.

Chateau Trotanoy Pomerol 2012

Layered fruit. Blackcurrants, blueberries and blackberries. Rich tannins and great freshness. Very balanced. Lots of energy. Very intense. Great length. Deserves all six stars.

*Ch’ng Poh Tiong Rating System
Outstanding
Excellent
Good
Average
Acceptable
Half Star


PROMINENT CHINESE ROOTS IN BORDEAUX

GREAT, GREAT, GREAT GRANDAUGHTER OF VICEROY LEE HAN CHANG (李瀚章)

Christian Moueix has an American Chinese wife. Cherise 陈晓瑞 is charming, friendly and has a very lively sense of humour. She is the great, great, great granddaughter of Viceroy Lee Han Chang李瀚章 (1821-1899).

Lee’s younger brother was even more famous.

Viceroy Lee Hung Chang 李鸿章(1823-1901) was Grand Secretary of China for 25 years, effectively the country’s Prime Minister except he was even more powerful because he was also involved in the military and navy and was China’s chief foreign policy spokesman during his time in office.

Lee Hung Chang’s (Wade-Giles spelling) name is today written as Li Hongzhang.

There has, however, been a reappraisal of Lee’s legacy. Considerably more positive, Marquis Lee (and, posthumously, the title Earl, the highest given to Han Chinese by the Manchus) is now credited with being a reformer who tried to modernize the Chinese military, navy and industry along Western lines. Indeed, he is, these days, referred to as ‘the first man to advocate the open-door policy in China’.

Li’s former residence in the centre of Hefei, capital of Anhui, is one of the province’s top tourist attractions, and proudly exhibits photographs of visits by some of China’s top leaders.

Cherise Moueix was born in America. Her mother’s side of the family is also very illustrious.

Her maternal great grandfather was Koo Chen Fu 顾震福(1875-1935). Although of more modest means than his wife Sun To Kang孙多康 (1871-1944), Koo was a man of letters and founder and principal of China’s first women’s school. Koo also insisted that all his daughters, like sons, be well educated. This was a very progressive view for a Chinese of his time.

As for Cherise Moueix’s maternal great grandmother, the Sun family was immensely wealthy. Not only did they send many of their male offsprings to study in America, the Suns open the first mechanized flour mill in China, owned a coal mine outside Tianjin and also owned a private bank in Shanghai.

Then, there are the more artistic relations. Cherise Moueix’s maternal grandmother Lee Chia Jung李家蓉 (1899-1977) was a gifted calligrapher and painter of Chinese art. She was also a talented amateur singer of Chinese opera and, some times, took to the stage in both Washington DC and Taiwan.

Perhaps the most illustrious member of Cherise Moueix’s more recent family tree is her maternal grandfather.

Koo Yee Chun: THREE POST-GRADUATE DEGREES IN THREE YEARS

Later, Koo joined his mother’s family bank in Shanghai. He later became head of the Kwangtung (Wade-Giles spelling for Guangdong) Provincial Bank where he had a brilliant career including lending money to farmers, a move that was considered revolutionary in those days.

When the Japanese invaded, Koo joined the Kwangtung provincial government of the day as Minister of Finance for the province. Although the title is very grand, the conditions, brought on by the war, were basic to the bone. Koo’s young family lived in wood cabins without any electricity, plumbing or heating.

Such was the adulation Koo Yee Chun engendered amongst the local population, that on his 40th birthday, employees of the five organizations he headed queued for miles to wish him longevity.

Koo Yee Chun’s contribution to the larger financial world took on an international complexion in 1944 when, representing China, he attended the Bretton Woods Conference布雷顿森林会议 which, of course, led to the formation of the IMF or International Monetary Fund. He was a member of the IMF’s first board of Executive Directors in 1946. In 1950 Koo became Deputy Treasurer and then Treasurer in 1953 until his retirement in 1966.

Cherise Chen first set eyes on Christian Moueix in 1992.

“We first met in Paris. I was then the director of an art gallery and, one fine day, this tall Frenchman walked in and asked a few questions about some American artists that he was not familiar with. In the course of our conversation, I, in turn, asked about some French artists I wasn’t too knowledgeable about.”

The two discovered they shared common passions for the arts, architecture and champagne and, at the end of 1994, they tied the knot, their marriage sealed by silky bubbles and velvety Pomerol wine. [Below: Photo 5*]

Photo 1: Emperor Guangxu光绪皇帝 (1871-1908), nephew of Empress Dowager Cixi慈禧太后. Cixi put her younger sister’s son under house arrest until death claimed him (reputedly poisoned by Cixi).

Photo 2: (From left) Viceroy Lee Hung Chang李鸿章 (1823-1901) and his older brother Viceroy Lee Han Chang李瀚章 (1821-1899), great, great, great grandfather of Cherise MOUEIX 陈晓瑞. Lee Hung Chang (Wade-Giles spelling), today written as Li Hongzhang, was Grand Secretary or Prime Minister of China during the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1871-1908), nephew of Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908) the real power behind the throne. Marquis Li (and, posthumously, the title Earl, the highest given to Han Chinese by the Manchus) is today credited with being a reformer who tried to modernize the Chinese military, navy and industry along Western lines. Referred to as ‘the first man to advocate the open-door policy in China’, Li’s former residence in the centre of Hefei, capital of Anhui, is one of the province’s top tourist attractions.

Photo 3: Koo Yee Chun顾翊群 (1900-1992) (seated on the extreme right in photo, one removed from Chiang Kai Shek蒋介石), is the maternal grandfather of Cherise Moueix. When the Japanese invaded China, Koo joined the Guangdong provincial government as Minister of Finance for the province. Such was the adulation Koo Yee Chun engendered amongst the local population that on his 40th birthday, employees of the five organizations he headed queued for miles to wish him longevity. In 1944, representing China, Koo attended the Bretton Woods Conference which led to the formation of the IMF or International Monetary Fund. He was a member of the IMF’s first board of Executive Directors in 1946. In 1950, Koo became its Deputy Treasurer and then Treasurer in 1953 until his retirement in 1966.

Photo 4: Clara Koo-Chen顾以俪, mother of Cherise Moueix worked for 30 years with the World Bank in Washington DC. She retired in 1987 as the Planning & Programming Officer in one of their largest departments. Today, Clara Koo Chen lives in Napa Valley, not far from Dominus, the winery of her son-in-law Christian MOUEIX.

Photo 5: Christian Moueix (right) owns Jean-Pierre Moueix, the wine negociant company and is proprietor of some of Pomerol’s top wineries, including Chateau Latour a Pomerol, Providence, Hosanna and Chateau Trotanoy. Cherise Moueix 陈晓瑞 (left) was director of an art gallery in Paris where she met Christian Moueix in 1992. The couple live in Libourne.

Columnist Introduction

A lawyer by training, CH’NG Poh Tiong also holds a Postgraduate Certificate with Distinction in Chinese Art from the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London. He is an Honorary Ambassador of TEFAF – The European Fine Art Fair – Maastricht. CH'NG works principally as a wine journalist and is publisher of The Wine Review, the oldest wine publication in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and China since 1991.

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