Château du Moulin-à-Vent

Burgundy, France

Vineyard

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Vineyards & Viticulture

Château du Moulin-à-Vent is located 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) south of Mâcon, at the southernmost tip of the region of Burgundy. For centuries it was named Château des Thorins, as it is situated on the hill of Les Thorins, one of the most renowned vineyards of the region. With the creation of the Moulin-à-Vent appellation, the name was changed. Moulin-à-Vent (in reference to the ancient stone windmill at the top of Les Thorins hill) was one of the first appellations to be awarded Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée status in 1936. East-facing, over-looking the Saône River valley, the appellation contains the finest slopes of the region and enjoys maximum sun exposure, along with frequent drying winds which create a hygienic environment and concentrate the grapes that are planted on the steepest terroirs, such as Les Vérillats, La Rochelle, Les Caves.

Château du Moulin-à-Vent encompasses 37 hectares (91.43 acres) of vineyards containing the finest terroirs of the appellation: Champ de Cour, la Rochelle, Les Vérillats, Les Thorins, La Roche and Les Caves. Each plot has its own distinctive identity and characteristics that are expressed in the individual wines. The soils are mainly granitic and vary with the geological stratum, with a high concentration of manganese, copper and iron oxide. Seams of manganese in the granite bedrock are thought to be responsible for the remarkable ageability of these wines.

The Gamay Noir vines, which average 40 years in age — with some vines reaching 80 years — are planted with a density of 10,000 or more vines per hectare (4,047 vines per acre). Since 2009, when the Parinet family purchased the property, 70,000 vines have been replanted. Yields are very low, between 16 to 32 hectoliters per hectare (1.18 and 2.37 vines per acre), whereas normal yields for the region are between 45 and 50 hectoliters per hectare (3.33 and 3.70 vines per acre). (The maximum authorized yield is 52 hectoliters per hectare or 3.85 vines per acre.)

The vines are trellised with goblet (bush) pruning and are manually debudded to encourage optimum maturity and concentration. The trellised plots are managed to maximize leaf exposure and photosynthesis, or conversely, to minimize extreme weather conditions. Jean-Jacques Parinet employs sustainable “lutte raisonnée,” or “reasoned protection,” viticultural practices, meaning recourse to chemical intervention only when absolutely necessary, natural soil amendments, manual weed control and integrated pest management. The objective is to preserve the biodiversity and natural balance of the soils as much as possible and to encourage deep-rooted vines, while still harvesting (albeit in minuscule quantities) healthy, terroir-driven fruit.

Seven Remarkable Terroirs

The wines of Château du Moulin-à-Vent owe their special character to the excellent quality of the terroirs within the estate. The vineyards are located in the center of the Moulin-à-Vent appellation and are planted around the château and windmill. The terroirs (or climats, as they are known throughout Burgundy) are determined by very different soils and exposures which produce wines with very different characteristics. This is what makes the plot-specific crus so interesting. The following are the finest terroirs of the estate:

Les Vérillatsts

2.89 hectares (7.14 acres)
Pink granite sand down to 30 centimeters (11.8 inches), then a layer of rock that the roots cannot penetrate. The grapes are harvested early.

Le Champ de Cour

3.20 hectares (7.90 acres)
The most clay-dominated of the terroirs of Moulin-à-Vent (yellow and white clays). The plateau of Champ de Cour is located in the middle of the appellation and has a cool, mineral soil. South-eastern exposure.

Les Thorins

4.20 hectares (10.38 acres)
Famed for being chosen by Louis XIV in the 17th century. This was the original name of the château; the hill of Thorins is the site of the windmill. Red clay and sand with a southwestern exposure.

Le Moulin-à-Vent

3.71 hectares (9.17 acres)
Under a layer of sand, the roots can grow down through altered granite. Northern exposure. This plot includes the Clos du Château, which grows truly remarkable grapes.

Aux Caves

4.15 hectares (10.25 acres)
The steepest slope of the Château terroirs, with red clay.

La Roche

0.63 hectare (1.56 hectares)
A terroir renowned for its high manganese content.

La Rochelle

0.37 hectare (0.91 acres)
A circle-shaped terroir, probably the warmest of the appellation, also very steep.

Winemaking

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At Château du Moulin-à-Vent, the grapes are selectively hand-harvested and transported immediately to the winery in small containers to prevent crushing of the grape clusters and to avoid pre-oxidation of the juice. Every precaution is taken to ensure the grapes arrive at the press whole and unbroken. The grapes are destemmed to prevent rough expressions of Gamay’s primary aromas (pepper, exuberant fruit, dry tannins); the percentage of destemming depends upon each vintage. With some cuvées, cold pre-fermentation maceration is performed for greater extraction of color and flavor. With the 2009 vintage, a cold/hot control system was installed that enables complete control of the temperature of each foudre (large barrel) and stainless-steel tank. The extraction period varies, depending upon the vintage and terroir (or climat, as they are known throughout Burgundy), from 21 to 28 days, with traditional extraction techniques employed (punching the cap and pumping over).

Considerable investment in the winemaking facilities has been made since the Parinet family took over in 2009, bringing the equipment and cellars (which were built in the 1600s and 1700s) into the modern age. The wines are aged in the vaulted cellar of the château where the temperature is stable at 14 to 15 degrees Celsius (57 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit). Selection of the capacity, grain, toast and origin (from Taransaud and François Frères) of the barrels depends upon the vintage and the terroir. Barrel aging is on average 14 months; with 20 percent of the used barrels replaced each year, the average age of the barrels in the cellar is now 2.5 years. Oak aging induces natural micro-oxygenation which creates finer tannins.

Jean-Jacques and Edouard Parinet, together with winemaker Brice Laffond, have succeeded in their efforts to highlight the individual characteristics of each terroir. The Parinets introduced a quality strategy resulting in the vinification of four individual vineyard cuvées that emphasize the often underestimated richness of the appellation. Under this new direction, Château du Moulin-à-Vent has won back its leading position as ambassador for the appellation and the source of its most remarkable, age-worthy wines.