IN FOCUS: ALICE ET OLIVIER DE MOOR - Cult CHABLIS
Alice and Olivier De Moor live and work in Courgis, a small village 7km southwest of Chablis. It is where Olivier grew up, and his “old” cellar, the part where he ages his Chablis in oak barrels, is underneath his grandparents’ house. From the hill where Courgis sits, the view is of vineyards over hills all the way to the Chablis Grands Crus.
Olivier says the landscape has changed a lot in his lifetime, that all the woods, bushes and fallow land that dotted the hills have disappeared in favor of vines.
Alice is from the Jura, and the two met at a large Chablis estate where Olivier was in charge of the vineyards. Both are enologists, graduates of the Dijon enological school, with enough knowledge to take a radically different direction for their vines and wines than their neighbors. While the division of labor principally consists of Olivier in the vines and Alice in the cellar and office, both are equally omnipresent in every role and all decisions are made together.
They began their estate by planting three plots of Chablis-Bel-Air, Clardy and Rosette-in 1989. Of their first harvest in 1994, they kept only 15HL and sold off the rest. They were still employed elsewhere, but quit that fall after leasing their Saint-Bris vines: 0.55HA of planted in 1902 and 0.40HA of Sauvignon Blanc planted in 1950. For the next three years, they worked their four hectares of vines while tending the vines of other winemakers to make a living. In 1996, they planted a large plot in Chitry (the parcel is called "Champagne") with Aligoté and Chardonnay.
The whole Chablis area is highly calcareous, with soils formed millions of years ago in a warm, shallow sea. The limestone here is rich in shellfish fossils, including oysters (exogyra virgula), urchins, bivalves and ammonites. There are three estate bottlings of Chablis: "L'Humeur du Temps", "Rosette" and "Bel-Air & Clardy", the last a blend of the two plots.
"L'Humeur du Temps" roughly translates to "The Mood of the Times" but is a double entrendre that also could mean "The Mood of the Weather". The idea with this is to capture a global snapshot of the vintage versus the nuance of single vineyard bottlings. In such, the wine comes from four parcels that are vinified separately then blended: Côte de l' Etang, Les Envers de Côte Chétif, Les Goulots de Jouan.
The Bel-Air and Clardy parcels both have a shallow topsoil over layers of harder limestone with fossils, a mix of clay and limestone that is highly draining, even more so in Clardy, which has whiter clay.
"Rosette" has a more complex soil, and is much harder to work. The plot slopes up to a 40% incline, and the vineyard can roughly be separated in three distinct parts: the very top is eroded materials over hard Portlandian rock; the mid-slope is directly over Kimmeridgian marl, which can quickly suffer from drought. Finally, the bottom part is rich in dense clay with some limestone, resulting in later ripening. They usually do two harvests there, sometimes two weeks apart. They consider it their best plot.
These have none of the “normal” under ripeness of Chablis, nor are they marked by the gunpowder aromas created by an excess of sulfur. Olivier believes that in another era, Chablis had a buttery and nutty character similar to any Chardonnay from low yields and reasonable ripeness. He follows the same reasoning for his Sauvignon from St-Bris, which is ripe and rich, so much so that they eventually had to declassify it to Vin de France.
The St-Bris terroir is eroded debris over Portlandian rock. The clay is brown, the soil draining. The Sauvignon Blanc plot has a north-west exposure, which lets it ripen slowly and get to optimal aromatic expression. This vineyard originally had 30% of its vines missing, and replacements were planted over eight years with local massale selections and cuttings of Sauvignon Gris from the Loire valley.
The other cuvées an old vine Bourgogne Aligoté called "1902" (not produced each vintage and only in small quantities), a regular Bourgogne Aligoté and a Bourgogne Chitry. A late harvested Aligoté called "D'Autres Vallées" has also been produced a handful of vintages. The the Bourgogne Chitry and Bougogne Aligoté both come from the Champagne parcel, where clay sits atop Kimmeridgian marls and some silex stones are present.
Some other wines also join the fold through De Moor's négociant project Les Vendangeurs Masqués ("The Masked Harvester"). A Bourgogne Blanc is produced from sourced organic fruit that varies every vintage and is not produced each year. A Chablis from organic fruit is produced annually. A surprisingly charming Viogner called "Caravan" has made numerous appearances, this time sourced from Gérald Oustric in the the Ardèche. And in very bad years (the reason they began buying fruit in the first place), they have sourced grapes from friends all over the South of France; a truly all-star list including Eric Pfifferling, Domaine Gramenon, Eric Texier and Émile Hérédia.
The final and most recent additions come from the 2017 purchase of two plots of 1er Cru vineyards. Vau de Vey represents 0.92 hectares of vines planted in 1953 on heavy marl that remind Olivier of the Rosette vineyard. The name is a local dialect for "little valley". Their other plot of Mont de Milieu is 0.82 hectares; it is extremely steep and has to be worked by horse as it is too dangerous to use a tractor (hence why everyone else uses herbicide). The site gets its name ("Mount of Middle") because it's on the border of Champagne. The vines at the bottom of the hill were planted in the 1980's and the middle and the top in the 1930's. Yields in the old vines are very low and concentrated due to Court Noué.
The De Moors have worked their vines organically since 2005, a rarity in their area. In 2002, they stopped using large harvest bins and replaced them with small boxes where the grapes are not crushed by their own weight. In 2007, they built a large and high-ceilinged winery, allowing them to do all their cellar work by gravity. In 2008, they purchased a second-hand pneumatic press to treat the grapes in the gentlest way possible. There is no SO2 used at harvest or during the vinification. Aging has traditionally been in Burgundian barrels of different ages for the Chablis wines, the Bourgogne Chitry and the old vine Aligoté, with young vine wines and Sauvignon aged in cement and stainless steel tanks. Over the years this has evolved: 228 liter Burgundian barrels are still the most common vessel, though demi-muids and foudres of various sizes have joined the fray along with enamel-lined stainless steel tanks and even a few anforas.
Available stock on hand as of April 2023