Organic Chablis producers Alice and Olivier de Moor are pretty ubiquitous on the circuit of natural wine tastings I try to follow in Paris and the surrounding area. It just figures that a few months ago the rare professional tasting I decided to skip on account of a hangover - wine agent Sylvie Chameroy's portfolio tasting at Le Café de la Nouvelle Mairie - was the one at which the de Moors débuted their first red cuvée, a 2010 Bourgogne Rouge under their négociant label Le Vendangeur Masqué called "Le Rouge d'Etienne," limited to something like 800 bottles. My friend Kevin Blackwell of 9ème natural wine bistro Autour d'Un Verre raved about it to me that same evening, when we ran into each other at dinner. Kevin had purchased fully a third of the production, with the rest going (I think) to Le Baratin, and one other account I'm forgetting.
In the months since that night I'd been bugging Alice, Olivier, and Sylvie, whenever I ran into them, for a taste of the Bourgogne Rouge, much to their amusement. Of course they never brought it to tastings, since it had already all been sold (just not, alas, shipped). Finally, over dinner with some LA friends at Autour d'Un Verre last month, Kevin availed me of the opportunity to purchase a bottle, only after I'd specifically asked about it (it wasn't on the list), and then only after warning me that the wine wasn't yet en place. [Tr. Wasn't showing that well.]
Yes, it was !
Why my keen interest in this particular bottle of Bourgogne Rouge, rather than so many other random micro-cuvées? The geek impulse was in full effect, I guess. Probably in Kevin's case, also. I wonder whether it's to a minor extent an American thing, to be inordinately interested in slightly anomalous or unlikely versions of stuff. Reds made by famed producers of white wine, whites made by famed producers of red. Sauvignon grown in Marsannay, or Gewürztraminer grown in the Loire. When you describe such things, people raised in cultures not bereft of agricultural history often ask, "Why?" or "Is it any good?" Whereas the American geek will simply lunge.
The de Moors' Bourgone Rouge is, of course, composed of Pinot Noir and fully legal in its area of production. There's just much less red wine produced up there than white. And since the de Moors produce, in my mind, some masterful Chablis and what is easily the world's greatest range of Aligotés,* I was especially curious to see how their winemaking skills would translate to the medium of red wine. It's the same curiosity one has for the prints of a renowned sculptor, or for the plays of a famous novelist.
Alice explained to me recently that the cuvée was inspired by one of their cellar hands who hails from the Beaujolais. The "Rouge d'Etienne" is thus produced with a system of semi-carbonic maceration (they'd started with carbonic and then later decided to mash it around a bit). Levitationally light, pure-fruited, and poised, the wine was reminiscent of Chablis legend Vincent Dauvissat's Irancy, another tiny-production Chablis-adjacent red cuvée. Translucent, shimmery strawberry flavors, wonderfully harmonious.
If it weren't for the fact that my wine director friend S was visiting from the states and curious to try other new things, we would have kept drinking bottles of it all night. (Provided Kevin would have let us.)
The good news is, the de Moors produced the wine again in 2011, although Alice tells me that despite seemingly quite ripe fruit, the wine remained at about 10,5% alcohol that year, very light even for a feather-thin genre. (By comparison, the 2010 was 11,8%.) That said, given the prevalent tastes of wine geeks such as myself for feather-thin wines, and given that micro-cuvées such as "Le Rouge d'Etienne" can be exhausted before release by the enthusiasm of just three buyers, I don't foresee the low alcohol of the 2011 presenting much of a problem to anyone.
More good news: the de Moors intend to expand their range of wines made under the Vendangeur Masqué négociant label, perhaps even to regions outside of Chablis. Their challenge now is to find and build relationships with sufficiently organic growers. It's a necessarily slow process, but one that at least a few of us will be following with great anticipation.
21, rue de Trevise
Metro: Bonne Nouvelles
Tel: 01 48 24 43 74
A great interview with the de Moors @ Louis/Dressner
A 2006 visit to the de Moors' cellars @ WineTerroirs
A typically hyperactive and hilarious review of Alice & Olivier de Moor's basic Aligoté cuvée "A Ligoter" @ BuSurLeWeb (The secret to the success of this video series is that everytime Aurelia Filion opens a bottle, we witness what is essentially an impressively faked orgasm. Whereas the reality of professional wine criticism is just a lot of spitting and frowning and mentally shouting "NEXT" at the slow vigneron still holding the wine bottle. I.e. the worst sex imagineable.)