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2009 Moulin à Vent, La Rochelle, Olivier Merlin
Scores and Reviews
Olivier Merlin (originally from the Charolais) is widely regarded as being one of the very finest wine makers in the Mâconnais. He and his wife Corinne (a Montbéliarde) began in 1987 by renting 4.5ha. from René Gaillard, of Domaine du Vieux St Sorlin, who wished to retire. Since then he has been buying the property in stages as well as adding new vineyards such as St Véran (in 1994 & 1996). In September 1997 Olivier took out a negociants' licence in order to be able to make some Pouilly Fuissé, since land in this appellation is neither available to buy nor to rent.
He makes three cuvées of Pouilly-Fuissé (one each from Fuissé, Vergisson and Chaintré) and a Viré-Clessé. From 2000 some Moulin-à-Vent joined the stable. The single-vineyard wines, including Mâcon La Roche-Vineuse Les Cras and St Véran Le Grand Bussière, get 18 months barrel-ageing with 30-50 per cent new wood. The latest big project has been the purchase of a steep slope above the village, En Montessu, and its clearance and replanting after being left fallow for five years with cover crops to help the land recuperate. Olivier has old photographs showing this whole slope covered in vineyard in earlier times.
He has established a reputation as one of the region’s most dynamic growers, a reference point for the Maconnais.The whites demonstrate Olivier's exceptional winemaking talents from lowly appellations. They are frequently taken for Côte d'Or wines if tasted blind. His Bourgogne Rouge is at its best after 2 to 3 years when the fruit expresses itself fully.
Jasper Morris MW, author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.
A French variety planted predominately in Beaujolais where it is the grape behind everything from light and often acidic Beaujolais Nouveau through to the more serious and well-structured wines from the 10 cru villages. It takes its name from a hamlet just outside Chassagne-Montrachet and was at one stage widely planted on the Côte d`Or. However it was gradually phased out due to its poor yield and supposed poor quality of its wines.
The majority of Gamay wines in Beaujolais are labelled as Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages and are deliciously juicy, easy drinking, gulpable wines. Of more interest are the Cru wines from the 10 villages in the north of the region where the soil is predominantly granitic schist and where the vines are planted on gently undulating slopes. These can be well-structured, intensely perfumed wines, redolent of ripe black fruits and, while delicious young, will reward medium term cellaring.
Gamay is also grown in the Touraine region of the Loire where it produces soft, well-balanced, gluggable wines for drinking young.
Known as the ‘King of Beaujolais’ for its power, structure and longevity, Moulin-à-Vent is the most atypical of all the Beaujolais Crus, even if it is potentially the best. Its style is the antithesis of light, fluffy Beaujolais, and when fully mature (often at 10 years old or more) it resembles more a fine Burgundy, or even a Rhône, than Beaujolais. Named after the local windmill (which translates as moulin-à-vent in French) Moulin-à-Vent is a real vindication of the principle of ‘terroir’.
Moulin-à-Vent's neighbour Fleurie produces perfumed, silky, approachable wines, while Moulin-à-Vent, using the same grape (100% Gamay) and broadly the same vinification, makes wines that are meaty, tannic and intense, and need 2-3 years to mature. The only possible explanation, it seems, is the high proportion of iron and manganese in Moulin-à-Vent’s soil. Moulin-à-Vent tends to be most expensive of the Beaujolais Crus, although happily it is home to a number of very fine producers, so there is plenty for wine lovers to choose from.