The Château du Moulin-à-Vent, formerly called Château des Thorins is a wine estate and a winery located in the Beaujolais Cru appellation bearing the same name: Moulin-à-Vent.
The 30 hectares (75 acres) of vineyards count amongst the best sites in the area and allows the producer to elaborate some of the most highly regarded wines in the appellation.
Come along with Social Vignerons as Château du Moulin-à-Vent tell us the story of their recent revival, and discover this distinctive French vigneron.
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History of Château du Moulin-à-Vent
Jean-Jacques Parinet and his son Edouard took over the Château du Moulin-à-Vent in 2009. They have brought qualitative work techniques and tools to vineyards averaging 60 year-old vineyards, and to the winery.
The secular cellar remains the same but 70.000 vines have been replanted, trellised, plus the whole vinification and ageing process has been rethought. The 2009 vintage was the first vintage to bring Château du Moulin-à-Vent back as the referent domain of this prestigious appellation. Working with Brice Laffond, technical director of the estate, the three men foster a strategy of excellence and a meticulous approach, guided by the very identity of each terroir.
Château du Moulin-à-Vent has a rich history, more than 500 years old: during the 17th century, the wines were introduced in Versailles and drew the eye of King Louis XIV himself, who, after tasting it, declared it fit for the Court of France.
The first written mentions of the Château date back to 1732 and show that wine had in all likelihood been made from the same vineyards since the 16th century. In the 18th century, the Château was called Château des Thorins after the hamlet named “Les Thorins” or “Les Torreins” where it was located, and whose vineyards had already gained a reputation for quality, as attested by historical documents of the time and success at the royal court.
The exceptional qualities of Moulin-à-Vent were also detected by Philiberte Pommier, who noticed that the plots around the Château each had distinct features. She set about organizing the terroirs of the estate, and noticed that a plot next to the Château had the perfect soil to bring out the characteristics of the Gamay grape.
In 1862, Philiberte was 99 years old and she finally achieved the deserved recognition of her efforts, when her 1854, 1858 and 1859 vintages were ranked the best wines in the Macon region at the Universal Exhibition in London in 1862. The award for the 1854 vintage, bottled some 8 years before, highlighted another aspect of Philiberte’s pioneering work: her insistence that the wines of the Château could age successfully. In the meantime, the French writer, poet and politician, Alphonse de Lamartine, fell in love with Marie-Henriette Pommier, Philiberte’s daughter, and became a regular visitor to the Chateau in 1811 and 1812. However, the liaison did not meet with his father’s approval and Lamartine was forbidden to see Marie-Henriette any more.
Eventually, the last main appointment with History was 1936: the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée creation process had been led off since 1905 following on the phylloxera crisis, and was officially proclaimed by the 1935, July 30th Law Decree. It is then in May 1936 that the first AOC decrees are born in the Journal officiel de la République, and on 1936, September 11th that the Moulin-à-Vent AOC was born, among the first Burgundy AOCs alongside Pommard, Nuits-Saint-Georges, Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Musigny… Thus officially recognized by the INAO (Appellation d’Origine National Institute), the wine formerly sold under the “Romanèche-Thorins” name is changed in Moulin-à-Vent. Thus, the Château des Thorins becomes the Château du Moulin-à-Vent, already the reference of its appellation.
The Moulin-à-Vent appellation is located in the southernmost tip of Burgundy and stretches over 600 hectares of vineyard. The Château du Moulin-à-Vent is located in the heart of this renowned appellation, 200 meters behind the windmill dating back to the XVth century and classified as a « monument historique de France».
The domaine has 30 hectares of vineyards, exclusively in the Moulin-à-Vent appellation, and « arguably constitute collectively the largest single share of top acreage in the Moulin-à-Vent appellation» (Le Champ de Cour, La Rochelle, Les Vérillats, Les Thorins, La Roche, Les Caves…), according to David Schildknecht (Robert Parker | The Wine Advocate).
Vineyards, Soils, Grape Varieties
The Moulin-à-Vent appellation features 3 main characteristics:
- First of all, moulin-à-vent means windmill in French; if the old windmill, used to grind wheat back in the 14th century, is now closed, the winds are always blowing on the hills of the appellation, giving a good sanitary status to the vineyard, while they also concentrate the berries.
- Secondly, the soils of the appellation are composed of a mosaic of granitic layers, providing a diversity of terroirs.
- Finally, those granitic soils enable a typical expression of the appellation’s single grape varietal, the Gamay noir à jus blanc (Black Gamay with white juice), which naturally has a low production in this environment dried by the winds and on these soils rich in iron and copper oxides.
Château du Moulin-à-Vent seeks to bring out the individual identity and characteristics of each of the 91 plots in its vineyards.
The 30 hectares are planted with a density of 10.000 vines per hectare. Yields are kept low (between 16Hl/Ha and 33Hl/Ha from 2009 to 2015) to bring out the specific features of the appellation. The nature of each soil, its porosity, its exposure, its slope, the age of the vines planted, all produce fruits specific to each terroir.
The Château in its current form dates back to 1810s.
On the local cadaster plans, it had another form before it was rebuilt in the early 19th century. The oldest building in the estate is probably the cellar: the construction method, regarding the way the stones are set up, indicates that it dates back from the end of the 15th century.
The second oldest building is the cuvage (tank room) itself, from the 16th century.
The cuvage is composed with a few wooden tanks and a majority of stainless steel vats, of different sizes so the single vineyards can be vinified aside.
The cellar or barrel room is the place where the wines age, in barrels sizeing from 228L to 500L.
Château du Moulin-à-Vent has adopted integrated control in its vineyards and natural soil amendment, with manual weed control.
Some tests in biodynamic and organic viticulture are being conducted by Brice Laffond on several plots. An annual soil preparation program encourages the roots of the vines to dig down deep and also aerates the substrates to help the vines benefit from the terroir.
The finest plots are manually disbudded to encourage maturity and concentration. The trellised plots are managed according to the weather to maximize leaf exposure and photosynthesis.
The grapes are picked manually, and transported immediately to the winery in small containers to avoid juice pre-oxidation and prevent the clusters from getting crushed.
Jean-Jacques and his son Edouard Parinet took over the estate back in 2009. Passionate about wine, both have childhood memories filled with Moulin-à-Vent.
Brice Laffond arrived at the Château in 2013. Born in 1988, he shared his youth between Champagne and Languedoc-Rousillon where his parents settled a family wine estate in 1999. His studies were all about agronomy, viticulture and oenology. He did his 3rd Year Degree in Sciences de la Vigne in Burgundy (Université du Vin et de la Vigne à Dijon) and obtained the National Diploma of Oenology at the University of Montpellier in 2012. His curiosity led him to many other wine regions still. Eager to discover different ways of working, he started his first vintage in a small family estate in Champagne at the age of 18. For the 2010 vintage he took the direction of Château Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac as vineyard assistant for 6 months. The year after, he joined Domaine Faiveley in Nuits Saint Georges for another 6 months as winemaking assistant this time. Willing to valorize his past experiences he joined Mr Hervet (director of Domaine Faiveley) and Mr Leon (general director from Mouton Rothschild) to assist them in their consulting activities in St Helena (California) for the Spring Mountain Vineyard during 6 months. Just before starting at Château du Moulin-à-Vent, he took part to the 2013 southern hemisphere vintage in New Zealand, for the Giesen Winery. There, he specialized on the high-class Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc aged in barrels. Now he has been at Château du Moulin à Vent for the last 3 years where he has been taking care of the 30Ha of vineyards and making the wines. He is working hard on understanding the different terroirs there, this magic variety: the gamay and obviously how to combine them perfectly.
The overall production volume varies greatly depending on the vintage.
A telling example is the comparison between the 2011 vintage, referent vintage in the region until 2015 soon takes the spot, when Château du Moulin-à-Vent produced 100.000 bottles, to the 2012 vintage, beautiful vintage in Burgundy but quite more challenging here, when the yields fell down to 16 Hl/Ha and the production was around 45.000 bottles. A drastic selection was made over the sorting table, to keep the best quality levels of the wines.
Over the years, an average of 6 cuvées have been produced:
Couvent des Thorins and Château du Moulin-à-Vent, are both blends from different terroirs.
Then, there are 3 single vineyards from top terroirs of the appellation, Les Vérillats, Champ de Cour, La Rochelle. They are released each year (first vintage is 2012 for La Rochelle).
Finally, we produce a micro-cuvée named Clos de Londres, as a tribute to Philiberte, is released on the best vintages, with no more than 1.500 bottles.
Cellar Door Information
Château du Moulin-à-Vent is opened to the public from Monday to Friday, 9-12/2-6, and the week-ends with appointments.
For visits, appointments only, everyday of the week.
We are annually closed from December 25th to January 1st, and from August 1st to August 15th.
To contact the Chateau or for more information:
- visit www.chateaudumoulinavent.com
- or phone +33 (0)188.8.131.52.68