At under 2 hA, Closeries des Moussis is tiny. They call themselves a micro vignoble but with neighbors such as Château Margaux (90 hA), Château Prieuré-Lichine (70 hA) and Château Palmer (55 hA) the word nano comes to mind. They’re also new – the first vintage was 2009, a century and a half after the Bordeaux Official Classification of 1855 cemented the reputations of those famous Châteaux. So what does Moussis offer without imposing vineyards or a prestigious history?
For one thing, the passions and talents of partners Laurence Alias and Pascale Choime. Each are daughters of agriculteurs who started their professional lives somewhat removed from the fields. Pascale as oenologue and maitre de chai at Château Dillon (for over 25 years now) and Laurence as an ingénieur en agriculture de formation, a consulting engineer, on projects relating to sustainable development and the environment. These outsiders, unbound to stodgy market expectations or corporate ownership, are free to explore a fresher style of winemaking than typical, “standardized” Haut Médocs. “We wanted wine that was most representative of the grape. Closest to the flavor of a grape you munch on, the truest to its character”.
The other unique offering is that some of their vines are arguably more rare than any at the Grands Crus Classés. While planning to start their venture they were offered the lease for a 0.35 hA parcel of 150 year-old vines in Cantenac! “We didn’t hesitate one second, even if its hard to establish yourself here if you aren’t from a landholding family. To be able to work vines which have withstood phylloxera, that’s just incredible.”
From the beginning work in the vineyard has been organic. Starting in 2011 biodynamic practices were added, sometimes row by row so as to assess their effectiveness. As of 2015 Closeries des Moussis is certified biodynamic by Demeter. In 2012 a specialist was hired to plow the vines by horse while Laurence attended an apprenticeship for working with draft horses at Château Latour. Starting the following year Laurence has done this work herself with Jumpa, their own Breton draft horse. As one would expect all other work in the vines – pruning, leaf thinning, harvest – is done by hand. In the cellar there are no oenological products used aside from minimal doses of sulfites. The grapes are de-stemmed but not crushed. Extraction is gentle. Elevage takes place in large (400 – 600 liter) barrels. There is little or no new oak (depending on cuvée and year).
The name Closeries des Moussis: “Closerie” is the local term for a small agricultural field. “Moussis” in the Saintonge dialect are wild cherry trees which grow in a scraggly, scrub-like fashion between the more stately oaks. A perfect metaphor for the tiny,comparatively unkempt parcels of vines and scrappy winemaking taking root amongst the behemoth Grands Crus!