“Thanks to tech, we can manage good times, tasting wine.” ~ Edouard Parinet, Château du Moulin-à-Vent
Edouard Parinet is the winemaker at Château du Moulin-à-Vent, which (as the name indicates) is a domaine located in Moulin-à-Vent, one of the Crus of Beaujolais. I had the opportunity to connect with Parinet last week over Zoom to discuss what makes this spot a unique source for red wine from France.
Moulin-à-Vent translates to wind mill, and visitors to the area recognize the characteristic structure. But it’s not there for show. Parinet says that the powerful winds that blow through the region in late August and early September slightly dry the berries. These small fruits are “complex and structured,” according to Parinet, a unique feature of the space.
Wind is only one half of the puzzle of Moulin-à-Vent—the other is soil. Moulin-à-Vent is near “the meeting point of granite and the clay and limestone of Burgundy,” says Parinet. “There is diversity resulting from this point.” The diversity manifests in a granite that is sandy and rich in oxide and silica.
Parinet says that this material “participates in the maturity of the vines, by reflecting the sun.” I grabbed both of these as screen shots (above) from our conversation. Parinet revealed an example rock that is kept in the château, as well as one that was in the vineyard.
Parinet included a short walk into the vineyard behind the château. These vines were planted in 1967 and are grown goblet-style. They are planted in high density to encourage competition to produce small, high-quality grapes.
From this vineyard, there’s a view of the Saône valley to the east, and dominating the distance are the Beaujolais Mountains. Millions of years of erosion contribute to the nature of the regional soil types.
Parinet was eager to point out the beehives that thrive on the property: “Honey for breakfast. Wine for lunch.” Shown in the photo on the left, below, is the iconic windmill in the distance.
Parinet says that he doesn’t use any carbonic maceration, a technique that is popular in parts of Beaujolais to show off the primary aromatics of Gamay, the region’s landmark variety. Instead he uses traditional winemaking methods aimed at showing off the characteristics of terroir. These include all hand-harvest and what he calls a “long and soft” course of low-intervention winemaking. Vineyards are all organic and only natural yeast is at work in the cellar. Sulfur is used sparingly, only at the time of bottling.
Parinet also notes that, among the vast diversity of Gamay, the domaine’s vineyards have been replanted with specific clones, through Massal Selection. A team of dozens is brought in for the harvest, which is conducted quickly in the course of days when the grapes are at perfect maturity, to “preserve the freshness and quality of Gamay.”
Château du Moulin-à-Vent as a storied history dating back to 1732. It’s situated near the ancient Roman road heading north from the port city of Marseille on the Mediterranean Sea. This thoroughfare promoted agriculture, including vineyards, ribbons of plantings along both sides of the road.
Moulin-à-Vent also achieved recognition when France classified vineyards in the 1800s—a system still in tact in Bordeaux. Vineyards in Beaujolais and Mâcon were given a classement, and the areas centered around the windmill had the largest number of premier class vineyards, according to Parinet. Specific lieu-dit, such as Champ de Cour (which I tasted along with Parinet) afforded certain a particularly high standing.
In 1961, makers of these wines could use the indicator of Grand Cru Classé on the label, again similar to regulations elsewhere, this time in Provence. Parinet says that during his quarantine in the château, he discovered an old poster of the 70th anniversary of the appellation in 1994, still bearing the language of Grand Cru Classé.
Beaujolais is now a system of 12 appellations and ten crus, one of which is, of course, Moulin-à-Vent. Parinet says that he doesn’t see the Grand Cru status returning, but that he’s “lucky to be a part of the trend to bring Cru Beaujoalis back.” He says that Premier Cru status could be in the far future, similar to Pouilly-Fuissé in nearby Mâcon, but that the “vintners don’t know if they want it.”
Parinet also touched on the impact of climate change in Beaujolais. Like many winegrowers around France, he echoed an immediate concern for “extreme catastrophic episodes” such as hail and frost. These “cause more devastation than rising temperatures.” The nature of Gamay, the baby of Beaujolais, actually benefits from stress (not destruction, but heat stress). “Gamay doesn’t suffer from drought, stress,” says Parinet. “On the contrary, it still keeps fruit and freshness.”
Three wines to try
2017 = hail in July. This made for a significantly small harvest. In the case of Gamay, this can result in a silver lining in terms of the wine’s profile: more concentrated fruit. Parinet also says that the hot and dry summer that prevailed after the hail resulted in “a natural sorting” of the damaged berries.
Champ de Cour Moulin-à-Vent 2017: This comes from a flat area between the hills of the windmill and of Fleurie where some clay remains in the soil. This is one of those sweet spots that previously held the elevated classification. It’s a fresh and lively wine, with fruit energy and a sense of power and concentration. Parinet suggests this as a bottle of “elegance and finesse.”
Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Moulin-à-Vent 2017: This is blend from several lieu-dit from around the property. Parinet says this is almost completely destemmed: “I couldn’t afford to bring in much green, vegetal” because this harvest was small, so there wasn’t a large amount of fruit to balance that. Still, it offers fruit, light red strawberry and a touch of menthol.
Clos de Londres, Moulin-à-Vent 2015: A caveat—this isn’t yet available in the US, but the 2018 vintage will be offered soon. Parinet calls it “charming and powerful” which is a superb combination. This wine comes from a clos in front of the château which has thin soils of granite and mineral nutrients. The wine has mouthwatering quality and persistent dark fruit flavors.
The French Winophiles
This month, the members of The French Winophiles focus on Cru Beaujolais. Please join our twitter chat with the hashtag #Winophiles at 10am central time on Saturday, May 16, 2020. Here’s what we have in store for you: