France Wine

Alice et Olivier de Moor – moving away from the industrial Chablis

Courgis: July 2023

If there has been a new big name in Chablis in the last years, it would be that of Alice et Olivier de Moor. Their organic practices in the vineyards have demonstrated that even plots outside the Premier and Grand Cru appellations can produce wines with great concentration, razor-sharp acidity, and intense minerality. 

On a quick visit to Chablis, Alice de Moor herself led us on a tour of their cellar and introduced us to their wines.

Table of contents
1. De Moor’s history2. Their viticulture and winemaking3. Tasting their Aligotés and Chardonnays

The history of Domaine Alice et Olivier de Moor

The domain was founded by a couple who did not have a heritage of Burgundian winemaking in their family line. It was during Olivier’s studies in viticulture that he managed to acquire three hectares of abandoned vineyards from his uncle in Courgis, located within the Chablis appellation. Here, he began cultivating his own vines.

Both Alice and Olivier would pursue oenology studies later in Dijon, with the intention of entering the wine industry. Olivier secured a position at Brocard in Chablis, while Alice would also work for some time in Australia and Portugal. As their experience grew, so did their aspiration to own a winery. Eventually, in 1994 they opted to leave the relative security of employment at larger estates. Launching their winery was a significant and liberating milestone.

The reality was that the small three-hectare vineyard of Chablis they started with was not enough to sustain their living. As a result, the pair decided to expand. They secured a lease for a vineyard in Saint-Bris with 0.5ha of very old vines of Aligoté and 0.4ha of Sauvignon Blanc. Furthermore, in 1996 they took over a plot in Chitry, five kilometres away from Courgis, to plant more Aligoté and Chardonnay.

Their initial tenure in Saint-Bris was modest, but with just three hectares more under their care, the de Moors doubled their land. During their time there, they adopted an organic approach to farming, rejecting the use of herbicides and synthetic insecticides in favour of natural alternatives. They also shifted from mechanical to manual grape harvesting, with workers handpicking each grape cluster, a practice not commonly seen in most of Chablis.

The de Moors’ winemaking approach evolved in tandem with their adoption of organic practices in their vineyards. Within two years, the reliance on cultivated yeasts was abandoned, fining and filtering became practices of the past. Although they were officially recognized for organic farming only in 2005, their wines had been produced organically since the turn of the millennium. For Alice and Olivier, there is no other way. They believe that the finest wines come from preserving the grape’s intrinsic quality, free from what they see as the interference of modern technology and artificial additives.

A brief overview of their viticulture and winemaking

Apart from organic viticulture, their vineyard philosophy distinctly differs from that of their neighbours in terms of yields management. Indeed, they observe that the primary issue in Chablis vineyards is often low grape concentration, a result of producing too many grapes. Even in the best vintages, Alice and Olivier’s production is often half that of their neighbours, particularly those in cooperatives.

Over the years, their methods have been remarkably consistent. However, the impact of climate change has led them to explore several changes in their farming practices. These include the planting of trees, testing pergola trellises for better air circulation and sun exposure, and experimenting with cover crops. They have even started using chickens that forage through these grasses.

Within the cellar, there’s a strong emphasis on traditional winemaking techniques, with only a minimal use of modern technology. The decision of when to harvest grapes is based on their taste rather than using a refractometer. While fermentations usually occur naturally without any temperature control, during extraordinary situations, such as the 2020 heatwave, some temperature management is applied. Additionally, after the cellar’s expansion in 2007, wine is now transferred between containers using gravity, which significantly reduces the need for pumping.

Due to the cold temperatures in autumn and winter, the fermentations tend to be very long, taking months or sometimes years. They are carried out in different oak vessels — 228L Burgundy barrels, 500L demi-muids, foudres, as well as stainless or concrete tanks — chosen based on the size of that year’s harvest. Post-fermentation, wines are typically aged for one year. The wines undergo a natural malolactic fermentation and are aged on their lees, avoiding any stirring (known as bâtonnage). To finish, they only add sulphur during bottling.

Tasting their wines

The Aligotés

Alice and Olivier are among the best producers of Aligoté, alongside Domaine Ponsot and Sylvain Pataille in Côte de Nuits. In Chablis and Auxerre, the only producer that comes close is Domaine d’Edouard by Édouard Lepesme, who formerly worked with the de Moors and Pattes Loup.

While in most of Burgundy there’s a recognised distinction in quality between Aligoté vert and Aligoté doré, Alice and Olivier contend that these two types are genetically identical. Their experience suggests that Aligoté is typically labeled as vert (green) when it is productive but not particularly concentrated. On the other hand, if it is less productive, it tends to be more concentrated and referred to as doré (golden).

Alice et Olivier de Moor – Bourgogne Aligoté 2021
Vines planted between 1995 and 2000 in Chitry. Aligoté is planted on the lower side of the plot, where the soils are richer in clay. In this vintage, with frost, mildew and oïdium, 30% of the crop was lost. However, the reduced overall yields allowed them to age the Aligoté in oak, instead of the usual concrete or stainless steel tanks.
Nose:Floral with lots of citric zest notes.
Palate:Lots of lemon and lime, good concentration for an Aligoté and very vertical acidity.
Structure:Very high acidity, dry, light body, medium alcohol.

Alice et Olivier de Moor – Bourgogne Aligoté – Plantation 1902 – 2020
Half a hectare of vines from 1902 in Saint-Bris. Soils with a heavier composition of clay. The vintage 2020 spent two years in demi-muids and foudres, since the fermentation would not finish. It ended up with 3g/L residual sugar, so they filtered it to ensure stability in the bottle. Bottled in March 2023. In 2021, a very difficult vintage, it was not vinified.
Nose:Very aromatic and full of ripe fruit for an Aligoté. Candied lemon and summer flowers dominate over a chalky-flinty minerality.
Palate:Great concentration and density for this type of varietal. The acidity is still vertical, but rounder and less intense. On the attack it is green apple and lemon curd, with those same summer flowers of the bouquet. The midpalate is very saline, with a chalky minerality. Candied lemon and floral finish. Very unique.
Structure:Very high acidity, dry, medium body, medium alcohol. Very long finish.

The Chardonnays

But of course, the star of Chablis is Chardonnay and Alice and Olivier make exceptional examples of this varietal.

Alice et Olivier de Moor – Chablis L’Humeur du Temps 2021
Assemblage of all their Chablis plots. The name of the cuvée reflects their intention of capturing the essence of the vintage with a blend.
Nose:Medium aromatic. Riper fruit, with yellow apple and lemon.
Palate:Very pretty with precise flavours. Lots of lime on the attack, with the midpalate showing lots of salinity and chalk. Great concentration accompanied by a racy tension. Light lees astringency, probably from not filtering.
Structure:High racy acidity, dry, medium body, medium alcohol. Long finish.

Alice et Olivier de Moor – Chablis Coteau de Rosette 2020
One of their favourite plots in Courgis, from the original land that Olivier planted in 1990. 1ha with South-East exposure. Soils heavy in yellow marnes. Fermented in oak barrels and aged 1 year in stainless steel tanks.
Nose:Aromatic nose with beautiful citric notes, riper, such as mandarin, lemon, orange. Very alluring and complex.
Palate:Beautiful precision. Shows more concentration and body than any wine so far. Balanced tension. The attack of white peach and mandarin moves to a more citric midpalate with a milder touch of salt and chalk. Long finish of candied lemon and green herbs.
Structure:High racy acidity, dry, medium body, medium alcohol. Very long finish.

In 2016, Alice and Olivier took another significant step by purchasing a one-hectare plot of Vau de Vey, marking their entry into the Premier Crus category. The vines were in poor condition by their standards due to decades of conventional agriculture techniques, including the use of pesticides and fertilisers. Undeterred, they set about converting the vineyard to organic practices over the next three years. Their efforts are now bearing fruit, with noticeable improvements in both soil and vine health. Additionally, later in 2016, they began renting 0.8ha of Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu, closer to the Grand Crus of Chablis, from a friend.

Alice et Olivier de Moor – Chablis 1er Cru Vau de Vey 2020
Vines from 1954. Mostly yellow marnes, with a bit of Kimmeridgian limestone. Fermented in 500L in demi-muids for 1 year, then aged for 1 year in stainless steel.
Nose:Very aromatic. Precise notes of pear and green apples. There is a hint of lemon and flint in the background that add complexity.
Palate:Beautiful body that hides a very tense, vertical acidity. We love this mouth-watering tension in Chardonnay. The attach has green apple, the roundness of ripe yellow pear, but a backbone of grapefruit and lemon. The midpalate is briny and chalky, leading to a smoky flint finish with lots of citrus. Exciting.
Structure:High racy acidity, dry, medium body, medium alcohol. A very mild silky astringency. Very long finish.

Alice et Olivier de Moor – Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu 2020
Vines from 1980s. South exposure, always riper and harvested first. Fermented in 288L barrels for 1 year, then aged for 1 year. More concentration, more body.
Nose:Very aromatic. Perfumed with white peach, ripe apple and white flowers.
Palate:Most concentrated wine of all, giving a more classic Burgundy Chardonnay profile. The tension is less racy. Notes of ripe cool climate apple and pear, white flowers and a touch of chalk in the midpalate. This will last long, and it will surely get better.
Structure:High acidity, dry, medium body, medium alcohol. Very long finish.

In the last few years they have also been experimenting with different varietals through their négoce, Les Vendangeurs Masqués. With climate change they feel like diversifying their crops is important. They have been working with Roussane from the Rhône valley and a Riesling-Sauvignon Blanc assemblage from Alsace. Still, keeping our tasting strictly Bourguignone, we finished with their Saint-Bris, the only appellation that allows Sauvignon Blanc and Gris in Burgundy.

Alice et Olivier de Moor – Sans Bruit 2021
Same plot as their old vine Aligoté. The oldest vines of Sauvignon are from the 1950s, but they have been replacing any dead vines with Sauvignon Gris. Saint-Bris is the only village in Burgundy that allows Sauvignon Blanc and Gris. It’s a Vin de France due to higher levels of residual sugar than allowed in the appellation. Vinified in oak and amphora.
Nose:Very aromatic, with bright gooseberry notes, lots of lemon and white flowers.
Palate:Dense and concentrated wine with cool climate fruit, but ripe. Think lemon, grapefruit and white flowers on the attack. It has some smoky, flinty notes that appear in the midpalate and linger through the finish. A racy and vertical Sauvignon acidity provides the balance.
Structure:High racy acidity, touch of residual sugar, full bodied, high alcohol. Long finish.

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