Courgis is a small village 7 km southwest of Chablis where Alice and Olivier de Moor live and work. It is where Olivier grew up, and his “old” cellar, the part where he ages his Chablis in oak barrels, is underneath his grandparents’ house. From the hill where Courgis sits, the view is of vineyards over hills all the way to the Chablis Grands Crus.
Olivier says the landscape has changed a lot in his lifetime, that all the woods, bushes and fallow land that dotted the hills have disappeared in favor of vines.
Alice is from the Jura, and the two met at a large Chablis estate where Olivier was in charge of the vineyards. Both are enologists, graduates of the Dijon enological school, with enough knowledge to take a radically different direction for their vines and wines than their neighbors.
They began their estate by planting three plots of Chablis, -Bel Air, Clardy and Rosette,-in 1989. Of their first harvest, in 1994, they kept only 15HL. They were still employed elsewhere, but quit that fall after leasing their Saint-Bris vines: 0.55HA of Aligoté planted in 1902, and 0.40HA of Sauvignon blanc from 1945. For the next three years, they worked their 4HA of vines while tending the vines of other winemakers to make a living. In 1996, they planted a large plot in Chitry (called Champagne) with Aligoté and Chardonnay.
The whole Chablis area is highly calcareous, with soils formed millions of years ago in a warm, shallow sea. The limestone here is rich in shellfish fossils, including oysters (exogyra virgula), urchins, bivalves and ammonites. Bel Air and Clardy have a shallow topsoil over layers of harder limestone with fossils, a mix of clay and limestone that is highly draining, even more so in Clardy, which has whiter clay.
Rosette has a more complex soil, and is much harder to work. The plot slopes up to a 40% incline, and the vineyard can roughly be separated in three distinct parts: the very top is eroded materials over hard Portlandian rock; the mid-slope is directly over Kimmeridgian marl, which can quickly suffer from drought. Finally, the the bottom part is rich in dense clay with some limestone, resulting in later ripening. They usually do two harvests there, sometimes two weeks apart. They consider their best plot.
The St-Bris terroir is eroded debris over Portlandian rock. The clay is brown, the soil draining. The Sauvignon blanc plot has a north-west exposure, which lets it ripen slowly and get to optimal aromatic expression. This vineyard originally had 30% of its vines missing, and replacements were planted over 8 years with local massale selection and cuttings of Sauvignon Gris from the Loire valley. In Chitry, the clay is also brown, over Kimmeridgian marls, and some silex stones are present.
The de Moor have worked their vines organically since 2005, a rarity in their area. In 2002, they stopped using large harvest bins and replaced them with small boxes where the grapes are not crushed by their own weight. In 2007, they built a large and high-ceilinged winery, allowing them to do all their cellar work by gravity. In 2008, they purchased a second-hand pneumatic press to treat the grapes in the gentlest way possible. There is no SO2 used at harvest or during the vinification. Aging is done in burgundian barrels of different ages for the Chablis and the Bourgogne Chitry. The young vines Aligoté is aged in cement and stainless steel tanks, the VV Aligoté in barrels. The Sauvignon Blanc, which often takes over a year to ferment, is aged in tanks.
There are two bottlings of Chablis: Rosette and Bel Air & Clardy, the last a blend of the two plots. These have none of the “normal” under ripeness of Chablis, nor are they marked by the gunpowder aromas created by an excess of sulfur. Olivier believes that in another era, Chablis had a buttery and nutty character similar to any Chardonnay from low yields and reasonable ripeness. He follows the same reasoning for his Sauvignon de St-Bris, which is ripe and rich. The other cuvées are Bourgogne Aligoté VV, regular Aligoté, Bourgogne Chitry, and two special early cuvées that are done entirely without sulfur, Chablis L’Humeur du Temps and ‘A Ligoter’ (“fit to be roped”) Aligoté.