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Profile: Maison Moillard (Nuits St.Georges)

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UPDATED from June 23rd 2008:
I discussed this with some of the family; there is (was) a complex holding of many, many family members, so a wide spread of shareholders. A large (majority) block chose to sell, and that block was not represented by those that currently actively manage the company…
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Fair to say that this was a surprise…

Béjot takes over Thomas-Moillard
Owner of the Jean-Baptiste Béjot trading company in Meursault and of an estate of over 300 hectares (Chablis, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, and Fabrezan in the Corbières region), Vincent Sauvestre has strengthened his position as a key player in Burgundy by acquiring the prestigious Maison Moillard in Nuits-Saint-Georges. He thus ensures the continuity of this estate, owned by the Thomas-Moillard family since 1850. The two companies should in fact complement each other, both in terms of supplies and sales networks in France and abroad, giving them the opportunity to develop in parallel and allowing the new Béjot-Moillard group to become an important player on the market.
The estate, made up of some thirty hectares in Burgundy and 75 hectares in Languedoc, is part of the deal. However, the 35 hectares in Romania, inaugurated in 1996, remain the property of Denis Thomas, former Chairman of Thomas-Moillard
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Source: BIVB
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thomas moillardAppearing under many labels; Charles Thomas, Thomas-Moillard, Moillard and Moillard-Grivot, Maison Moillard is a major operation in the Côte d’Or and even further afield. To be welcomed, there is also a new emphasis in the vineyards and the cuverie.

Symphorien Moillard married vine owner Margueritte Grivot in 1848. The business, however, only really began to grow after 1850, following a chance meeting in Nuits St.Georges between a travelling Belgian notary and Symphorien Moillard. Together they tasted the Moillard wines, and so impressed was the notary that he persuaded Symphorien to make selections of wines to send to Belgium – this was the start of Moillard’s wine trading (négociant operations) and its first export activity. The ‘Benelux’ region remains the main export market for Moillard.

In 1870, daughter Jeanne inherited the company from here father Symphorien following his death on a tour of duty with the French army in Algeria. Jeanne also inherited another estate and in addition a third came with her marriage to Maurice Thomas – this was the start of Thomas-Moillard. Charles was the son of Jeanne and Maurice and despite some early heart problems which meant he had to stay home more, he worked for the family for 70 years, living until 98 years-old. It was during Charles’ time that the most vineyards were purchased. The son of Charles – Yves Thomas-Moillard – if he is to match his father, still has some years to work, but he is still active in the business in his mid-eighties! Yves took over the domaine during the second world war when one family member was supposed to stay to look after the family business. Today it is Denis Thomas-Moillard (son of Yves) who heads the business, though the next and sixth generation – Jeanne Thomas-Moillard – joined in 2003.

Moillard today

vineyard logoMoillard is certainly very diverse; they own 28 hectares of burgundy vines which are predominantly in the Côte de Nuits, they also own 31 hectares in Dealu Mare, Romania – in the southern foothills of the Carpathian mountains. It is said that Romania has good possibilities for burgundy varietals and the team grow pinot noir (mainly), chardonnay and feteacsa neagra. The first Romanian chardonnay bottling was the 2004, called ‘Vox Populi’. Then there are also close to 80 hectares of vines in the Languedoc, producing Vin de Pays. Of these ‘owned vines’, approximately 40-50% of output is currently from Burgundy and about 70% of that is sold in France. The only vine-owning ‘backward step’ came in 2004 following the death of Yves Thomas-Moillard’s brother; that side of the family wanted cash for inheritance rather than an income-stream, so most of the ‘crown-jewel’ vineyards of the domaine had to be sold. Thirteen hectares that included Chambertin, Clos de Bèze, Romanée Saint-Vivant, Bonnes-Mares, Corton Clos de Roi, Vosne 1er Malconsorts, Nuits 1er Clos de Thorey and some Beaune 1er Grèves were sold to the consortium of Dujac and Etienne de Montille.

Labels is one area that can cause confusion with consumers: Domaine Moillard, Domaine Charles Thomas, Domaine Thomas-Moillard, Maison Moillard, Maison Moillard-Grivot – with a couple of rare exceptions, all the wines are different. Other large ‘houses’ make things a little less complicated by having completely different names for the various legal entities they have bought over many years – for me, these all sound a little too similar!

6 million bottles. Did I say that Moillard was rather large? 6 million bottles lie in their cellars dispersed throughout Nuits St.Georges – and what cellars! It seems various generations of Thomas-Moillards bought property after property in Nuits, annexed the cellars and later sold the above properties – there are acres of underground storage for bottles and barrels – worth a tour without a doubt. A familiar tourist haunt is their Maison de Mosaic at the traffic lights in the centre of Nuits – here you can walk the impressive barrel cellars (only 0.6 million bottles here!) and then taste a selection of wines. Despite both a selection of ‘domaine’ and négoce wines opened and available for tasting, I always found the quality here particularly variable – perhaps some are open too long – but still I almost always found it possible to buy some interesting bottles.

Vines and Winemaking

statueThomas-Moillard was the first domaine that opened my eyes to what was possible from burgundy – a bottle of their 1988 Romanée Saint-Vivant drunk around 1996/97 that just enveloped me in its soft arms. Their top wines were typically rather monolithic when young (and sometimes old!), would last forever, but just occasionally would explode on the palate like a firework – just as that RSV did. I’m talking here of the chunky and uncompromising domaine wines of Thomas-Moillard and latterly Domaine Charles Thomas which were rarely elegant, but great in their own style, as for the négoce bottles, I found them variable at best. That was the reds, the whites were a simpler story; almost without exception I didn’t like their heavy, ponderous and always slightly estery presentation. So despite the recent loss of their top vineyards, it seems there was still some opportunity for improvement.

Versus many larger ‘domaines’, Thomas-Moillard have come just a little later to the conclusion that quality benchmarks have risen, and that this will be what sells in the future – that, or they were simply unaware of the quality gap that was opening. Since the retirement of Gérard Sauvaget in 2005, Isabelle Lenet was confirmed in charge of the winemaking, but supporting her position are two new hires; first Bernard Zito who used to work with Pascal Marchand at Domaine de la Vougeraie was hired, and now looks after the lunar-organic vineyards (more later!) and also is working with growers to improve the quality of the purchased grapes, and then, surprise, surprise, Pascal Marchand himself was hired in mid 2007 as a consultant to provide additional ideas in the winemaking. 2007 is the first year where they had this full team’s input.

In terms of viticulture, Moillard started to convert its estate to organic management already in 1999, then a few years later, Denis Thomas-Moillard, became increasingly interested in lunar-organic viticulture and now takes into account the phases of the moon when making certain operations: Jeanette comments “the problem of biodynamic is that you have to make certain treatments on certain days – not so practicable over 30 hectares – but achievable by the phase of the moon”. There is even a web-site dedicated to this here.

In the cuverie there is approximately 60-80% destemming – but based on grape quality it could be higher or lower. Once in tank, things are a little different; the stainless-steel tanks are in the ‘recumbent’ position, and have a circular ‘paddle’ that makes an automatic ‘pigeage’ starting at typically 4 times per day – less if the maturity is lower – and is slowly tapered to 2 or even just remontage (pumping over) before racking by gravity into barrels. The oak regime is flexible e.g. The Pommard Rugiens took 80% new oak in 2006, but 40% in 2007 – typical elevage is 18-20 months. The whites go into a mix of barrels and foudres and have some battonage.

Denis Thomas-Moillard considers the premature oxidation problem to be mainly ‘closure’ related, so now only specifies corks that are not treated with peroxide. They don’t look quite so clean on removal, having some green colouration but there seem to be less issues.

Wines

Where possible tasting first, I have often bought examples of the Thomas-Moillard domaine reds, less-so the whites or négoce bottles. The style was always robust and built to age – rarely graceful. The whites never fit my style preferences. With incremental improvements from 2005, it seems that with this new team the 2007’s should herald the real potential of the domaine. There is a mix of red and whites tasted below and the average quality exceeded my expectations. 2005 reds should of-course be very good and whilst none of these were exceptional in the context of the vintage, they are still good 2005’s – retaining to some extent the less than svelte tannins that has been the hallmark style here – perhaps it is those special pigeage tanks(?) – but many domaines that take the organic/bio route report slow improvements in tannin fineness. The whites surprised on the upside so I look forward to keeping a closer eye on developments. Look out for the Savigny Blanc and the Pommard Epenots!

2006 Thomas-Moillard, Hautes Côtes de Nuits Chardonnay try to find this wine...
From vines planted just above Nuits. A fresh and nicely vibrant nose with a faint edge of pineapple. Just slightly diffuse in the mouth but shows a nice intensity on the mid-palate. Not so long, but clean and fresh. This is actually quite almost good.

2006 Thomas-Moillard, Savigny-lès-Beaune Blanc try to find this wine...
Quite a concentrated nose with a subtle undertone of vanilla. There is nice texture and some depth. There is also a nicely creamy base to this wine – long too. I’m very surprised by the quality of this wine, it’s very , very good.

2005 Thomas-Moillard, Meursault try to find this wine...
High-toned, slightly diffuse nose, some suggestion of background sulfur. Fresher but less dense palate when compared to the Savigny. It’s more mineral in presentation, but doesn’t impress as much as the last wine.

2005 Thomas-Moillard, Chorey-lès-Beaune try to find this wine...
Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose is rather mineral and high-toned coupled to faint cherry skins. There’s quite some structure here; furry tannin and plenty of acidity – but the balance is okay. Almost good.

2005 Thomas-Moillard, Côte de Nuits try to find this wine...
A hint of reduction on the nose which eventually leaves to give emphasis on fine cherry/berry notes. The acidity and tannin are to the fore, but not overwhelmingly so.

2005 Thomas-Moillard, Beaune 1er Grèves try to find this wine...
Following the vineyards sale, there is just over one hectare remaining. Soft and sweetish red and black notes on the nose. The palate is fresh and lithe with understated complexity – not the über concentration of many from this vintage, but it’s very tasty and I expect it will be a good value bottle.

2005 Thomas-Moillard, Volnay 1er Clos des Chênes try to find this wine...
This is from relatively young vines. A very pleasant and softly perfumed nose with faint caramel. In the mouth this shows plenty of structure and good acidity – there is quite some furry tannin too. This is subtly long despite the structure slightly dominating right now.

2005 Thomas-Moillard, Pommard 1er Epenots try to find this wine...
This comes from 2 parcels of vines. There’s a creamy depth to this super nose. Concentrated with a nice volume in the mouth – again it’s very structured but there is balance and an engaging length. Quite an impressive bottle.

2003 Thomas-Moillard, Nuits St.Georges Richemones try to find this wine...
Roast, stewing fruit on the nose – perhaps rhubarb too – just a little better than it sounds. In the mouth this is altogether more interesting; soft, sweet and concentrated – quite friendly and warming. Not my style, but a ‘comfortable’ wine.

2005 Thomas-Moillard, Clos de Vougeot try to find this wine...
From a parcel of quite well-placed vines, planted just above the Château de la Tour. A tight but faintly sweet nose. Clearly there is lots and lots of structure here, but equally clearly this is the longest finishing wine of the series. Classic, austere, young Clos de Vougeot and probably almost good value.

1993 Thomas-Moillard, Corton Clos du Roi try to find this wine...
Unfortunately the first bottle smelled and tasted of feet – the second was altogether more interesting: A lovely core of red fruit surrounded by slightly more diffuse high tones. The structure is now starting to fade in favour of nicely defined and ripe red fruit. The finish is a good one too. Quite a pretty wine.

MOILLARD
2 rue Francois Mignotte
21700 Nuits-Saint-Georges, France
Tel: +33(0)380-624-222
Fax: +33(0)380-612-813

30 responses to “Profile: Maison Moillard (Nuits St.Georges)”

  1. Andrew Martin

    Hi Bill,
    Great report as ever – you’re a very lucky person to spend so much time in the land of the holy grail of pinot. From so far away in the antipodes it does seem nonetheless ludicrous to read of wine producers still worrying about old bits of tree bark. Any of their money available for research would be better spent on learning how to avoid a bit of sulphide reduction and filthy bacteria growth when using a closure suited to the 21st century. Please, without relent, tell them how galling it is to open a bottle of age which is corked let alone oxidised. A bottle I may add, which costs us two to three times what it would at source thanks to our rapacious wine taxes – even more hurtful as we’re a wine producing country – the French would riot. Oh no, I’ve just written another closure diatribe – sooorrry. Keep up the feed and the drink – cheers – Andrew
    ps – drank a TM 93 Beaune Greves recently which indeed looked more NSG in structure than CdB – good to hear another of the bigger negotiants is getting quality conscious.

  2. Chris Lotts

    Wow! That’s a lot of prime vineyard to sell to Dujac and Montille – no doubt D & M will price their new wines as aggressively as they have their others, and we’ll have loads more $300 grand cru to look forward to not affording. (Yes, that was a gripe.) Given how many vignerons in Burgundy are land-proud, I’m surprised they sold the top stuff. Did they say why?

    Enjoy your site as always, Bill!

  3. c yarberry

    I recently found a bottle of Pinot Noir, appellation Bourgogne Hautes Cotesde Nuits controlee- Mis en bouteille par – MOILLAND – VINIFICATEUR ET NEGOCIANT A NUIES-St GEORGES (COET D OR) FRANCE
    MISE EN BOUTEILLE 1981 DANS NOS CAVES. Imported by NOIR IMPORTS, Seattle, Washington. Any thoughts as to, if stored properly, is it drinkable? Possible worth anything? What are your first thoughts?

  4. Suz

    I have a bottle of 1979 Moillard Volnay. Will it still be suitable to drink and is it worth anything?

  5. Adrian

    Dear Bill,

    I’m so completely confused by the different entities of Moillard. so are bottles labelled just MOILLARD domaine wines or negociant wines (even if they are from Bonnes Mares or RSV)?

    Did moillard use to bottle negociant Bonnes mares and RSV as well as domaine wines?

    your help is much appreciated!!!!

  6. Jon McPherson

    We had a bottle of 1990 Nuits St Georges “Les Richemones” last night. A case was given was given to my parents back in ’95 and this was the last bottle. 21 years never smelled so sweet or tasted so lush and wonderful. We shared it for my mother’s 89th birthday. I just saw your post and I must say I truly appreciate Thomas-Moillard as well.

  7. Valerie

    Hi Bill. Years ago I bought a 1988 Moillard Chateuneuf-du-Pape for my husband, also Bill. Perhaps foolishly, we’ve kept it through many years of special occasions. Question: Is it, at this point, still a wonderful special occasion wine, or have we long since missed the opportunity? Thanks!

  8. James

    Hi Bill
    We brought back two bottles of the Charles Thomas vosne romanee 1er Cru Malconsorts 2002 and 2005. We also have the montille vosne romanee 1er Cru Malconsorts “christiane” 2008 and 2009 – with the sale of the domaine plots, any chance these are from the exact same vines? The ones that jut into La Tache?

  9. James

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for that. Yes very different indeed, but an interesting coincedence on our part. We brought the Charles Thomas bottles in 2009 on our first trip (when we got engaged), then chose some wine to put away on our wedding day (with your advice) with out realising the link until now. Cheers

  10. a new owner of the nsg clos des grandes vignes…

    […] was (I think) their first vintage after the vines were acquired from the ‘dissolving’ Domaine Thomas-Moillard – the 2009, and I thought it excellent but it was from barrel. I never saw bottles on the […]

  11. cluny raphael

    bonjour jai retrouver une bouteille de clos vougeot de 1983 de votre domaine thomas moillard serai t’il possible de connaitre la cotation merci

  12. kiener

    Hello Bill,

    I have read with attention and curiosity your article regarding the Maison Thomas Moillard and I would like to thank you on the behalf of my family for those nice memories. I am one of the grand sons of Bernard Thomas, the brother of Yves.

    Best Regards,

    Louis Charles

  13. Do Budden

    Am trying to find Jeanne Thomas Moillard, if anyone can help.

  14. defer

    Salut, j ai en fait 2 rouges moillard de l année 1850 et un blanc savoir si on peut le déguster ou bien..le vendre? Merci

  15. Peter Bamford

    Bill,

    I once owned and drank a Domaine Thomas Moillard Vosne-Malconsorts from the late ’90s. I now have a possible chance to buy the Domaine Charles Thomas Vosne-Malconsorts from the same vintage. What do you think the chances are that it’s exactly the same wine, please? And is there a rule that can be generalised – for example, are those ‘Domaine’ wines just different labels for different markets?

    Many thanks!

    Peter

  16. Peter Bamford

    Many thanks, Bill.

    If I manage to get the wine, I’ll drink one promptly, and let you know whether it tastes the same!

    A pity about it being Charles-Thomas anyway: Thomas-Moillard labels so much nicer!

  17. oliverus

    I would counsel waiting another five years. I have a few 1999s from the CT/TM stable.Tasting the Malconsorts recently, I thought it was as tough as old boots.I must admit that I had imagined, wrongly, that the 1999s from this producer would be opening up. Their longevity is quite in keeping with the way they were made, and I am confident that they will be just lovely when they come ready.I have not tasted enough wines from the last five years, when the business moved to the new ownership

  18. Tom vandavenne

    Hi , i just opened a bottle of nuits saint georges les richemones 1976.
    Still in good shape and very drinkable! Waw! For years in a good cellar….
    Greetings from belgium

  19. Terry Geier

    We just opened a 1996 Clos Vougeout that was not palatable. We waited for the next day to see if it was ever going to do something or taste good. Never happened perhaps just an off bottle.

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

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