Domaine Christian Moreau
© Domaine Christian Moreau Pere & Fils

Domaine Christian Moreau

Moreau Family

Domaine Christian Moreau

Keeping a winery in the family in Burgundy is hard enough as it is, but reclaiming it after it was basically given away to big business and mass production is almost impossible, and that is just what the strong-willed Christian Moreau did. With the help of his middle son, Fabien, Christian Moreau Pere et Fils produces Chardonnay in the heart of Chablis, from vineyards that have been in their family name for six generations. His 12 hectare of vineyard holdings include plots in the Grand Crus of Les Clos, Valmur, Vaudesir, Blanchot, Premier Cru Vallion, and holdings in Chablis AC and Petit Chablis. Christian’s stoic, dedicated and determined attitude, paired with Fabien’s formal education at the University of Dijon, ENITA in Bordeaux and experience in the vineyards and cellars of France and New Zealand, create wines that have brilliant precision, complexity and depth. Each of their bottlings have individual identity and character and, with much success, seek to reflect the distinct microclimate and terroir of each particular vineyard site. His wines are known to be some of the best sources of Chablis in the region, alongside names such as Raveneau, Dauvissat, William Fevre and Patrick Puize.

Reclaiming History

Moreau History

At the heart of Chablis, Burgundy, sine 1814, the Moreau family has always been involved with wine. Originally barrel makers, the Moreau’s began buying vineyards and in 1904 began expanding their operations to include negociant activities, and Christian’s father, Guy, and uncle, Jacques began exporting the firm’s Chablis to the U.S. in 1936 under the name J.Moreau et Fils. Surrounded by wine throughout his youth, Christian naturally wanted nothing to do with it, or schooling of any sort, and moved to Canada when he was 17 to work in the lumber industry with his cousin. He remained there for eleven years.

After pressure from his father, Christian returned to the family business in 1972 and spent four years each, in the vineyards, and in the cellar, learning the craft of viticulture from the vines, and vinification from the cellar master. By 1984, Christian was making his own wine, from harvest to bottling. During this time, his father and cousin Jean-Jacques had undergone a vast expansion from a small family business to a mass production negociant and decided to embark on a fifty-fifty joint venture with the Canadian spirits company Hiram Walker. They were bottling wines from Muscadet, the Loire, Beaujolais, and Bordeaux in addition to Chablis. In 1985, Hiram Walker acquired the remaining 50% of the company. By the early 1990s, J. Moreau et Fils was producing 650,000 cases of wine and moved to a larger facility on the edge of Chablis.

After Christian’s father passed away, and through a series of consolidations between 1995 and 1997, J. Moreau et Fils became part of Allied Domecq’s holding, although they never lost control of their vineyard sites. The company was then sold to Calvet, and then almost immediately to the Boisset Group. By 1997, Christian was ironically the only Moreau left; he managed the day-to-day operations of the winery, purchased grapes and made wine. This is when Christian and his retired cousin Jean-Jacques decided to end the contract with Boisset and reclaim their family name. With the help and support of Jean-Jacques son, Louis, and Christian’s son, Fabien, they were able to reclaim control of the family domaine in 2002. Louis bottles under Domaine Louis Moreau and Christian and Fabien work together under the Domaine Christian Moreau Pere et Fils, they both successfully regained their right to produce wines sourced from their extensive vineyard holdings and market the wines under their own name.

Vineyards and Viticulture

Moreau Vines

Christian Moreau’s domaine consists of 12.5 hectares of vines averaging 45 years old. After years as a negociant, the domaine now bottles almost all of their wine from 100% domaine-grown fruit, with the exception of their entry-level Chablis AC, which comes from a small 15 acre parcel outside of their holding area. It is his philosophy that when you have something treasured, and for Moreau that is 12 acres of Grand Cru sites and the same of Premier Cru sites, it is not wise to expand at the detriment of your reputation. He has learned this lesson from past generations, and his reputation is now one of quality.

But Moreau is not alone in his efforts, his middle son, Fabien, is the one getting his hands dirty in the vineyards and cellar. After two degrees (Oenology from University of Dijon and MBA from ENITA in Bordeaux) and time spent in New Zealand’s vineyards and cellars, Fabien Moreau returned to France to help his father reclaim control of the family’s domaine. Ever since that moment in 2002, Fabien developed a more holistic approach to viticulture and started using fewer chemicals in the vineyards. In 2003, the use of herbicides was halved, and in 2005 synthetic treatment for botrytis was completely stopped.

The Moreau’s working methods follow the natural biological cycle of the vineyards and their vines are all hand harvested and carefully sorted. Organic fertilizers are carefully calculated in doses and used only when absolutely necessary. Their vineyards include plots in the Grand Crus of Blanchot, Les Clos, Les Clos ‘Clos des Hospices’, Valmur, Vaudesir, Premier Cru Vaillon, Petit Chablis, and 1.2 hectare in the generic Chablis area.

Winemaking Style and Philosophy

Moreau winery

In addition to the changes in viticulture since Fabien joined his father, in 2008 they began using indigenous yeasts for fermentation in the cellar. Originally feeling that oak stripped the wine of Chablis’ clean mineral style, Fabien was able to change his father’s mind. They now use a combination of stainless steel for Petit Chablis, Chablis, and part of the crus, but have begun using a small amount of used larger Burgundy barrels for the top wines. Each cru and style varies in their use, but the results are wines that have become more precise with greater individual identity and character. The use of indigenous yeasts and judicious use of oak give the wines more complexity and texture, benefitting the overall quality of the wines, as they now stand out amongst the plethora of Chardonnay from all over the world. Their winemaking techniques strive to honor the high quality of the soil, vines and grapes, to bring out the best in every harvest.

Quality and expressiveness are Moreau’s pillars of philosophy which are communicated elegantly in his wines. Above all, Christian wants to keep this reputation for the domaine in the family, which is hard in Burgundy. Vineyards holding become split between children, and he finds that children are fighting each other for control, and then finance people, who have never stepped a foot in the vineyard, come in instead, because they can invest millions. Since Christian fought so hard to take back control of his domaine, he wants nothing more than to keep the spirit of family alive in its wines. Now under Fabien’s control, and then at least for the next generation under his daughter or son, Moreau’s vineyard holdings will intend on staying in the family; they are fighters, not sell-outs.

The Region and the Grape

Moreau SoilThe northernmost appellation in Burgundy, Chablis rests on a distinct bedrock of fossilized chalk, marl, and limestone formed over 137 million years ago. The river Serein flows through the area, moderating the climate, and grapes have been grown there since the Cistercian monks first started cultivating the vineyards in the 12th century. A defining characteristic of Chablis is its Kimmeridgian marl, a mixture of limestone and clay laced with millions of oyster fossils. The better vineyards in the region including most graded as Chablis AOP, all 40 premier crus and the entirety of the Chablis Grand Cru AOP are located atop these soils, and the grapes that come from the vines planted here are known to produce higher quality wines.

Chablis itself is Burgundy’s largest white wine-growing region. Producing wines made exclusively from Chardonnay, the benchmark style of Chablis can be stony, complex and long-lived. A green-gold hue with aromas of green orchard fruits, white flower, hints of seashore, and flintiness, these wines have an austerity that develops and softens with age. These qualities are best illustrated in its wine at the premier cru level. This typicity of Chardonnay from Chablis, expresses itself with pronounced acidity, medium body, a distinct lees character, and an intense mineral, steely note unadulterated by new oak. It is only at Grand Cru levels do you really see any oak presence or riper fruit qualities n the wines, and at these levels, wines can be cellared and rewarding with age, with notes of hazelnuts, oyster shells and lemon.
Moreau and his son Fabien have built Domaine Christian Moreau Pere and Fils into one of the best sources of Chablis in the region. Their Chardonnays have a fleshy richness, while elegantly maintaining the steely core and mineral, iodine elements. Most importantly, they reflect their vineyard origins, giving depth and expressing the terroir that is so intrinsic to Moreau’s style and the Burgundian region of Chablis.

Browse our Selection of Christian Moreau

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