As the great-grandson of a farmer-winegrower, the grandson of a winegrower and merchant, and the son of a merchant, I come from a line of people that since the 1930s have upheld a particular concept of wine and disseminated its particular features widely across the Bordeaux right bank. My family is still involved in producing refined wines, in line with what my great-uncle Jean-Pierre Moueix described using the now rather obsolete expression ‘Parisian chic’. I interpret this as a desire to reveal what Bordeaux calls the ‘sophistication’ of wine. What I get from this concept is split into four key areas.
AUTHENTICITY, ELEGANCE, HARMONY, AND AGEING POTENTIAL
Authenticity as a vector for transparency
Because a wine is able to express what lies within its terroir, our winegrowing activities serve to reveal its unique nature. Wine is the most expressive agricultural product there is. If you allow it to speak, it will tell of its home and history, and reveal a lot about the winegrower’s personality.
Fonroque’s wine has changed as generations and practices change. The estate’s history has been shaped by clean winegrowing, even if this has not always borne a label. However, historic markers – whether human (the leaders and teams that have worked here in turn), organic (gradual changes to the grape mix, surrounding vegetation, water quality) or climatological – have influenced the terroir and prompted a very definite upward trend that we can see with the benefit of hindsight. I have inherited much more than the sum of past events.
Elegance as a source of elevated intoxication
Quality is a priceless commodity that always creates a form of elegance. I have observed this unquenchable thirst for quality in artisans, artists, builders and maturers, as well as many other people with an unstoppable tendency to draw the best out of things. They get pleasure from the keen awareness involved in the work they do.
When I first began my studies, my father Jean-Jacques Moueix often invited me to join the blending tastings with him and Jean-Claude Berrouet, oenologist for the Jean-Pierre Moueix wineries. This is where I developed a feeling for finesse and balance in wine. These two men were not interested in making things easy for themselves, and employed natural diligence in selecting the most sophisticated batches without letting themselves be seduced by the charms of sweetness or power, and absolutely not by market tastes. They selected their wines as if they were examining a beautiful painting, drawing on erudition and sensitivity to ultimately offer the best in that particular moment. They were constantly seeking the point of balance, a hugely subtle exercise that turned on a knife edge and demanded extreme concentration.
“France was made by hand, from all points of view, in all areas, patiently, with a respect for quality and the work in hand. There was (…) an honesty in the relationship between hands and lives (…). Wrinkled, cautious hands that had a real connection (…) with what they were making. France was a place of human hands, with a sense of touch, foundation and form, and with a people behind them (…).” Romain Gary – La nuit sera calme – 1974
Harmony as a stance
Because nature is constantly showing us that balance is the way to achieve longevity, and that extreme zones are transitional phases on the way to a new form of balance, I like to observe and imitate natural phenomena as much as possible. Wine is supposed to provide pleasure, and this is a demanding concept as our brains are not content with just the remainders of ephemeral stimulation. They are sensitive to very elaborate structural results, and contribute to the process provided that what they are fed matches the subtlest of their faculties.
I learned that finding the perfect blend is not just about aromatic landscape and structure. It is also ultimately about positioning the cornerstone that will keep everything in balance, and in the end willingly become a key part of the architectural work. I remember my father and Jean-Claude’s work of trial and error, in which I was kindly invited to participate, and how they took my novice point of view into account, so that I was as excited as them for that moment of grace when I would share the feeling of everything being in its long-term place. These subtle, hugely inspiring feelings have been indelibly imprinted on me. This expertise was not touched upon in the inevitably more theoretical content that I learned during my engineering and oenology classes. It is the empirical domain of oral transmission that deserves more pride of place in our written society, as its vibrating framework cannot be conceptualised and goes straight to our hearts and hands.
“If you know how to taste, you are no longer drinking wine but rather tasting its secrets”. Bernard Burtschy
Ageing potential, or the invaluable ability to improve over time
Terroir is of course vital. However, the work of humans is what reveals and structures it. Harmonious ageing can only be achieved in a well-balanced wine. A beautiful, lingering finish will therefore ensure that the wine remains vertical in style. This foundation is what allows the wine to remain upright as it expresses the unique sides of its terroir and history.
This is obviously something that holds true for fantastic vintages, but it is also interesting to experience in vintages with a poor reputation (whether rightly or wrongly). I remember the wonderful surprises of the 1987 vintage. At the end of the 1990s, my father and I stopped at a restaurant in central France while on route to Belgium. The menu had a 1987 wine from a noble Saint-Emilion terroir. Despite this vintage’s poor reputation, my father suggested trying it and trusting the wine. What finesse, elegance and pleasantly easy-drinking style! We had a blast, and were given a renewed demonstration of the unexpected resources possessed by a good terroir and the awareness of those to whom it belongs.
Today, my overall work is largely inspired by this heritage and by the personal and parallel experiences it has produced. It is the perfect foundation for moving towards a more singular approach, boosting the flexibility of my work and adapting to changing attitudes, individual and collective realisations, and climatic changes. Biodynamics is a passionate response to what needs to be done. From here, it is idealistic thinking, empiricism, Goethe and Jung who become my ancestors and show me the right path. Of course, there is still the possibility of making mistakes. That magnificent mistake that can make us scholars. I knew Fonroque when I was a child. I watched my children grow up at Mazeyres, and welcomed the woman who now shares my life and transformed its spaces. These events have a strong psychological impact. I have very particular memories of Fonroque that come to mind regularly. They are the benchmarks that bolster my decisions. The imaginary advice of a caring family, still at home, just when I need support, direction or momentum.