We pay a visit to Champagne Moussé Fils in the small village Cuisles in Vallée de la Marne. In Sweden mostly known for their Special Club, the only one made of 100% Pinot Meunier, but the range from this expert of Blanc de Noirs holds five more champagnes to explore. But then of course you have to be on the alert and reserve your bottles, because these usually sell out. Interesting about Moussé Fils is however not only the quality in the end product. Their prevailing philosophy is ”sustainability”, i.e. an environmental sustainable production.
It is only 09.30, this morning the 15th of October. It is a bit chilly in the air, although the sun is bright. We stand on the road leading past Champagne Moussé Fils in the village Cuisles, just about 20 kilometers northwest of Epernay. No one seems to be here. A car stops. “We had arranged for a visit and shall meet Cédric Moussé,” we explain. It turns out to be neighbours. “Go down to the new winery. You’ll surely find Cédric’s father there.”
The building seems brand new. It looks very neat. A couple of men clean a tractor and some other equipment on the yard outside. And certainly, one of them is Jean Marc Moussé. We are expected, but Cédric has been delayed; ”Come with me up to the house.” We sit down at the large table and say no thanks to a cup of coffee. No room for more, we had just had a large quantity at breakfast. But a glass of champagne? Well, that is something we gladly accept.
So that is how we start the day with a glass of Moussé Fils Cuvée Or Tradition Brut. A non-vintage made of 80% Pinot Menieur and 20% Pinot Noir, half of it reserve wine. Maturation on the lees for 20-24 months before degorgement with 9 grams dosage. We smells and throws a quick eye on each other. This is great. Fruity with hints of minerality. Pronounced lovely flavour with a broad spectrum of dark and red fruits. Round with good acidity, nice mousse and substantial length. Delicious in the richer style and a very pleasent start of the day!
”The golden champagne” is the cuvée created by Cédric’s grandgrandfather Eugène when he made his very first champagne. For although the Moussé family has been in the game since the 1500 century, it was during the first 300 years “just” as grape growers. It is precisely 90 years since the first vintage was put into bottle in 1923; a vintage that was ready for sale in 1926.
Organic in the vineyards
”How was the harvest this year?” we ask. ”It is a miracle,” responds Jean Marc. He was of course referring to the bad weather conditions, holding among others a damp, cold spring and three heavy rain storms during the growing season, which in turn has implied an extremely late harvest. ”We have got a good harvest, both good grapes and a lot of grapes. The quality is as good as last year thanks to the sun now in the end. A miracle!”
The philosophy at Moussé is as little interference, ”manipulation”, as possible during the winemaking process. A prerequisite is of course healthy, good grapes. The selection is made with rigor, inferior grapes are cut of the bunches and sorted away already in the vineyard.
Moussé works the vineyards according to the principle ”lutte raisonnée”, that is organic, but with the possibility to use a small dose of permitted chemicals when absolutely necessary in order to rescue the harvest. Since three years Moussé has also introduced some biodynamic elements in the vineyards by the use of nutruition strengtening brews made of plants, such as nessles. 60% of the vineyards are included in this program and the share increases for every year. “We are very satisfied with the result,” says Cédric.
All of Moussé’s vineyards, totally 5,5 ha, are located within eight kilometers on the same slope, but distributed between four villages; Cuisles, Jonquery, Châtillon sur Marne and Vandière. 80% is Pinot Meunier, 15% Pinot Noir and 5% Chardonnay. The soil is mainly a calcareous clay, but differs somewhat between the different parcels. That, together with different aspects and insolation, affect the characteristics of the base wines made from the different parcels.
Each plot is vinified individually and stored separatly until the day when it is time to blend the cuvée for each champagne. Steel tanks are used, “to bring out the terroir”. Only a part of the wine, which shall be used for the rosé is nurtured 15 months in barrique before assemblage.
Interesting is that malolactic fermentation is made almost always. ”Why?” we ask. ”The aim is to get a wine that is supple”, explains Jean Marc. That is a bit more round, but still vivid and, above all, a more complex wine. The malolactic fermentation is usually finished in December-January, and then it is time for tasting and assessment. Something that is made in cooperation with an oenologist.
Sustainable in the winery
This ”sustainability” thing, what about that? Well, the expression is ours and we think it summons well what we see. The organic vine growing is one part of the puzzle. On our tour in the brand new winery we get more examples, examples that make us draw parallels to how some New World producers work with sustainable production. Here, at the Moussé winery, resources are handled with care in several ways;
- Solar panels cover the roof. The facility is self-sufficient in electricity, it even gives a surplus that goes to the other buildings. Also the hot water is produced by solar energy.
- Water is taken from a well and used water is to a large extent saved and reused, e.g. for irrigation of newly planted vines.
- The use of electric lightning is minimised. Instead cleverly placed windows let the natural light into the building.
- The wine can be cooled by drawing cold air in from the outside. A fan is placed in one of the windows.
- ”The cathedral” where the wines are matured is partly dug into the hillside beside the winery. The temperature is kept even with use of cool air from a 130 meter piping system buried in the ground. The heat exchanger is also used to keep the right temperature in the rest of the winery. Moussé was the first winery in Champagne built according to these principles, today there are about ten other examples.
- All cleaning is made with hot water, without the use of chemicals.
- The system for degorgement uses no glycol for freezing the bottle necks, the used alternative is ethanol, made of corn.
Cédric shines when he tells us about the facility and it is clear how happy he is with the investment. ”We started to build in 2009 and could receive the first harvest in 2012. Before that we were scattered on five different locations in Cuisles. “It is so much more easy to work here and, above all, we are very satisfied with how well the different solutions are functioning.”
We get another example about the attention to details when Cédric stops in the bottling room and picks up a couple of corks from a plastic bag lying on a shelf. One of them has, as is customary in Champagne, text on the bottom. The other one is blank.
”I was on a visit to our cork supplier and saw when they burnt the text on the corks,” explains Cédric. ”I thought it smelled very bad and began to wonder if it somehow could affect the champagne.”
”So we made an experiment and bottled a number of bottles, some with corks with text burnt into the bottom of the cork and some without. When we after three-four months had a tasting, we detected small differences in flavour between the bottles. We draw the conclusion that when burnt surface of the cork comes in contact with the champagne, then can the aromas and flavours be affected. As a result we now just use corks without the burnt text on the bottom.”
Meunier is the main thing
Pinot Meunier, or just Meunier as the grape also is called here in Champagne, is the main ingredient of Moussé’s Blanc de Noirs. The share increases with the quality of the champagne, from 80% in Cuvée Or Tradition, 85% in Noire Réserve to 100% in the Special Club. Moussé is a rather new member of Le Club Trésors de Champagne, the first vintage Spécial Club was 2005. Now the 2008 vintage has just been released.
”When gives the Meunier-vine as its best?” we wonder. ”From the age of eight to nine years it gives really good grapes,” thinks Cédric. ”But when it gets over 50 years old, then the yield is gets too low and we start to exchange the vines.” In average, the vines in the Moussé vineyards are about 20-25 years old.
The large poster of a vine is highlighted by the surrounding raw concrete walls and draws our attention. We stop beside it. Not unexpectedly is it a Meunier-vine. ”We dug for five hours to uncover the roots of the vine.” Cédric describes vividly. ”Then the photograph was taken and, after some hours image processing, this was the outcome.” Hm, we nod approvingly. It is nicely done.
Moussé makes several cuvées. The vintage champagne Cuvée Millésime latest release was from 2008, made of 50/50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and with 50 months of rest on the lees. Also a Blanc de Blancs is made, however in very small quantities; Cuvée Opale. Finally, a rosé champagne, Cuvée Rosé. The rosé is made only of black grapes, 92% Pinot Meunier and 8% Pinot Noir.
We pass by a vat and Cédric takes the opportunity to check the colour of the must where grape skins are “bleeding” colour for a coming rosé champagne. It is hard to get enough colour to make a ”rosé de saignée”. The normal course of action in Champagne is to add red wine to the white to accomplish desired flavour and rosé colour. This must has now macerated for 80 hours with the skins. At least the two of us think the colour is very nice.
On our way back from the winery we ask about the responsibilty of the winemaking. The answer is that father and son are working together. Even if Cédric takes on more and more of the winemaking tasks, Jean Marc is still very involved and a sounding board when testing new ideas. A collaboration that gives an excellent end product, we conclude.
We say thank you and goodbye to Cédric. We already knew, before we came to Cuisles, that we would find great champagne at Moussé Fils. The fact that we got to meet a producer with so strong thinking of sustainability, attention to detail and such a compelling engagement, that added an extra dimension to the visit and was really pleasing.
Time has passed since the visit to Cuisles. The month of December is enclosing us in its stormy and rain soaked content. It feels good to be able to lighten upp the darkness with some sparkling, glittering stars of bubbly champagne.
We open a bottle of the champagne Cédric’s father, Jean Marc Moussé, created when he started in the family business; Moussé Fils Cuvée Noire Réserve Blanc de Noirs. It is a non-vintage made of 85% Meunier and 15% Pinot Noir, with 40% reserve wine and 7 gram dosage. It is lovely, so the note is long:
Beautiful golden yellow with deep intensity. Pronounced fruity aroma with dark fruits, plums and apricot. Newly baked brioche, floral notes and minerality from wet stones. A rich body, dry with nice, fresh acidity, round mousse and concentrated, complex flavours. Intensely fruity with emphasis on ripe apples spiced with newly baked bread, apple cake and a light chalky note in the finish. A nice fruity sweetness crawls out from the complexity and slightly carresses the lips in an almost eternal aftertaste. Magnificent! A top choice for the lover of rich champagne.
Link to the Moussé Fils website here.