From our numerous AdVINEtures across the world’s wine regions, the common thread we hear from all good winemakers is that it all starts in the vineyard—you must have good fruit to make great wine.
Nowhere is this respect for the terroir more evident than in Burgundy, arguably the most revered wine region in the world. Given the diversity within that region, they don’t just specify the region from where their wines are produced, they specify the actual plot of land. David Moreau works with just 5 hectares of vineyards in and around Santenay and he is making wines of exceptional quality that have landed him at the top of our ‘hidden treasure’ list.
David is the 4th generation in his family to make wine, but he gained much of his experience working at other very notable wineries around the world including Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Neudorf Vineyards in New Zealand, and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Burgundy.
David returned home and took full control over the family winery, Domaine Jean Moreau, in 2009.
Our visit with David provided a terrific lesson in a Burgundian winemaker approach particularly from the perspective of a smaller producer. On the surface, his aim with his wines appears simple enough, “…what we’re looking for is to make wine with a lot of matter that are able to age but are also approachable young with freshness, with brightness and a nice acidity.”
However, when you dig deeper to learn about what he undergoes to meet that objective, you gain an even greater appreciation for how he manages to distinguish himself within such a competitive industry made up of so many larger players.
Our conversation concentrated on the myriad of choices he must consider for such small quantities every year, from bud break through to bottling, “…from pruning to our sorting, to the use of barrels, and even the type of cork chosen…the accumulation of those thousands of decisions can be completely undone by any single one.”
For David, the most critical decisions are made in the vineyard, “working at other wineries in other parts of the world taught me a lot. Good fruit and healthy plants is the most important thing.”
It was the influence of working at such high-quality, reputable wineries that made David want to implement organic farming at his grandfather’s estate when he took over.
The majority of the vineyards he’s working with were planted in the 1960s. The oldest vines on the estate were planted by his great grandfather in 1943 and 1947. Working with such old vines is a blessing, but also brings their own challenges.
For instance, one of the plots he works with has millerandage which means the berries vary in size within the bunches (usually caused by poor weather at the flowering stage). The berries tend to be very small and seedless with thick skins. This means a much lower ratio of skin to juice resulting in very concentrated fruit, which is great for quality but not for quantity as it means very low yields. It can also result in the vines not having a lot of vigor which means you can’t prune the following year.
The positive short-term outcome creates even more decisions for the winemaker on how to attend to the vines in the longer term.
“Everyone talks about ‘grand cru’ vineyards in Burgundy, but they make up less than 1% of the vineyards in the region. There are so many things to consider with the terroir like the slope and the soil so that’s why here you specify the plot of land, not just the region. So many of the small plots have something unusual and will give you something different than just a regional Burgundian wine.”
With that statement, he brings out a map showing the demarcation of multiple different soil types within the very small region.
He points to a particular plot of theirs and explains its uniqueness, “it’s not bedrock like the plots surrounding it but ‘Calcare en troc’. ‘Calcare’ meaning limestone, ‘en troc’ meaning of the aquatic animals, specifically starfish and sea urchins.” He then shows us a piece of rock from the vineyard and points to some distinct markings, “you see some little stars here, that is the ‘en troc’.
David makes wines from 9 hectares of family vineyards, 5 of which are now under his own label and the balance he continues to make under Jean Moreau the way his grandfather did for several decades.
Under his own label, he practices lutte raisonée which translates to ‘reasoned struggle’ and is very close to fully organic. Domaine David Moreau produces a total of 7 wines, 5 red and 2 white, which include 4 different Premier Cru.
All of his wines are aged in barrel, but the oak is very neutral, as he believes the barrel should perform a more functional purpose than anything else, “we like to have some oak but not too much. We don’t want to hide our wine behind the oak, and we don’t add anything to our fruit, it’s just grapes.”
The finished product well and truly speaks for itself. Tasting through his wines, the entire lineup from start to finish are both excellent and wonderfully distinctive from each other (see tasting notes below). With wines like these being produced, it’s no wonder that Santenay is quickly developing a reputation for its quality without the high prices typically associated with Burgundian wines.
It seems incredibly à propos that David was bestowed a name from a biblical story famous for demonstrating that size doesn’t matter. In an industry dominated by Goliaths that are scooping up land and other wineries at an astonishing rate, David with his 5 hectares is proving that quality vineyards in the hands of a good winemaker will always stand out from the crowd. For our money, in the David versus Goliath world of wine, we are betting on David.
2020 David Moreau Sous Montot Bourgogne
This lively and fresh Pinot Noir is medium to dark red in colour. Fruit forward showing cherry flavours with some nice spice notes that add complexity. Medium body, this wine has a pleasure driven immediacy to it that suggests best consumed early in life. Good balance.
2020 David Moreau Santenay Les Hates
Sandwiched between two Premier Crus, Les Hates shows its sense of place. Medium+ body with notes of raspberry this shows it’s a step up the quality scale. Round and approachable, this wine has good texture and a soft mouthfeel. Mineral notes infuse the lightly savoury finish.
2020 David Moreau Santenay Cuvee ‘S’
Bright red fruit showing good concentration. Accent comes from the baking spice notes that bring out layers and complexity. We think this wine might need a bit more cellar time to really show its best, but it is a very pleasing wine right now. A tad more serious than the first wines which often bodes well for experiences at the table.
2020 David Moreau Pommard Le Dijonelle
Definitely leaning toward the richer and deeper style, this wine sees 10%-15% stem inclusions. The result is a structured wine that shows power as well as finesse. Black cherry, raspberry, cracked pepper and spices all dance together and make for a wonderfully complex wine. No mistaking the quality here. While cellar time will no doubt be an ally to this wine, it is quite enjoyable right now. The balance and precision of the flavours really shows through.
2020 David Moreau Santenay Clos Rosseau 1er Cru
20% whole clusters are used in this deep and complex wine. The texture is smooth and rich and balanced by slightly masculine structure. Black cherry, cracked pepper and forest notes show complexity and are well proportioned between each other. Delicious!
2020 David Moreau Clos des Mouches 1er Cru
Dark red colour shows the depth and the power of this wine. Here the structure is turned up and the depth of the fruit matches it. This is an intense and powerful wine that leans toward the black fruit end of the spectrum. The chalky soils of this vineyard assure structure and minerality and so no need to include any stems. The finish is long and spice infused. This wine really should be cellared for a further 5 years to all some that coiled up strength to fan out, but when the wine tastes this good at this stage, it will be hard to let it wait.
4 rue de la Bussière
21590 Santenay (France)
T: +33 6 85 96 30 28