Tasting with James: Clos du Moulin

Clos du Moulin

My week in Germany included tasting Clos du Moulin champagne for the first time. On the first full day of Prowein just one-hour into the program I bumped into several friends. Mister James Tidwell himself was there walking the event with Donaji Lira, who with James helps coordinate Texsom and Texsom International Wine Awards, and Amie Hendrickson, who runs Edmond Wine Shop in Oklahoma. Amie had won a Prowein-sponsored contest at Texsom in August last year and was flown to the event by the organizers as her prize. The four of us spent much of the day’s remainder tasting together, shuffling between exhibition halls to continuously change what region we were visiting.

(One of my favorite, albeit silly, parts of Prowein was simply being able to say things like, O! I’ll meet you in Portugal, while standing in the hall for Oregon, as if one really could cover the globe in that small space. In terms of wine, you could. Every country in the wine producing world was represented at Prowein.)

Before heading off for lunch, we decided to visit the Champagne Lounge and taste one champagne on the way. While we were walking, wondering which wine to try, James got to pick. His selection became clear when he simply stopped frozen in front of the Cattier booth, standing in front of the bottle of Clos du Moulin. It turned out it was a wine he hadn’t properly tried before, though he’d read of it repeatedly during his studies for the Master Sommelier certification.

Thanks to a mix of his world travel, reality as a master sommelier, time leading the wine list at The Four Seasons in Dallas, and work with Texsom and Texsom IWA, I think of James as someone who knows and has tasted almost everything in the world of wine. He’s like the human equivalent of Prowein itself – all ten exhibition halls and every wine producing country in the world are there inside his memory. So, to come across a wine he hasn’t tasted is a sort of epiphany. Even more special is to share the moment with friends. The four of us all tasted Clos du Moulin for the first time that morning.

Clos du Moulin stands as a special example in Champagne, not only because it is a beautiful wine – and it is, a beautiful wine – but also because of its distinctive origin. The wine is a vineyard-specific champagne grown in one of the very few clos of the region. While we can use the word clos to refer simply to a particular recognized vineyard, it is more often used to refer to an actually enclosed vineyard surrounded by a wall. The most famous clos in the world, Clos Vougeot, stands in Burgundy, but four examples from champagne are still grown and bottled as their own wines as well. Clos du Moulin is one of them.

The history of Clos du Moulin reaches to the time of Louis XV, when the site belonged to one of his trusted officers who also produced champagne. It went on to gain fame with the Russian Tsar’s. Through the 19th-century, Russia was one of the biggest export markets for champagne. Then, during the wars of the 20th century the site was all but destroyed, replanted again in the late 1940s. Incredibly, the site is still farmed with horses. Clos du Moulin is a 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as three vintages to ensure its balance, released after around 8 years in cellar.

The wine itself is beautiful. It carries that rare balance of delicacy and strength I so love to find in wine. Somehow the aromatics and mouthfeel feel as ethereal as chiffon even as tasting the wine is all encompassing. In the midst of a busy exhibition hall it was as if the world slowed down. The four of us all commented on it. Tasting the Clos du Moulin easy-filtered the world for us, as if it was some sort of inoculum to mayhem and once we’d swallowed we were temporarily immune to it. For the next while Prowein felt quiet.

Clos du Moulin has its typical wine notes – there is a hint of brioche on the nose, a bite of it again on the finish. In between there is a delicate dance of apple and pear, citrus and even faint nectarine. The finish is long. The acidity is bright and persistent but expertly housed in a lightly-creamy mousse. But it’s a wine that is more than that. It’s a reminder that wine is an experience, best shared with friends. It feels almost ceremonial, even standing in the midst of a vast exhibition hall. Drinking the Clos du Moulin with Amie, Donaji, and James, the wine felt like it bonded us, forever friends in the Clos du Moulin. My favorite part was the simplicity of it. Afterwards, we headed off quietly and ate our lunch.

Thank you to Cattier for hosting us for that moment, and for Prowein for making it possible. 

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