I first met René in Noella Morantin‘s kitchen.
He was introduced as “le gros vieux de Saint Lambert” (meaning “the old, fat man from Saint Lambert.”)
Little did I know back then where Saint Lambert actually was and of its significance within the Loire winemaking community.
Saint Lambert du Lattay is a commune approximately 20 miles south west of Angers, in the heart of the Loire Valley. Heading south from Angers, you cross over the Maine river, then the Loire and finally the Layon. You arrive in a village of not even 2000 inhabitants, but one which nevertheless contains at least 50 winemakers.
In terms of the AOCs that you can find in this area, it’s predominantly the (rather vague) Anjou blanc, Anjou rouge, rosé d’Anjou, Coteaux-du-Layon, Crémant de Loire and Anjou mousseux. Despite not being officially recognised with an AOC of its own, Saint Lambert, with its heavily schist soils, lies in the centre of this wine region. Many winemaking families have worked the fertile land here for generations. In terms of local grape varieties, it is the classic Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon along with a little Gamay and Côt (Malbec) that you’ll find in these parts.
A quick side note to mention the beautiful Pont Barré over the Layon that you pass on your way to Saint Lambert. It was first built in the 12th century and was apparently pivotal in the French Revolution. In particular, during the War in the Vendée (1793–1796) there was the “Battle at the Pont Barré” (1793) between Republican soldiers and the Grande Armée of soldiers from la Vendée. (The fact that the locals won is probably why this bridge is still a source of such historial pride!)
Anyway, we arrive at the Domaine Mosse to find René’s son, 25-year-old Joseph, making the initial preparations for harvest. First things first: counting and cleaning buckets! Always a little later than other winemakers in the surrounding area, they are expecting to start around the 15th September this year.
René and his wife Agnès took over the estate in 1999; but previously worked in the food/restaurant business in the area. It was while managing a wine bar in Tours that they met, and were very inspired by, local natural winemakers such as Jo Pithon, Christian Chaussard and Thierry Puzelat.
Nowadays, the family works 17 hectares in total, divided between different plots all over the area around Saint Lambert. The majority of their vines range from between 10 and 40 years old, but there are also some truly exceptional pre-phylloxera vines.
Since René and Agnès’ arrival, the vineyards are worked organically and, for the most part, biodynamically. In that respect, they are key players in the community. There is a nice cyclicity in the way that the Mosses have been able to inspire another generation of winemakers (including the previously mentioned Noella Morantin, who now makes her own wine in the Loir et Cher.)
They make 6 or 7 white wines, 1 or 2 red, and one rosé pét nat. The dry white wines from Mosse are nearly all made in the same manner; fermentation and one year of élevage in old barriques. The differences between cuvées, therefore, lie in the age of the vines and their terroir. n.b. the Magic du JuJu – composed of 80% Melon de Bourgogne and just 20% Chenin Blanc – is their vin de négoce and is fermented in stainless steel.
Some of the Mosse wines may have a touch more residual sugar than you’d expect of a ‘dry wine’ but this is the style. Bonnes Blanches boasts an exceptional (and north-facing) terroir with 60-year-old vines and the resulting wine is something very special.
I also liked their rosé pét nat “Moussamoussettes” made predominantly from Grolleau Gris grapes… and I may even have picked up a few bottles of this to drink over the last few days of the summer. Tenderness 2010 is a very accessible demi-sec Chenin which I love and Joseph recommends drinking with spicy food.
We finished by sampling a wine that is not on the market, but goes by the affectionate nickname “B.I.T.C.H.” It is a Coteaux du Layon, late-harvested Chenin, which they only made once and only made one 225L barrel’s worth. Delicious notes of walnut, honey, dates, figs… Worth visiting the winery to taste this!
Domaine Mosse, Saint Lambert du Lattay