Six vintages of Moulin Touchais

Moulin Touchais is a sweet, although not extremely sweet, white wine produced from Chenin Blanc in the appellation Coteaux du Layon of middle Loire. A peculiarity is that Moulin Toucais is always sold with some age, at the earliest 10 years. It is fairly common to also find vintages considerably more than 10 years in distribution, since the producer also keeps back stock after a vintage starts to be sold.

It’s sometimes claimed that Moulin Touchais is not produced in every vintage, and vintage availability from the 1970s and earlier indicate this used to be so. (I’ve never seen any MT from my birth year of 1968, for example.) However, from the 1980s they seem to have more or less stopped skipping any vintages. Adding wine-searcher and other online source to vintages I’ve actually seem bottles from, it seems that at least every vintage 1979-2001 seem to have been produced.

Moulin Touchais is produced from grapes harvested at two different times, which is a particular feature of this wine. Approximately 20 per cent of the grapes are harvested slightly unripe, with extra high acidity – Chenin Blanc is generally high in acidity – and some 80 procent is harvested late, very ripe. The combination makes the wine a little more acid-dominated, and gives it a very long life. Probably it’s slightly less attractive when young, when it’s not available to buy – possibly sweetened battery acid with some Chenin aromas? 🙂 Unlike some other sweet Loire wines, Moulin Touchais is not produced from grapes affected by noble rot. Therefore, it doesn’t show the notes of dried apricots and the very high sweetness that can be found in many of those wines (and many other noble rot wines as well). It does however often show good aroma concentration and nice notes of honey and marzipan, in particular with some extra age (more than the 10 or so at release). A datasheet for Moulin Touchais 1998 indicates its residual sugar as 75 g/l, while many typical sweet (rather than semisweet) wines would be 100-150 g/l, and heavily botrytised wines of would be 150 g/l and up. Using “German terminology”, we could say that Moulin Touchais is an Auslese rather than a Beerenauslese in style, although the sugar/alcohol balance is different. At this sugar level, and with plenty of acidity, it’s definitely not cloying, and it drinks quite well.

I have the impression that Moulin Touchais is rather well known in some countries, but almost completely unknown in other countries. It’s well known in my native Sweden, and also for example Netherlands, but it seemed largely unknown in Belgium, where I previously lived. So I thought it might be worth adding some history and background.

According to their Swedish importer, the domaine has been in the possession of the Touchais family since 1797. During the French Revolution, the original Touchais settled in Tigné in the Loire Valley, and was able to purchase a cheap property previously owned by a nobleman (who presumably had less use for it after he got a head shorter), where he started to produce simple white and red wines. In 1817 he discovered that he could do a good and sweet wine from Chenin Blanc. Soon Touchais started to produce these sweet wines and every year he put away a couple of hundred cases, and this practice countinued for a long time, presumably without too many bottles being consumed. In 1910 it was discovered that the oldest wines were formidable. Now, 10 000 bottles or more were put away every year, and later members of the Touchais family had started to use the combination of early and late-picked grapes mentioned above. During the second world war, the sizeable cellars with all these old bottles were walled up, and wasn’t opened until 1970. This is the reason why they have been able to sell considerable quantities of older vintages.

Wines tasted

This tasing was done in the wine tasting club AuZone, and was arranged by Stig. We tried six wines blind, and voted for best and worst wine of the flight.

Moulin Touchais 1998

Bright yellow colour. Nose of citrus, some honey, spicy, slightly nutty, arrack(*), and typical Chenin Blanc notes with some maturity. Sweet on the palate, citrus, good fruit concentration, good acidity, slightly spicy. Good citrusy and spicy aftertaste with some wool character. 88 p.

Votes: 0 best, 3 worst, voted worst of the flight. Some other voices: mineral, low acidity (??).

Rather young compared to the other wines, typical Chenin Blanc notes, not so obviously developed, but good purity in the aromas. I guessed that this could be the youngest vintage in (Swedish) distribution, which it was. This one does probably have the potential to improve by cellaring, I consider it quite OK for a “young” MT, although the vintage is perhaps not a very strong one.

(*) “Arrak” is one of the typical descriptors of Chenin Blanc notes among Swedish wine geeks, but I’ve never noticed this descriptor used internationally, or another one which correspond to its aromas. The common English spelling seem to be arrack. It’s a spirit produced from molasses, and is of south/southeast Asian origin. It goes into the traditional Swedish liqueur punsch (much less consumed than 100 years ago, but still a typical after dinner drink at more formal university student parties), and is also used in some traditional Swedish confectionery and desserts, so its flavours are often encountered already at a young age in Sweden. For those of you who are completely at a loss of what aromas I’m talking about, and never have encountered arrack, you wouldn’t be too far off if you imagined aromas of a dark rum, but with less obvious alcohol.

Moulin Touchais 1991

Bright yellow colour. Nose of citrus, some herbal character with a little green notes, spicy, slightly nutty, less sweetish nose than the previous wine (1998), wool. Sweet on the palate (actually slightly sweeter impression than the 1998), citrus, ripe yellow apple, obviously spicy, good acidity, wool. Spicy-sweet-acidic aftertaste. 88 p.

 Votes: 0 best, 2 worst, including me, due to the green notes. Some other voices: “dryness”, rosemary.

A bit more classic Moulin Touchais notes than the previous wine, but comes across as rather young for an MT. I guessed a cool year from the 1990s, which turned out to be the case. However, I didn’t spot this as being the second oldest, and this was not revealed by its colour. When I see how this has developed in 21 years compared to the 1992 in 20 years, I think that this is a weak vintage that the could have avoided producing, since they did several superb vintages in a row before this one.

Moulin Touchais 1992

Bright to deep yellow colour. In the nose yellow apple, some honey, candied apple?, spicy, marzipan, slightly nutty and slightly smokey, good harmony and some development. Sweet taste (about the same as the previous wine, 1991), spicy, citrus, high acidity. Spicy-acidic-sweet aftertaste. 90 p.

Votes: 1 best, 1 worst. Some other voices: bitter almond, the smell of duck liver (when you open the package), punsch (see explanation above).

To me a classical Touchais both with respect to nose and palate, not the least because notes of honey, marzipan and nuts can be found, in combination with good acidity and an obvious spiciness. From previous experience, MT needs some 20+ years to get to that point, and this turned out to be exactly 20 years of age. To me, this wine was more developed than the previous two, and I therefore thought it was some years older than number 2, which turned out to be wrong, despite their respective colour.

Moulin Touchais 1996

Deep yellow or light golden colour. In the nose citrus, in particular orange including orange zest, apple compote of ripe apples, slightly spicy, somewhat developed, more fruity nose than the other wines, but very harmonious. Sweet on the palate, citrus and in particular orange, deep fruit notes, high acidity, some spiciness. Acidic-spicy-fruity aftertaste. Fruitier than the other also on the palate. 92 p.

Votes: 4 best, 0 worst, voted the best wine. Second best for me.

Somewhat fruitier than the other, which makes it come across as less classically Moulin Touchais-styled, but it has good depth and concentration. In the nose it seems to come from a hot year, on the palate it shows high acidity and good concentration. (In retrospect, there were obvious clues as to the vintage, since this is precisely the combination found in e.g. 1996 Champagnes, and I knew the 1996 was available in distribution.) This depth and colour made me think that this wine had acquired its different profile through cellaring and maturity, and with a high acidity it could probably have preserved a good fruitiness for quite some time. Could this perhaps be something from the 1980s, probably early 1980s, or possibly even late 1970s. So my guess was actually some 15 years off the mark due to the wine’s colour and the fact that I expected to find some vintages from the 1970s and 1980s. Probably, a vintage as old as my guess would have been spicier and showed nutty aromas, which this wine didn’t. I take some comfort in the fact that I wasn’t alone in being quite off in my guess, I noted someone who said “1975-styled” about this wine. Anyway, this one definitely comes highly recommended from me among vintages that should be possible to find. It will be a fascinating wine to return to in 5-10 years, or why not later.

Moulin Touchais 1997

Rather deep yellow colour. Clearly spicy in the nose, some wool notes, some citrus, honey and marzipan, rather developed. Sweet on the palate, comes across as slightly sweeter than the previoys four, good fruit concentration and intensity, good acidity, rather spicy, rather long aftertaste with grapefruit notes. 91 p.

Votes: 2 best, 1 worst. Some other voices: good weight, creamy. 

This wine also showed rather classical Moulin Touchais style, but it differs somewhat in its aromas from the 1992, so I thought that it should have some age (20+). Good concentration and slightly higher sweetness made me think that it could be a good vintage from the 1980s, perhaps 1989? Interesting that this wine showed more developed notes than 1996 or 1998. Very obvious and interesting vintage differences in that trio!

Moulin Touchais 1949

Amber colour, very different from the other. Powerful nose with madeirized notes, cocoa powder, red berries, spice, toffee and the interior of a Daim bar (if you lick away the chocolate without biting), some smoke. Spicy on the palate, fudge notes, nutty, high acidity, spicy, dried fruit. Both very developed aromas and vigour on the palate, with extra length to the aftertaste – lovely! 93 p.

Votes: 2 best (including me), 2 worst, possibly the wine that got the most variable reviews of the evening.

When a wine shows so obviously oxidized/madeirized and nutty notes, there is no reason to be surprised that it’s not to everyone’s liking. It’s the palate that lifts this one, with its good acidity, good length and the fact that it didn’t show the bitterness and other funky impressions of some old wines. But it has definitely passed its peak quite some time ago, it’s just that its decline from that peak is slow and graceful due to its sugar and acidity, acting as preservative. To some people at the tasting, probably those of weaker moral fibre and less historical interest, it was just too old. 🙂

Since I contributed this bottle, I didn’t need to guess its age, but I can say that it was darker and more madeirized than I had expected. When a dry wine shows this nose, it could very well be undrinkable, even to someone of my tastes. Looking at Moulin Touchais bottles from the 1950s and earlier, several of the wines are actually lighter than this one, and some of those who have tried them said that 50+ year old vintages often come across as less oxidized, if they come from bottles with good fill level. This bottle, which was bought at an auction less than a year ago, had a very good fill level and the colour (as seen from the outside) and the fill level was completely homogenous across the multibottle lot, so I assumed that this is what 1949 is supposed to be like. The label style and condition indicates that this probably left the producer in the (early-mid?) 1990s. The cork was also in very good condition, which in combination with the label made Stig comment that the bottles I bought must have been recorked before sold. This is not surprising, since this is often the case after some 30 years in producers’ cellars. There are anecdotes that Touchais has had problems with worms attacking the corks of some older vintages. When the bottles were recorked, it is of course possible that the fill level was corrected, and possibly that the wine was homogenized or reconditioned across the recorked lot. In that case it is at least conceivable that the wine actually come from bottles where a significant portion had poor fill levels in the 1980s or 1990s, and had become oxidized due to the effect of the previous cork. Just speculation of course, but not impossible. Since different vintages initially will have been corked with corks from different lots, this could be a problem of some isolated vintages, rather than all of the older vintages.

Summing up my impressions from this tasting, I found unusually much citrus aromas this night compared to my recollection of previous Moulin Touchais encounters. Perhaps my nose had the citrus channel switched on this night, or perhaps I started to look extra hard for citrus after I found it in the first wine. I overestimated the age of several of the wines, and I was not alone in this. It was interesting to note that the colour wasn’t a very reliable indicator of the age, it could easily lead you plus or minus 10 years astray in this lineup. When I review my notes I conclude that I should have paid more attention to the presence or absence of nutty aromas, and less to the colour, when trying to estimate the age. When I have tried more than one vintage of Moulin Touchais at the time – I’ve never tried as many as six before – they have varied more in age than wine 1-5 did, and then colour has been a better indicator than it was this time for 1-5. What strikes me is that the vintage variation is greater than I had realised before, both in terms of style and quality. When I tried them one at a time, I’ve thought that they have very much in common irrespective of the vintage, but next to each other, the differences become quite obvious.

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

This entry was posted in AuZone, Chenin Blanc, Loire. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Six vintages of Moulin Touchais

  1. Pingback: Moulin Touchais 1959-1985 | Tomas's wine blog

  2. Pingback: Visit to Vignobles Touchais, the producer of Moulin Touchais | Tomas's wine blog

  3. AC says:

    Hi Vintomas. I can confirm that the ’68 exists. I just got an MT mixed case and it’s there – the oldest of the 6 bottles I received. Thanks for your excellent blogs and notes on this amazing wine 🙂

    • vintomas says:

      Interesting! I suppose that means that they produced most vintages also before the mid-1970s, probably in varying amounts, but that the weaker (or at least less well-known) ones haven’t been saved.

  4. AC says:

    Yeah, we drank it today and it was good but not amazing. Very high acids, but not quite enough fruit and seemingly low RS (finished quite dry). However the bottle was clearly a recent release as the cork was brand new and the back label had the recycling and ‘don’t drink while pregnant’ logos. Maybe they just found some bottles lying around.

    • vintomas says:

      High acid and lower RS seems fairly typical for many “off vintages” of Moulin Touchais. A 1994 tasted last year comes to mind, since it showed exactly this profile, as well as to varying extent 1991, 1992 and 1998 from the tasting I wrote about here. They do sell them with quite a lot of age. At my visit in 2013, the oldest vintage on sale was 1971. I don’t know exactly when the “don’t drink while pregnant” labelling requirement was introduced, but we’re probably talking of 15+ years.
      By the way, a 1964 with a non-standard label opened last week-end was absolutely fabulous, it performed more like the legendary 1959 vintage.

  5. Pingback: Moulin Touchais 1949-1999 | Tomas's wine blog

  6. Martin Pierce says:

    Hi. I just had an MT 1968 yesterday at a friend’s 50th – so it does exist. It was at an upscale restaurant in New York – so don’t know how extensively available it would be. It was stunning btw! I happen to have a 1991 so recognised the bottle – shame to hear from your tasting it wasn’t so great. Will have to open and see if it’s got better now

    • vintomas says:

      Yes, strangely enough they released the 1968 in late 2015 or early 2016, a couple of years after this blog post was written! Not exactly a good vintage in France in general (to put it mildly), it was never released when young(ish) because it wasn’t considered good enough. Apparently, the bottles were just laying around, and when re-tasted in 2015 it was considered good enough to release.

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