Sébastien Mouzon is producing certified organic wines and practicing biodynamic viticulture. He is one of the so-called “third wave” of grower-producers—marking those producers of a new generation, who are pushing the boundaries of what’s been done in this region, similar to Cédric Moussé, Benoit Dehu, and Aurelien Suenen. Sébastien’s interpretation of Verzy is refined but also unadorned and without pretense. They are delicious wines, thoughtful, restrained, mineral, and incisive; if you’re looking for creaminess you won’t find it here.
Verzy is a terroir that’s often included in the blend of wines from this part of the Montagne – the trio of Grand Crus – Mailly, Verzenay (the most famous of the three) and Verzy. Lallement and Pehu-Simonnet for example, have holdings in Verzy but these are always blended with the more powerful Verzenay fruit. Unlike Ambonnay or Bouzy, the two powerful, south-facing Montagne Grand Crus, Verzy faces north-east, producing wines with more finesse, tension and a higher register. Mouzon’s wines are mineral and quieter than their more powerful counterparts in Verzenay. Sébastian Mouzon describes the differences between Verzenay and Verzy in this way: “In Verzenay, the mineral is inside the fruit. In Verzy, the fruit is inside the minerality.” This is a crystalizing way two think about these two villages.
There are three distinct hills in the Verzy, he explained while digging up soil samples and the village is really three distinct terroirs:
- The first hill, In the direction of Villers-Marmery to the east, the soils are chalkier, better for Chardonnay.
- The next hillside is rich in silex, one of the very few places that this exists in Champagne; 200 years ago, Verzy was home to a flint quarry.
- The third hill, in the direction of Verzenay, the soils change again, with more clay, soils, similar to what’s found in Verzenay and makes more powerful Pinot Noir.
Sébastien started as the 9th generation of the family to grow grapes in this village and officially took over in 2008, though his first vintage was 2009. He was interested in farming organically, in using biodynamic treatments and indigenous fermentations from the beginning. Fermentations are now done pied de cuve – collecting a small preharvest, fermenting that small amount of wine naturally, as a “starter” for inoculating the different tanks with the indigenous yeast. Sébastien preharvests 20 berries from each vine for this; the thinking goes that the individual yeast strains will recognize each other in each parcel.
The estate is just over 7 hectares, almost all in Verzy, split over 50 different plots. Almost sixty percent of the vineyards are planted to Pinot Noir, while Chardonnay makes up just under 40 percent with four percent Arbanne, Petet Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. Viticulture is certified organic and tinctures of horsetail, dandelion, wicker, nettle, yarrow and oak are used in addition to the biodynamic horn manure 500 preparation. Horses are used for ploughing and sheep are used to control cover crops. Grapes are harvested with high physiological ripeness; with biodynamic viticulture allowing for balanced sugar ripeness. Fermentation and elevage is done in a mix of steel tanks and 500-liter, 4 to 5-year-old Jadot barrels, the only estate in Burgundy that has their own tonnellerie.
Sébastien feels that these barrels are a perfect foil for his wines. Malolactic is always allowed, as this lets Sébastien use less sulfur. There is no filtration on any of the wines and no collage; the addition of riddling aids to keep the lees from sticking in the bottle. Alcoholic fermentation is natural, using pied de cuve and the secondary fermentation is done with “Quartz”, the selected yeast from Fleury, the biodynamic producer in the Aube. The wines aren’t filtered, and the amount of sulfur used at the estate is very low. Sébastien feels, as many growers do, that a period of aging after disgorgement is necessary. None of the wines are released before they have rested on the cork after disgorgement for at least 6 months.
Sébastien now belongs to the Club Trésors and later this year his first Spécial Club, 2012, will be released.
Mouzon-Leroux L’Atavique Tradition Verzy Grand Cru Extra-Brut Champagne is made with 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay from 100% Verzy Grand Cru. Mouzon-Leroux l’Atavique is a savory and wild expression from the grand cru village of Verzy. Produced from certified organic (practicing biodynamic) Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines, Sébastien Mouzon crafts a masterful Champagne. Texturally, l’Atavique tends to the leaner side of Champagne but aromatically offers dark fruit, sweet herbs, and a lightly smokey character that hints at the flinty soils of Verzy.