The cellars of Moulin Touchais must contain one of the largest and oldest collections of any winery anywhere in the world, with several miles of underground cellars containing nearly two million bottles at any one time, including a rare collection of ancient wines, the oldest dating back to the mid to late 19th century.
History documents that the first sweet wines were produced along the banks of the Layon in 1579, with Dutch merchants encouraging their production, since they appeared to have the stamina to survive the journey by boat back to the Low Countries. Whilst the family Touchais cannot claim to have pioneered the production of moelleux wine, their ancestors were certainly making wine as long ago as 1787. That’s eight generations! The first six were situated not within the town, but in Tigné, the location of the original Moulin and it was from here that the original vineyard holding was built up.
The family still own 150 hectares of vines, spanning the communes of Tigné and Martigné-Briand, although the death of Joseph ten years ago saw the company split into two divisions; Vignobles Touchais, which retains 35 hectares of Chenin Blanc in the Coteaux-du-Layon appellation for the continued production of Moulin Touchais, whilst the other, Vin Touchais, is a trading company responsible for selling off the balance of the production in bulk to the larger Loire négoce; which is mostly vinified as base wine for Méthode Traditionelle.
The current owner is Jean-Marie Touchais, who took control of the winemaking from his father in 1990. Little has changed in the viticulture and vinification process and Jean-Marie continues with the traditional values of low yields, hand harvesting and a long, slow fermentation. The general principle behind the picking of grapes for Moulin Touchais is that around one-quarter of the crop is harvested relatively early (about 80 days after flowering) and whilst the fruit is slightly under-ripe. This component part helps to maintain the acidity in the final blend.
The balance is then picked up to 120 days following flowering, ensuring that the grapes are filled with sugar, although not generally affected by noble rot. This is because the Touchais vines are located to the back of the Coteaux du Layon appellation and away from the river where there is less humidity to encourage the botrytis spores.
The wine is then bottled early, as soon as March the following vintage, and aged for a minimum of ten years in the cellars before release.