The wayward wind …

Wind power may seem like a modern source of alternative energy, with neat rows of whirling modern turbines generating clean, bountiful power from an unending resource. But wind power may also have been among humankind’s first efforts to harness nature: Sails were in use 7,000 years ago; windmills date back maybe 2,500 years.

And what, you might ask, does this have to do with wine?

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Simple! A surprising number of vineyards and wine regions – including some very favored vines – have a traditional connection with windmills. It’s a connection that shows up in wine names, regional names, and – often with the image of a traditional windmill – on the labels.

Does the presence of a historic windmill affect the nature or quality of the wine? I’m going to say no. But in a world with as much devotion to tradition as fine wine, I wouldn’t discount the value of history and institutional memory as trace elements in our enjoyment.

Head down an internet rabbit hole and you’ll quickly find windmill-named wines all over the world. Just to name a few, listed alphabetically, there’s:

• Brown Brothers The Windmill in Southeastern Australia
• Bunkers Windmills in the Margaret River region of Western Australia
• Duck Walk Vineyard’s Windmill wines from New York’s Long Island
• Michael David Winery Windmill Estates in Lodi, California
• The Windmill Project in Israel
• Windmeul Kelder Cellar in Paarl, South Africa
• Windmill and Old Well Wines in Belgium

The historic hilltop windmill at Moulin-à-Vent.

The historic hilltop windmill at Moulin-à-Vent.

And, of course, just about any French wine with “Moulin” (“mill”) on the label is likely signaling its connection with a windmill.

Which brings us to this week’s featured wine and perhaps my favorite windmill-related wine region of all and the subject of today’s tasting: Moulin-à-Vent, one of the best of the many excellent named villages in Beaujolais.

These are Beaujolais sites so elevated that they don’t even bear the name Beaujolais on the label. This is not a matter of shame but pride: The wines made in 10 of the Beaujolais region’s most favored villages – the Crus of Beaujolais – have earned the right, through centuries of high quality, to use the village name in place of the generic regional name on the label.

Like all Beaujolais, these Cru wines are made from the Gamay grape. But thanks to the quality of their fruit and, perhaps, the weight of tradition, Cru Beaujolais can show intriguing complexity and, at best, the capability to evolve and get even better in a temperature-controlled cellar.

The Cru villages occupy the northern half of the Beaujolais region. From south to north, rising into more hilly vineyards along the way, they are Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly, Régnié, Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent, Chénas, Juliénas and Saint-Amour.

I like them all, but my favorites, based on a tendency toward complexity, balance, and full-bodied flavor, are Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Morgon, and of course, Moulin-à-Vent.

Today’s tasting, Maison L’Envoye Moulin-à-Vent ‘Terre de Thé, is exceptional. Its flavor, complexity, and apparent capability for cellaring, make it a keeper. I like it a lot, and I think you will, too.

By the way, if that headline has you humming Gogi Grant’s 1956 hit or one of its many covers, here’s a link for your enjoyment: “The Wayward Wind.


Today’s Tasting Report

Maison l’Envoyé 2020 Moulin-à-Vent “Terre de Thé” ($19.99)

Maison L'Envoye Moulin=à-Vent "Terre de Thé"

Maison L’Envoye Moulin-à-Vent ‘Terre de Thé” shows a beautiful dark purplish color in the glass, with bright ruby glints against the light. Aromas of delicious red cherry and black plum fill the nose and spill over into a fresh, medium-bodied flavor framed by mouth-watering acidity and soft, palatable tannins. Bright cherry fruit and a subtle impression of chalky minerality linger on the palate with a whiff of spice in in a clean, lingering finish. 13.5% alcohol. U.S. importer: Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, Calif. (May 24, 2023)

FOOD MATCH: The kinship of Beaujolais with Burgundy begins to show as versatile food-friendliness in these top bottles from named villages. The Moulin-à-Vent page on the website suggests pairing good Moulin-à-Vent wines with rabbit in mustard sauce, veal kidneys or stuffed turkey, adding that veggie lovers will enjoy them with eggplant, whether in lasagna, au gratin, cake or fritters. We enjoyed it with a hearty Italian-American bean-and-tomato stew bulked up with Beyond Steak Tips and spiced with Calabrian chile peppers.

WHEN TO DRINK: These bigger, brawnier Beaujolais, particularly from hillside vineyards in the north of the region like Moulin-à-Vent, can benefit from cellaring. The producer suggests drinking it between now and 2027.

My local price matches’s $21 average U.S. retail. This excellent wine is a good bargain near or even several dollars above this price point.

The back label QR code leads to this informative fact sheet in English on the Maison l’Envoyé page.

Check prices and find vendors for Maison L’Envoye Moulin-à-Vent “Terre de Thé” on

Learn more about Moulin-à-Vent and browse dozens of wines from the region at this Wine-Searcher link.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to read about the Gamay grape and fine links to scores of wines made with this variety.


Wine Focus May 2023 – Benchmarks of Gamay

Along with Tempranillo, Gamay seems to be one of the only major red grapes that has not established an alternative benchmark outside of its home base. Yes there are delicious exceptions (Edmund St. John, anyone?), but for the most part, Gamay equals Beaujolais.

For the month of gaMay, let’s explore that benchmark, and see if there are emerging benchmarks in other parts of the world. Bring your wine notes, your comments, and your questions to Wine Focus for May 2023 – Benchmarks of Gamay.


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