France: Beaujolais

Laurent Gauthier – Domaine des Caves (Chenas)

When we first stumbled upon wild-eyed Laurent Gauthier, he seemed a man of few words. It could just have been that he didn’t understand our mangled French. Laurent makes an excellent Moulin-a-Vent called Cuvee Etalon, a dense and fleshy interpretation of the Gamay grape. Moulin-a-Vent is one of the ten “ Cru” villages of Beaujolais, all of which enjoy superior soil rich in granite compared to the rest of the region. Moulin-a-Vent always tends to be the fuller bodied of all the Crus, and is one of the wines of  the Beaujolais that ages 30 years with ease.
Despite having bought annually since our first visit in around 2004, there was a 10 year hiatus before we visited again (since when we have been dropping in more frequently). Laurent was certainly a man of few words when we first visited. He might have been grappling with our accents and restricted vocabulary. He seems to have become a bit chattier. Either that or our French has improved a little. “See you in another ten years then?” he said as we went. “Haha – maybe sooner!”

Cedric Vincent (Pouilly le Monial)

We have been working with Cedric Vincent for a decade – pretty much from when he took over his grandfather’s vines. There have been some recent developments. He was working as an Oenologue in the Beaune area when we first met and has now knocked that on the head. The commute was too much and he now has more vines – almost 6 hectares now. He has built a new cellar and house overlooking the village of Pouilly le Monial in the region now known as Les Pierres Dorees (the golden stones), the southern part of the Beaujolais, closer to Lyon than to Macon. Until recently he just made one wine, a delicious, very stylish Beaujolais Villages. He has planted some Chardonnay on his chalkier soil and has been making some Beaujolais Blanc. When we visited him in October, in between mouthfuls of his mother’s Boeuf Bourguignon (a dish that stopped us in our tracks – in a good way), he was dead excited to reveal that he has also bought a hectare of old vines in Moulin-a-Vent, one of most highly-regarded Beaujolais Crus. “It was always a dream of mine to own some vines there.”

Anne-Sophie Dubois (Fleurie) ORGANIC

Anne-Sophie Dubois comes from the Champagne region, three hours north of Beaujolais. Her parents have three hectares in Sézanne, halfway between Epernay and Troyes. They had two kids, wanted to expand and bought eight hectares of vines in Fleurie, one of the ten Crus in the pretty, rolling hills of the Beaujolais. After internships at Roblet-Monnot in Volnay and various Champagne producers around Sézanne, Anne-Sophie took over the small Fleurie domaine in 2007. She started producing two Fleurie cuvées: l’Alchimiste and Clepsydre, L’Alchimiste is from vines of 40 years-old or more.
All her vines are in a single block on a southwest facing granite slope around her house and winery. Although not certified, she farms organically and uses many biodynamic techniques. The only difference is her refusal to use copper (widely used in organic viticulture), which she says is toxic and can leech into the groundwater.
Her winemaking style is very gentle, to emphasise the purity, fragrance and elegance of the Gamay fruit. Long maceration, wild yeasts, no new oak, no filtration or fining, no pumping – just gravity.
Les Labourons is made from even older vines (60 years-old or more), was labelled Clepsydre (named after a water clock created by the Ancient Greeks). The bottling now carries the name Les Labourons: the Lieu Dit (the vineyard name of the parcel), which is also the name of this subzone of Fleurie.
Deeper, more concentrated, more complex – the embodiment of finesse. Gamay at its most exquisite.