PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: JEAN MANCIAT INTERVIEW
Did you know that there is no clos to be found at Clos de la Roilette, and that the horse on the the label is actually a drawing of the past owner's prized race horse, whose name was Roilette and who presumably hung out in a clos? That's some false advertising right there!
At the end of a long, winding road, Alain and Audile Coudert live in the house Alain's late father Fernand bought when he founded the estate. Things are tidily together: the house and cellar are one, and the vines are the first thing you see when you step outside.
We stepped into the tasting room which, as an extension of the cellar, also holds the foudre barrels the wines age in.
2012 will be a small harvest, mostly due to mildew and hail. The 2011's were bottled in May, so this was our first chance to taste them in bottle. The Roilette wines are known for needing a little time, and these were no exception. I really look forward to retasting them in a few months, and can confidently tell you to get ready for some more exceptional 2011 Beaujolais.
During the tasting, we started talking about Beaujolais and its horrible reputation. As an avid Beaujolais lover, I still find this impossible to believe (I touched on this briefly in the Demoor post), but it seems the French have deemed it an unworthy region. It's gotten so bad that producers only name their wines by cru (Fleurie, Morgon, etc..) because the heavy stigma of the word Beaujolais is so strong that it scares consumers away. The result: a lot of vines are being abandoned, and Alain is sure that with this tough 2012, it looks like this might be the last vintage before many vignerons call it quits.
In my opinion, this bad reputation serves as a striking example of a broken AOC system that has betrayed itself. By oversimplifying (or confusing) "typicity" with "uniformity", we see mixed results at best: a "good" A.O.C like Chateauneuf permits producers to sell their stock and jack up their prices regardless of how good the wine actually is, because the consumer readily believes quality exists. On the other hand, a "bad" one like Beaujolais is in majority shunned for the very same -often false, or at the very least misguided- pre-conceptions. Any wine lover knows that some Chateauneuf's are much better than others, and the same goes for Beaujolais. And while yes, there is a lot of TERRIBLE, ABSOLUTELY UNDRINKABLE Beaujolais out there, the more I taste, the more I realize this is the case in almost every viticultural region in the world. This is why we must continue supporting the independants, the little guys who actually care enough to make something shine. They never stopped believing in their terroirs, and neither should we.
Anyway, Alain is in the process of building a new cellar, mostly for stocking and bottling purposes. It used to be a chicken and rabbit coop, and they had to dig out a whole bunch of the wall, but now they will have ample space. We also got to taste Griffe du Marquis 2011, which is the barrel aged cuvée Alain started making a few years ago. Only 12 barrels -or 3000 bottles- of this are produced; the wine will be bottled in December. Tasted from 4 barrels, and it was fun to taste the subtleties of Fleurie's different micro-parcels.
We didn't have to go far to check out the vines.
Isn't it weird to think Gamay can ever be that green?
Next up, more Beaujolais madness with the mysterious Julie Balagny! The big news is that this will mark the first visit recap where our amazing NYC salesperson extraordinaire, Maya "Mayhem" Pedersen, was rolling with us. She took tons of great pictures, so expect the next 20 (!) or so visit recaps to get a lot more visual!
PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: LOUIS DESVIGNES IN MORGON
"...by the time I started, herbicides were common and I used them. Stupidly enough, at the very beginning of my career I must of forgotten to treat a parcel, and noticed that even though I'd messed up, the grass still hadn't grown. I couldn't understand how this was possible! I thought about it long and hard, and decided it might be best to start plowing the soils again."
Entertaining interview from Jean Manciat, a vigneron we have been working with for over twenty years. Find out what being from the "humbler" part of Burgundy entails, how the estate started, why magic powders in wine are bad and much more over on the Jean Manciat profile.
Next up, a recap of our visit at Roilette!
PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: THOMAS MOREY PROFILE+INTERVIEW
Waiting on some pictures from Françoise Tête, so I'm scrapping chronological order and recapping our visit in Morgon with Louis-Claude, Claude-Emmanuelle and Louis-Benoit Desvignes instead.
The Desvignes all live on the same block in the center of Morgon. We swung by Louis-Claude's house to say hello, since we couldn't get in touch with Emmanuelle.
Even in his mid 70's, he's kept his raven-black hair (no word yet on if it's "au naturel" or not...). He came to greet us at the front door with some intense news: Louis-Benoit had suffered a light fracture and multiple stitches on his index while planting a new parcel in Javenières that morning. Emmanuelle had driven him to hospital, which accounted for her not picking up her phone earlier. Louis-Claude had better luck reaching her, and she told us to meet them in the Javenières parcel where it all went down.
We hopped into the Louis-Claude mobile and drove over to the beautiful Jarvenières parcel.
Louis-Claude's grandfather purchased these: they are all planted on sand and limestone in the traditional Beaujolais goblet style. Most of them are over 100 years old!
The other vines that complete the parcel were planted in 1989 and 1999. The Desvignes, who work organically, are the only estate to work the soil here, which they feel is a pity since it's such a great terroir.
Emmanuelle and Louis-Benoit -arm slung with a bandaged hand-, greeted us at the bottom of the hill where their team of two was actively planting 2000 vines over .8 hectares of land.
When I asked if they were in selection massalle, Emmanuelle looked at me like I was crazy.
We started chatting about 2012, and Louis-Benoit informed us that they were struggling with mildew: in the "tropical climate" they've been experiencing, rainy and hot, humid days have been trading off since March; this is a perfect recipe for mildew to grow and spread.
"Not only that, but you spray a treatment on a hot day, then it rains and washes everything off and you have to start all over again."
Though there is no legal repercussion in organics for retreating with copper as necessary (and the Desvignes are, even at this rate, well below the authorized treatment levels), Louis-Benoit worries that constantly re-applying too many copper treatments might do more harm than good in the long term. This is one of countless struggles one faces in a challenging vintage, organic or not: at the end of the year, you need to harvest grapes, and it is the vigneron's responsibility to protect his vines as he sees fit. In a statement that echoed Thomas Morey's in an earlier visit, Louis-Benoit pointed out that guys working conventionally were struggling just as hard as they were, and in many cases their vines were looking way worst.
After our tour of Jarvenières, Louis-Claude drove us to the Côte du Py site on the way to the cellar.
We couldn't access the vines because we needed a 4x4 vehicle to get there, but to give you and idea their vines are by the house in the middle of the picture.
In the cellar, we started by tasting many of the separate lieu-dits that go into the Voûte Saint-Vincent cuvée, including Les Champs, les Plâtres (aka plaster, because after it rains it gets hard like...), le Pré Jourdon, Peru (how exotic!) and Roches Noir. The decisions on the exact blend vary from year to year and are done entirely on instinct. Bottling also varies by vintage, and this year the Voûte Saint-Vincent and Jarvenières will be bottled around harvest. The Côte du Py, on the other hand, had just been bottled, and was tasting great. 2011 turned out to be one of the few regions in France to experience an excellent vintage (with almost everyone else's varying from good to very good). The Desvignes wines always need time, but you can already taste the expressive, concentrated fruit and balanced tannic structure in the tank samples.
FUN FACTOID: The Desvignes use a deep fryer to melt the wax for the the top of their very limited Les Impenitants.
We ended strong by revisiting the 2010's. They were delicious. Our dog, and Official Canine Companion (O.C.C) Zaggy took a liking to Louis-Benoit and took a nap on his lap for the entire tasting.
I wasn't kidding about that index! For those of you that don't know, Louis-Benoit is an avid drummer, and he was bummed because he was supposed to perform at a 14th of July concert. I told him it might be time for him to start messing with some drum-machines...
Next up, I'm not really sure but definitely somewhere in the Beaujolais. A la prochaine!
PREVIOUS SUMMER LOG: OLD STUFF FROM THE CELLAR (PART 1)
"I was always attracted to this type of agriculture, which I don't consider to be "organic" at all. Even though that's the modern name for it, my idea was to revive a work tradition my grandparents had followed their entire lives. They worked with basic products -copper and sulfur- that remain the least harmful available. I'm very aware of the environmental impact of our work, especially as a producer on the front-line of chemical use that is unhealthy for human beings. It just seems like the reasonable thing to do."
Up your knowledge on Thomas Morey by checking out his brand new profile. The big news is that he's converting the estate to organic viticulture, and you can read all about that in his interview.
As far as the visit, the 2011's are tasting great, and similar to Pernot it will be a vintage to drink young. The wines are mineral, precise and acidic, just the way I like em.
Next up, tasting kosher wine with Michel Tête! Seriously.