The persistent risk of frost, hail, disease, or an unforeseen combination thereof over the last few years has forced many French winemakers to get creative, and Valentin Montanet is just the kind of scrappy vigneron who thrives under pressure. A case of nasty frost in Vézelay? You’d sooner find Valentin in a refrigerated truck headed south to buy grapes than mourning the diminished harvests in his own vineyards. “Since I’m a Burgundian making Beaujolais now, I had to find a place of my own,” he says, explaining his choice of the rarest cru in Beaujolais, Chénas. The vines are such antiques, even the grower can’t remember when they were planted. (“As long as I’ve owned them, they’ve been old,” he told Valentin.) Vinified whole-cluster and bottled unfiltered, this solid cuvée packs a powerful, structured punch balanced by ripe black fruit and approachable tannins. Watch out, Gang of Four, the Burgundian is in town!
“Petit Max” says that when he bought his higher-altitude Morgon vines many years ago, some people called him crazy. It gets colder in this microclimate and growers worried about proper ripeness. Now, “I’m the one who has the last laugh,” he says with a mischievous chuckle. His wines are known for their unrivaled crispness despite hot, dry vintages like 2017. This Morgon is spicy, charming, and . . . ripe for any number of carefree occasions.
Just south of Odenas, atop a panoramic vista, lies a hectare of Chardonnay vines with wildflowers growing between the rows and Ouessant sheep grazing to keep the weeds at bay. These trademark emblems of Geoffray family viticulture give the parcel away as belonging not to the Château de Rochebonne as the name of the clos—and its location—would imply, but to Château Thivin. A stunning setting is the appropriate birthplace for a wine with an unexpectedly aromatic bouquet and bright, zippy palate—a testament to the natural elegance that embodies all of Château Thivin’s wines.
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