Vézelay, a small Chardonnay appellation in northern Burgundy, has a marginal climate that can give growers serious headaches. The spring of 2016 epitomized these challenges, as an unusually warm period led to early bud break, leaving vignerons in fear that another cold spell would bring frost. Sure enough, nighttime temperatures in late April dipped below freezing and severely affected the harvest to come: Valentin Montanet of La Sœur Cadette reported losses up to 80%—truly catastrophic for a small-scale producer. With Burgundy ravaged by frost, Valentin looked to the south to purchase grapes in order to supplement his production and make up some of the lost profit. This decision also gave him a chance to vinify Beaujolais, an idea he had long entertained. Sourced from an organically farmed vineyard on granite soil, this Juliénas is textbook cru Beaujolais: very aromatic with loads of fresh Gamay fruit, it flows over the palate with a juicy buoyancy that makes it hard to resist.
Champagne may be considered the traditional wine for most celebrations, but what could be more spontaneously festive and happiness-inducing than juicy, bright Gamay? This joyous Côte de Brouilly is like the arrival of spring in a bottle, warming and invigorating after the gray days of winter. Brambly, full of energy and verve, with a pleasant Aperol-esque bitterness and loads of floral accents and sappy stems, it has a bouncy lightness that is the perfect pick-me-up and salute to all things merry. Who needs bubbles when you can avail yourself of this high-spirited beauty and toast to the change in the season, a ball game, or even a Friday! Here’s to, well, whatever!