Today's selection comes straight from Nicole Chanrion’s cellar at the foot of Mont Brouilly, in the Beaujolais. Nicole, who took over the small family winery from her father in 1988, crafts an authentic, soulful Côte-de-Brouilly from the schist slopes of this extinct volcano. It all starts in the vineyard, where she works Gamay vines averaging more than fifty years of age planted at traditional high density. The low yields obtained from these rocky parcels are essential to producing concentrated wines, granting excellent cellaring potential in balanced vintages like 2006. Vinified via whole-cluster fermentation and aged in massive, century-old oak foudres, this wine exudes loads of early-drinking charm, but after a decade in bottle, a different beast has emerged. Earthy herbs and spices with hints of blood orange and game dominate, while a crunchy, schistous mineral backbone holds it all together.
I enjoy serving it to Beaujolais novices and doubters who will be surprised to discover the liveliness and complexity of a "simple" Gamay ten years later. Burgundy lovers seeking aged wine at reasonable prices will also appreciate Nicole's 2006, which rivals many reds from the more prestigious appellations further north. A testament to the aging potential of great cru Beaujolais, this Côte-de-Brouilly is not to be taken lightly.
When Nicole Chanrion began her career in the 1970s, convention relegated women to the enology labs and kept them out of the cellars. But with six generations of family tradition preceding her, she would not be deterred from her dream of becoming a vigneronne. Ever since taking over the family domaine in 1988, she works all 6.5 hectares entirely by herself, from pruning the vineyards and driving the tractors to winemaking and bottling, all without bravado or fanfare. Nicole makes traditional Beaujolais: hand harvesting, whole cluster fermentation, aging the wines in large oak foudres for at least nine months, and bottling unfiltered. The resulting wines are powerful, with loads of pure fruit character and floral aromas.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
Inspiring Thirst, page 171