You would expect a winemaking family to get things right after over half a millennium of honing their craft. Sure enough, Domaine Dupleuble—founded in 1512—is one of the most reliable names in the business when it comes to making irresistibly delicious, spirit-lifting Beaujolais. Today, siblings Ghislaine and Stéphane Dupeuble carry on the family tradition at their estate in the southern part of the Beaujolais region. In these charming hills just north of Lyon, soils alternate between limestone and granite, and the semi-continental climate—with slight Mediterranean influence—is ideal for ripening Gamay. The Dupeubles ferment their Beaujolais via carbonic maceration: whole, intact grape clusters are thrown into tanks and coated with carbon dioxide, setting off a chemical reaction wherein each berry essentially ferments from the inside out. The resulting wines have low levels of tannin and trademark aromas of juicy red fruit and spice, and can be gulped down effortlessly. This is what good Beaujolais is all about!
In the hamlet of Le Breuil, deep in the southern Beaujolais and perched above a narrow creek, the Domaine Dupeuble has been running almost continuously since 1512. Anna’s son Paul, and her grand children Ghislaine and Stéphane Dupeuble, manage the domaine. Today the domaine it is comprised of one hundred hectares, about forty percent of which are vineyards, planted primarily to Gamay. The grapes are harvested by hand and vinified naturally and without SO2. The wines of Dupeuble represent some of the best values in the Beaujolais today and are widely regarded for their very high quality and eminently reasonable price.
After years of the region’s reputation being co-opted by mass-produced Beaujolais Nouveau and the prevalence of industrial farming, the fortunes of vignerons from the Beaujolais have been on the rise in the past couple of decades. Much of this change is due to Jules Chauvet, a prominent Beaujolais producer who Kermit worked with in the 1980s and arguably the father of the natural wine movement, who advocated not using herbicides or pesticides in vineyards, not chaptalizing, fermenting with ambient yeasts, and vinifying without SO2. Chief among Chauvet’s followers was Marcel Lapierre and his three friends, Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, and Jean-Paul Thévenet—a group of Morgon producers who Kermit dubbed “the Gang of Four.” The espousal of Chauvet’s methods led to a dramatic change in quality of wines from Beaujolais and with that an increased interest and appreciation for the AOC crus, Villages, and regular Beaujolais bottlings.
The crus of Beaujolais are interpreted through the Gamay grape and each illuminate the variety of great terroirs available in the region. Distinguishing itself from the clay and limestone of Burgundy, Beaujolais soils are predominantly decomposed granite, with pockets of blue volcanic rock. The primary vinification method is carbonic maceration, where grapes are not crushed, but instead whole clusters are placed in a tank, thus allowing fermentation to take place inside each grape berry.
Much like the easy-going and friendly nature of many Beaujolais vignerons, the wines too have a lively and easy-drinking spirit. They are versatile at table but make particularly good matches with the local pork sausages and charcuterie. Though often considered a wine that must be drunk young, many of the top crus offer great aging potential.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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