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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.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch