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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.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
Inspiring Thirst, page 312