The word from Kermit in France is that 2018 is turning out to be a vintage of very pretty wines. Our vignerons always strive for high quality, but after a number of years of low quantity, vintage 2018 is filling up cellars with an abundance of beautiful fruit and fermenting wine. Needless to say, here in Berkeley, we are downright excited about the arrival of Domaine Dupeuble’s ultra-natural Beaujolais Nouveau, because it will provide us with a sneak peek at what 2018 will offer. The 2018 Nouveau is made in the style that we’ve always insisted upon—estate-grown, hand-harvested, naturally fermented, and unfiltered. Maybe we take our Beaujolais too seriously, but we just like to have serious fun, and that’s what this wine 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.
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.
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