I first heard of Blacé-based Beaujolais vigneron Sylvère Trichard while putting together Paris By Mouth's annual "Beaujolais Nouveau in Paris" round-up a few years ago. I remember being surprised that an unknown vigneron had - all of a sudden, it seemed - placed his primeur alongside those of the region's great winemakers at many of Paris' best Beaujolais bistrots.
It took me a while to connect his name with his wine labels, which bear the domaine name Séléné. I learned only much later that Séléné is in fact a joint enterprise between Trichard and his business partner Elodie Bouvard, who runs a small organic vegetable farm at the domaine.
When the intitial Séléné vintages first appeared in Paris, they landed with a splash before, well, sinking. Nowadays Trichard admits that his trial-and-error approach was quite evident in his early vintages, which were often marred by bret. But the same dynamism, devotion, and intelligence that earned Trichard his initial clients in Paris have since seen his winemaking improve by leaps and bounds: the wines are now as charming as their labels. His (bret-free) 2015 old-vine Beaujolais tout court cuvée "Gisou" is a benchmark for the sector, as refined and complex a wine as it is possible to find south of Saint-Etienne-des-Oullières, outside the -Villages appellation.
The "Gisou" was bottled principally in magnums in 2015. Named for his grandmother, who lets him his vines on very favorable terms, its the only Séléné wine that sees a small amount of old oak aging, between 6-8 months depending on the vintage. (To make things slightly more complicated, in 2015 Trichard bottled one lot of "Gisou" early, without oak aging, as a cuvée called "Je n'ai des yeux que pour toi.")
"The wood is more fine; it's the prettiest fruit of the business," says Trichard of the vines that produce "Gisou." "I don’t have the terroir of the crus, I can’t try to play their game, but on this parcel I still have a card to play."
|Sylvère Trichard, right, with Etienne Dodet of JAJA wine bar (Berlin), left, on a visit to Trichard in July 2016.|
The rest of Trichard's oeuvre is composed of an unfiltered, unsulfured Beaujolais Nouveau, a Beaujolais tout court aged in steel and concrete, and a small amount of coveted Beaujolais Blanc that tends to sell out immediately. The latter wine is indeed a success for the genre, bright and lush, particularly in 2015; but it still bears mentioning that the Paris demand for Beaujolais Blanc is exaggerated by an overall dearth of inexpensive natural chardonnay on the market. (The multitude of middling Mâconnais vignerons ought really to get with the program, already. Not to mention the multitude of Beaujolais vignerons producing chardonnay for Crémant de Bourgogne.) In 2016, Trichard will also make a cuvée of Beaujolais-Villages from recently acquired vines in Saint-Etienne-des-Oullières.
Trichard avoids filtration wherever possible; in 2015 only his Beaujolais Blanc and "Je n'ai des yeux que pour toi" saw filtration. With the exception of the 2015 Beaujolais Blanc, sulfur use is kept to a minimum, with some bottlings seeing zero. He hopes to install a cold room within the next few years, to begin working more in the style of Lapierre, Max Breton, and other forebears further north in Villié-Morgon.
Trichard entered winemaking via his uncle, who produced wine until 2010 as Domaine de Fully. He credits his uncle greatly for having begun organic conversion in 1998 - the same year Trichard joined him in the cuvage for the first time.
"It blew my mind," he says. "I took a passion for the metier and I put in ten years before daring to set myself up."
Trichard completed a brevet professionel de responsable agricole in Dieppe, a one-year course at which, he says, "Apart from accounting, I learned nothing." Later he did what was presumably a more fruitful one-year internship with renowned Savoyard vigneron Dominique Belluard. He and business partner Elodie Bouvard became friends at their course in Dieppe, and little by little came to the idea of going into business together in the Beaujolais. While Trichard's wines are beginning to glean international attention, the character of their enterprise remains passionately local.
|Elodie Bouvard, right, tasting in Trichard's cellar.|
"Our idea is to do forty varieties of vegetables, to sell just across the street, at the neighbor’s place on Friday afternoons," says Bouvard. "They sell wheat. We sell wine too, and we welcome people."
Well into the 20th century it was the norm for Beaujolais winemaking families to pasture cows and grow crops other than grapes. In this respect Séléné can be regarded as a return to the mixed agriculture of the Beaujolais of yore.
"It makes for a nice change to have some vegetables and pasturing," says Bouvard. "It changes the landscape. It’s nice when it’s not just vines."
|A patch of Trichard's Beaujolais.|
Never does one agree more with her than when shopping for groceries in Beaujolais. Contrary to the common urbanite presumption that honest produce is more easily obtained in the countryside, much of Beaujolais contains about as many grocery options as a space station. Unless one is fortunate enough to have one's own garden, one holds one's nose and rummages through off-looking veggies at Intermarché or Petit Casino. I have encountered difficulty finding a pot of artisanal jam. Terrific goat cheese is produced in the mountains to the west, but there are almost no points-of-sale; much is distributed by delivery. Even the weekly markets are scare, barely filling up the parking lots that host them. The situation speaks of a long history of self-sufficiency among native landholding families. Seasonal workers, and wandering journalists, must still fend for themselves.
So it was with undisguised glee that I learned Bouvard sells Séléné's vegetables in Villié-Morgon on Wednesday evenings at a little stand beneath the eaves of Relais du Caveau. These days I'm delighted to encounter the Séléné wines in Paris; but encountering the fruits of the collaboration right there in Beaujolais remains somehow more surprising.
Sylvère Trichard / Séléné
711 Route de la Tallebarde
Beaujolais, Winter - Spring 2016:
Jérome Balmet, Vaux-en-Beaujolais
L'Auberge du Moulin, Saint-Didier-sur-Chalaronne
Jean-François Promonet, Leynes
Hervé Ravera, Marchampt
Justin Dutraive, Fleurie
Julien Merle & Nathalie Banes, Legny
La Fête des Conscrits, Villié-Morgon
Domaine Leonis (Raphael Champier & Christelle Lucca), Villié-Morgon
Beaujolais, Autumn 2015:
Xavier Benier, Saint-Julien
Jean-Gilles Chasselay, Châtillon d'Azergues
Marcel Joubert, Quincié
Nicolas Chemarin, Marchampt
Anthony Thévenet, Villié-Morgon
Romain Zordan, Fleurie
Yann Bertrand, Fleurie
Domaine Thillardon, Chénas
Sylvain Chanudet, Fleurie
Patrick "Jo" Cotton, Saint-Lager
Pierre Cotton, Odenas
L'Auberge du Col du Truges, Le Truges
Julie Balagny, Moulin-à-Vent
La Cuvée des Copines 2015
Beaujolais Harvests 2015
Beaujolais Bike Trip, Summer 2015:
Georges Descombes, Vermont
Jean-Paul Thévenet, Pizay
Jules Métras, Fleurie
Rémi et Laurence Dufaitre, Saint-Etienne-des-Ouillières
Jean-Claude Lapalu, Saint-Etienne-La-Varenne
Benoit Camus, Ville-sur-Jarnioux
Beaujolais Bike Trip, Summer 2011:
Karim Vionnet, Villié-Morgon
Café de la Bascule, Fleurie
Isabelle et Bruno Perraud, Vauxrenard
Le Coq à Juliènas, Juliènas
L'Atelier du Cuisiner, Villié-Morgon