29 September 2015

n.d.p. in beaujolais: georges descombes, vermont

There was a man hanging around in the driveway when my friends and I showed up on bicycles for a rendezvous with Morgon-based winemaker Georges Descombes back in April. We parked the bikes and tried phoning Descombes, who didn't pick up. The man wandered over, regarding his own cell phone, whereupon I recognized him as renowned Loire winemaker Pierre Breton, with whom we had evidently been double-booked.

It was a stroke of luck for us. Descombes zoomed into the driveway in short order, and in addition to a generous tasting of his celebrated array of Beaujolais, my friends and I were able to enjoy the perceptive commentary of two masterful winemakers, whose mutual appreciation was itself a pleasure to observe. It turns out it was Breton's first time visiting Le Noune, too. (I have yet to discern the precise origin of Descombes' nickname, which is among the most colourful in a region of colourful nicknames.)

That it soon got dark, and that, upon departing the long tasting, I skidded on gravel while racing downhill without headlights from the hamlet of Vermont, and that I fell and broke my collarbone, necessitating a taxi ride to the hospital at Villefranche-sur-Saône, doesn't mar the occasion at all, in retrospect.

26 September 2015

buckets, bennes, and quenelles: beaujolais harvests 2015

I moved to Beaujolais in mid-August to research a book I hope to write on the region's wines. I bought a 50cc scooter to get around on and I rented an apartment in Lancié, between the cru villages of Villié-Morgon and Fleurie. The uncharacteristically long blog silence this past month was on account of harvest time. 

I had initially planned to harvest with just one domaine, Yvon Métras in Fleurie. Métras harvests quite late, however - we began on Sept. 3rd this year (early by historical standards, but late for 2015 in Beaujolais). By late August I'd realised that since I didn't need lodging, most other winemakers didn't mind if I put in just a day or two of work here and there with their harvest teams before commencing chez Métras. 

This is how I wound up harvesting sixteen days straight with the following winemakers: Gilles Paris (Chiroubles), Jean-Paul Thévenet (Villié-Morgon), Jean-Louis Dutraive (Fleurie), Guy Breton (Villié-Morgon), and finally Yvon and Jules Métras (Fleurie). This isn't counting several subsequent mornings and afternoons spent harvesting various experimental micro-cuvées for these and other winemakers, which stories I'll relegate to future blog posts. What follows for now is sort of a harvest data-dump, a series of images and observations that I hope will transmit some of the flavour of the experience.