01 December 2015

n.d.p. in beaujolais: sylvain chanudet, fleurie

The most famous man in Beaujolais is not who you might think. His wines remain under-acknowledged on the market, but in terms of sheer physical presence in the region - in vineyards, at other domaines, at the cafés of Villié-Morgon and Fleurie - no one compares with
Domaine de Prion's Sylvain Chanudet: his tousled iron hair, NBA frame, and impish grin could be a trademark for the region.

His ubiquity is partly attributable to his side business, a nursery in nearby Drancy that supplies many of the region's natural winemakers (among many others) with massal selection vine grafts. It is literally his business to know other winemakers and remain aware of their vineyard conditions.*

But Chanudet, like his friend Jean-Louis Dutraive, also clearly relishes the Beaujolais community. Very few know it better. From the purebred terroir of his own high, steep parcels, Chanudet creates muscular, unfiltered wines that often belie the cliché of his cru's femininity. Recent years have seen a refinement of his style, one that I expect to accelerate since the domaine, formerly run jointly, was separated between him and his brother Christian in 2014. But among Sylvain Chanudet's eccentricities is a devil-may-care attitude towards his commercial calendar. He releases the wines when he feels they're finished, not before. When I visited after harvest this year, he'd just bottled the 2012's and 2013's.

Cellar / basketball court.

As of 2014, Sylvain Chanudet solely possesses 6.5ha total, of which 60-70% is bottled each year, with the rest habitually being sold in small lots to some of the region's natural negoçiant winemakers (among others).

The 2015 paradis, or free-run juice. 

Chanudet's granular knowledge of the work of his friends and neighbors is reflected in his own agnostic approach to viticulture and vinification. "I don't permit myself everything," he says, apropos of vineyard treatments, "But I forbid myself nothing."

A recently uprooted parcel in Prion.

He plows his vines where possible, but uses herbicide on certain slopes he considers otherwise unworkable. He's more forthcoming than most about this, specifying that in 2015 he only had to use 3 liters of herbicide in total.

Chanudet and his extended clan - his brothers and sister, his grandmother, his nephew, etc. - inhabit a high south-east-facing slope of Fleurie called Prion. Each year he is among the very last to harvest; in 2015, he began on the 8th September. He has vines in Prion, as well as right up near La Madone. Meanwhile his Moulin-à-Vent is in the climat of Roche-Grès, and in 2015 he produced his first white wine, a Pouilly-Fuissé from the Chevrier lieu-dit. They're vines he's owned for six or seven years, he says, but formerly the fruit had been sold to the cave cooparative.

A mid-fermentation tank sample of the Pouilly-Fuissé.

For his red vinification, Chanudet practices very long, cool cuvaisons - 25 days on average - with some refrigeration of the harvest before fermentation. This emphasis on patience continues with the elevage, which, as mentioned above, can stretch to exaggerated lengths. A 2013 Moulin-à-Vent we tasted from magnum, for example, saw 20 months in oak, and showed it on the nose. (The basic Fleurie and the "La Madone" is aged in raw concrete tank, while the old-vine Fleurie and the Moulin-à-Vent both see some aging in old oak barrel.)

The label is wrong; it was a 2013, from what I remember.

More subtle, and successful, was a 2010 Fleurie "La Madone," evoking champignon de Paris and anise on the nose, with a glimmery, cherried palate, generous for the vintage. I also had trouble containing enthusiasm for a tank sample of the 2014 "La Madone," which showed ballooning fresh berry aromas and a succulent gourmandise that seemed to beg for early (or earlier) release.

Overall the wines occupy an attractive middle-ground between the riskier, more agile gamays of the Morgon natural-wine pioneers, and the more polished, conservative work of Alain Coudert, or mid-2000's Dutraive. Chanudet's wines are works of frank, non-ideological realism; they contain a grim beauty.

I have two other fond memories of Chanudet's wines, perhaps worth sharing here. In April, very shortly after breaking my collarbone in an idiot bike accident in Morgon, I attended the Bien Boire en Beaujolais tasting, and met Chanudet for the first time. Among the two wines he presented was a 2008 old-vine Fleurie that possessed the rainfall-fresh fruit and horizontal focus of the vintage's greatest successes.

The following day, in increasing collarbone pain, I took the train home. But not before a lunch at Mâcon's Le Carafé, a longtime client of Chanudet's. The most interesting Beaujolais on their list was his Fleurie 2007, and its poised notes of raspberry, leather, and tea were a panacea that afternoon.

David Chapel, Jean-Louis Dutraive, and Sylvain Chanudet, at the long party following Dutraive's "Part des Grives" harvest.

* I ran into Sylvain in late August while I harvested in Chiroubles with Gilles Paris, with whom Chanudet shares some regular harvesters. Then I encountered him while harvesting with Jean-Louis Dutraive in Fleurie. Later I was harvesting with Jules Métras and who should show up in the parcel of Beaujolais-Villages but... You get the idea. 

Sylvain Chanudet - Domaine de Prion
Tel : 04 74 69 85 10

Related Links: 

An outdated and uncharacteristically misinformative producer profile at the website of Domaine de Prion's former US importers, Weygandt-Metzler. The blurb incorrectly cites the domaine as organic, before clumsily comparing the wines to 1er cru Côte d'Or Burgundy. When will US importers (and, well, everyone else) cease comparing Beaujolais to Burgundy? It is not a complement. It's like when jazz afficionados, unable to imagine that music of other genres may not aspire to be jazz, note approvingly that this or that hip-hop or electronic record is 'almost jazz.' 

A heavily-padded producer profile of Domaine de Prion at Schatzi Wines. Heavy on historical context, light on information. 

Beaujolais, Autumn 2015:

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

No comments:

Post a Comment