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Louis Jadot - A Revolution in Beaujolais

by Andy Cook

  Guillaume de Castenau is head of winemaking for Louis Jadot in the Beaujolais. He describes his wines with passion and warmth, and he has worked in some of the best appellations in Burgundy. Until recently, he was not well-liked by other Beaujolais producers, who saw his winemaking techniques as strange and anti-traditionalist; as unfaithful to their 'terroir'.

Guillaume is pioneering a trellis system for the vines; unheard of in an area where the bush vine, or gobelet, was the only system used. Whilst most growers macerate their Gamay for 8 to 10 days, Guillaume prefers to keep his on the skins for 25 to 30 days. Where most use carbonic maceration, he uses only a tiny percentage, and even resorts to pigeage (punching down the skins in the fermentation tank) for maximum extraction. Where most leave their wines in stainless steel cuves, he transfers much of his to oak, 30% of which is new. Where many blend several vineyards into a single village wine, he focuses on the finest vineyards and sells them as separate clos wines.

Then, last year, things started to change. The other growers tried and liked Guillaume's wines, and the international press greeted them with great acclaim. Eventually, the local syndicat invited Guillaume to give a talk in the Town Hall and explain his methods. In front of all the important local growers, he blew away the sense of what was "right" and "traditional".

"In 1916", he told them, "a bottle of Moulin-à-Vent fetched the same price as a bottle of Chambolle-Musigny. In 1895, nine coopers lived in the village and made barrels for all the local growers". He warmed to his theme: "At the turn of the century, there was no such thing as Carbonic Maceration". Guillaume went on to explain how the industrial use of herbicides had killed the true nature of the soils, and caused the Gamay roots to run almost horizontally in the unnaturally acidic ground. Slowly, people are starting to listen.

The house of Louis Jadot has invested heavily in the Beaujolais area. They now own over 70 hectares (more than double their Côte d'Or holdings). Change comes slowly in much of Burgundy, and land rarely changes hands, but in the southern area of Beaujolais, a true revolution is possible.

Jadot owns the prime Châteaux of de Jacques in Moulin--Vent (right), and Bellevue in Morgon, and an additional winery for their Beaujolais-Villages, which sells in vast quantities in Britain and the United States. They own parcels of vines in many appellations, and also buy in grapes from carefully selected growers in areas such as Fleurie and Brouilly. Below are explanations and tasting notes for their 'flagship' wines:


Beaujolais-Villages Combe aux Jacques 2001
This wine is made in industrial quantities in a very modern winery, but attention to detail is paramount. Triage (sorting and selection) is used for every single bunch (the grower is not paid for grapes that don't make the grade) and the wines are vinified separately in 32 cuves, with some carbonic maceration still employed in selected vats. Subsequently, the wines are stored in a facility owned by the Loron house, with over 700 vats available to keep the wines separate. They are carefully blended, generally a few months after fermentation, under the watchful eye of Technical Director Jacques Lardière. The 2001 has cherry stones and spice on the nose, with delicious red berry fruit and a nice juiciness on the palate. Impeccably made and moreish - simplicity itself!

Château de Jacques Moulin--Vent
Already, the landmark estate of Château de Jacques is producing stunning wines. The first vintage was 1996, and the wines have improved every year since. A blend of five single clos wines with some other grapes included, this is benchmark cru Beaujolais. The 2001 has an explosive nose - raspberry ripple, roses and heather. There is good mouthfeel, with excellent grip and a fine balance of cassis fruit and tannins. This wine will continue to develop, but would outclass many fine Pinot Noirs. The 1993, made before Jadot owned the property, showed just how long-lived good Beaujolais can be. With coffee and stewed fruits, and still a fine tannin structure, this was a delight. The 1976 in half bottle still had signs of life, with prunes and leafy flavours showing, and still some structure left. A real eye-opener.

Chateau de Jacques Clos de Thorins Moulin--Vent
This single clos comes from an amphitheatre-shaped vineyard which gathers plenty of sun, giving big fruit flavours. The 2002 from cask had a sweet, violety nose, sturdy tannins, and cassis and peach skin flavours, although oak dominates a little after only three months in cask. The 2000 has a great nose of shoe polish and ripe red fruit, with sweet cassis, waxy mouthfeel and a long, sweet finish. A charming wine.

Château de Jacques Clos Champ de Cour Moulin--Vent
This vineyard in a small valley floor stills contains the richness of river silt, with earthy, dark brown soil. An earthy, gamy wine is the result. The 2002 from cask has musky, sweet aromas with a big mocha and super-ripe palate and fine-grained tannins. Superb. The 2000 has a stinky, gamy nose with dark bramble fruit. The palate is gamy, with a touch of heat and a fine finish of dark cherries and chocolate. Very fine.

Château de Jacques Clos du Grand Carquelin Moulin--Vent
The complex soils here (grey granite, sand, manganese) produce a complex wine which is always more closed in its youth than the others, but opens to a soft and minerally red. It is the only clos wine aged in Alliers oak, which gives more smoke than the softer Nevers barrels. The 2002 from cask has a lot of smoky oak in the nose, with a slate/flint aspect to the wine. There is little fruit just now, but this is undoubtably a powerful and structured wine. The 2000 has a waxy, plummy nose with a hint of flowers. The palate is surprisingly soft, with red berry fruits, and a mineral finish with good acidity. Delightful.

Château de Jacques Clos de la Roche Moulin--Vent
This is the winemaker's favourite, and sits on the hill directly under the famous windmill that gives Moulin--Vent its name. This small vineyard is on a rich grain of quartz which gives a lovely minerality, and the good aspect ripens the grapes perfectly. The 2002 from cask has a sweet, ripe, sherbety red fruit nose. There is a nice chalkiness and floral notes on the palate with red berries showing, and then a firm, dry finish. The 2000 is a delight - violet creams and beeswax on the nose, and a fine structure that hints at a great future, although still a little young just now.

Château de Jacques Clos de Rochegrès Moulin--Vent

  This clos is made from very old vines at the top of the slope opposite the famous windmill. The soil here is a wonderfully bright red stone and sand. I find this to be the very finest Moulin--Vent. The 2002 from cask has a complex nose of minerals, ink and a Burgundian meatiness. The palate is concentrated and inky with dark fruits and hefty tannins. The 2000 has an awesome nose - hot, dark and sexy with damsons and coffee grounds. The palate has cooked dark fruits, black coffee and raisins all bursting through a sturdy tannin structure. The finish is nicely hot and very long. Wonderful!

There is also a sizeable parcel of Chardonnay around the Château, that Guillaume uses to fuel his love of fine white Burgundy.

He produces two wines - one oaked and one without. Each has a distinct personality with linseed and licorice notes. The unoaked white expresses a delicately floral side, whilst the oak adds a rich pears and cream aspect. Both wines offer outstanding value and purity.

What really shines through every aspect of this operation is passion and a drive to make the very best possible wine. Nothing is taken for granted, and every single aspect of the wine from vine to bottle is explored. Jadot is treating Gamay with every bit as much respect as they do Pinot Noir in the Côte d'Or, and are bucking what has become the norm by returning to the best aspects of traditional methods, matched to cutting-edge techniques.

Guillaume is so in touch with his wine and its energy that he can tell you which wine comes from which vineyard purely by placing his hands on the barrel! This simple, natural, passionate approach is one that will carry the wines of Beaujolais into a whole new era. By both their vineyard holdings and the remarkable quality of the finished wines, Jadot are succeeding in re-invigorating the entire region.

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  Andy started work in the wine trade in France, including time as winemaker's assistant in Provence, the Ardeche and Fitou. In the late 1990s he set up Luvians, an independent fine wine and whisky merchant in St. Andrews, Fife. However, the lure of winemaking returned and having graduated with a degree in oenology from Lincoln University in New Zealand, Andy took his first wine making job in the Roussillon region of France. As well as travel, drinking unaffordable Burgundy and cheap beer, Andy's other great love is playing guitar in a loud rock group.