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Chambers Street is honored to work with Christian Ducroux, who produces some of the world's most vibrant and delicious natural wines on his five hectares of living soils in Thulon, above Regnié-Durette in the Beaujolais. After a long delay in shipping, the wines have finally arrived, and happily there is a bit more wine available which will be in our warehouse today.
Although Christian is really in a class by hinself - as anyone who has walked through his vineyards can attest - we'd like to feature some of our favorite natural Beaujolais producers who practice some of the best organic and biodynamic farming in the region.
One of the great pleasures of our winter trip to France is La Dive Bouteille in Saumur, where one can taste the great Beaujolais of the Descombes family, Lapierre, Chanudet, Breton, Leonis and others, including the beautiful natural wines of Jean-Claude Lapalu. Currently one of the most respected growers in Beaujolais, Lapalu began his career as a grape grower, only beginning to produce his own wines in 1996. The farming here In is exemplary with organic certification since 2010, and biodynamic methods as well. And Lapalu's vineyards have a very high percentage of old vines, with most parcels averaging between 50 and 100 years of age. We are very happy to offer a small quantity of the 2020 Brouilly "La Croix des Rameaux" and the 2020 Cote de Brouilly - they are dense and complex wines but quite balanced and elegant, well suited for current drinking, preferably with decanting, as well as five to ten-plus years of cellaring. Available in larger quantity is the very lovely 202 Beaujolais-Villages Vieilles Vignes - "This displays pinpoint balance between bright freshness and sapid earthiness with a deliciousness that beckons for another sip" says John McIlwain. $21.99!
Georges is one of the great masters of Beaujolais - we have to include his superb 2019 Chiroubles Vieilles Vignes and Brouilly Vieilles Vignes: organic farming (not certified), grapes are hand-harvested in whole clusters and pressed very slowly in an old vertical press, fermented with natural yeasts in a long, low temperature semi-carbonic maceration - minimal or zero sulfur is used, only before bottling. (Approximately 10 - 20 mg/L in 2018.) Descombes is a true master of this type of winemaking - bringing out beautifully complex aromas and gorgeous fruit on the palate, undiminished by excess SO2, beautifully balanced, clean and long. The Vieilles Vignes bottlings in 2019 are "utterly astonishing" as Sam Ehrlich says!
"We are lovers of wine and nature, we produce healthy wines, without artifice and try to go as far as possible in our work to reveal our terroirs. Organic and biodynamic farming, pure wines, agroforestry and peasantry are the pillars that have made up our estate." (Badly translated from the Thillardon website) Indeed the Thillardons (Paul-Henri and Charles) have introduced farm animals into the vineyards, which are surrouonded by hedges and interspersed with trees (as at Domaine Ducroux). After briefly practicing Burgundian vinifications, the Thillardons have happily converted to a cold temperature carbonic maceration of 2 to 4 weeks followed by pressing (wooden vertical press) and aging in cement vats or old barrels. The resultng wines are vibrant and delicious, we urge you to try them...
Christian Ducroux' 5 hectare estate has been certified organic and biodynamic since 1985, and has operated as a nearly self-sufficient farm, producing its own fertilizer and compost, and plowing and harvesting almost entirely without machinery. The vines average over 60 years of age and are replaced by massale selection, giving extremely low yields. The vines co-exist with a wild proliferation of vegetation which is minimally controlled by horse-drawn plowing. (Christian has been practising this type of regenerative agriculture for 35 years, and he's very happy that more vineyards are now using these methods!) The 2020 shows a bright, clear red/garnet color, with elegant high-toned raspberry aromas with violet, earth and citrus. The palate shows lovely purity of fruit, less weight than the riper 2019, but better balance and brightness with raspberry, plum, earth and mineral flavors that continue in the long clean finish. With time open the aromas have broadened to include blackberry, anise and spice and the flavors darken with black fruits and earth. Really a fascinating glass of pure juice! As with many wines without SO2, it's probably best consumed on the day open, but cellaring of 8 to 10 years should be quite interesting. Bravo to Christian Ducroux! David Lillie
The Lapalu "La Croix des Rameaux" is from numerous parcels on decomposed granite soils, averaging 60 years of age with the oldest being 90 years-old, south-west exposure. Three week semi-carbonic fermentation, aged in old barrels, not fined or filtered, only 10 mg/l of SO2, production about 200 cases. The 2020 La Croix des Rameaux has dark ruby, verging on purple, robe. High toned, pretty armomas of dried violets, pastilles, blackberry seed, pomegranate, and loam swirl on the nose. The palate is concentrated and supple, with black cherry, cherry stone, black tea and brambly wild berry flavors over a punchy mineral core, with just a hint of wild herbs bringing up the long, lingering finish. There‘s still some structure here to resolve, but this should shine with another year or so in bottle as the structural elements knit. This is a lovely expression of Brouilly and not to be missed. John McIlwain
The Mont Brouilly, a volcanic "bump" in the granite bedrocks of the Beaujolais, is a terroir of mineral-rich bluish rock with little or no soil, giving a quite different character to the wines. The Lapalu 2020 is from a one hectare parcel of old vines with northeast exposure, so late to ripen. The fruit was 80% destemmed and 20% whole cluster carbonic maceration, with 10 mg/liter of SO2 added only before bottling. The 2020 Lapalu Côte de Brouilly boasts a vibrant purple robe. The nose offers a high-toned mélange of plum skin, raspberry seed, cassis, crushed herbs, and spice. The palate is racy and imbued with wild blueberry, Italian plum, and mulberry flavors dancing across the palate. Bright on the attack, the wine tends more toward succulent fruit and joyous energy rather than firm structure with dusty tannins and bright acidity. This is delicious juicy fun now with enough savory notes to give it a place at the table, though it certainly has the balance for near-term aging. John McIlwain
The 2020 Lapalu Beaujolais Villages is a selection of old vines (50 to 80 years-old) from several plots with a density of 11,000 plants per hectare. Mostly mid-slope, south-east facing early ripening parcels on sandy granite soils. Whole cluster carbonic fermentation in stainless steel vats with indigenous yeasts, maceration of 10 to 12 days, aged on the fine lees for 7 months in concrete vats. 10 mg/liter of SO2 added only before bottling. Another terrific vintage for the Lapalu Beaujolais Villages VV! The nose offers brambly aromas of hedge fruits, wild raspberry, pomegranate, and bruised strawberry of the nose. Sweet dark fruits on the palate, savory mineral spine, and tangy berry fruit on the finish. This displays pinpoint balance between bright freshness and sapid earthiness with a deliciousness that beckons for another sip. John McIlwain
As much as I love Burgundy, there are times that the occasion calls for a beautiful Beaujolais. And a sticky night in June is just such an occasion. And with a magret of duck from the Greenmarket and sautéed tatsoi, the newly-arrived Georges Descombes 2019 Chiroubles Vieilles Vignes beckons. The robe is a marvelous mulberry purple. The nose is perfumed, with pretty notes of black raspberry, wild cherry, graphite, and spice. The ripe (but lithe) palate balances a juicy freshness of red berry and plum character with a fine-grained, earthy undercurrent of structure. But at the moment the ebullient fruit is singing with grilled duck breast (though I wouldn’t hesitate to pair with salmon, roasted zucchini and carrots with salsa verde, or saucisson) and playing off the bitterness of the mustard greens on the plate. This is a cracking bottle of Chiroubles that welcomes a light chill and seemingly banishes humidity. This should be a pleasure to taste over the next couple nights and warrants socking away a few bottles for a more mature drinking experience. This is sensational and but for a little granitic spice, this rivals the magical 2014 Regnié VV for sheer joy. John McIlwain
Christian Ducroux's unique "Esquisse" Rosé is a totally natural wine, made without sulfur-dioxide or other additives or adjustments, 100% Gamay from a high-altitude parcel above Thulon, and usually containing the secondary grapes ("grisemottes") harvested in late October. Low alcohol (11.5%) and ultra-refreshing... The 2020 shows a pale pink/orange color, the aromas show a hint of spice with creamy raspberry fruit with rose petal and citrus. The palate shows subtle, bright berry fruits, citrus and minerals with a touch of earthiness in the finish with firm acidity. Very refreshing, quite naturally delicious, serve quite cool with just about anything....
Paul-Henri Thillardon began with 3 hectares of family vineyards in 2008, then acquired 2 hectares in Chénas, always worked with organic/biodynamic methods and certified organic in 2011. Vinifications here are semi-carbonic, with a long maceration but gentle extraction and with minimal SO2 at bottling only. The 2019 "Vibrations" is crackling with energy. Translucent ruby in hue with a slight prickle. Cherry stone, red plum, mustard seed, wild raspberry, and blood orange zest on the nose. The palate is zingy, zangy, punchy, and tangy with little flashes of pomegranate pop-rock, 9-volt battery (all good, I assure you) and a graphite-y core beneath the exuberant fruit. This has lift and depth and all those this-is-damned-good-Beaujolais signifiers that bring a smile to any true Gamay freak. Punchy, racy fun with saucisson before dinner, but with enough earthy soul to shine magret of duck with Greenmarket peaches and summer vegetables. This is sensational Chénas and “Vibrations” is an apt name for the cuvée—it’s just humming and strumming with energy. Highly recommended. John McIlwain
A new bottling from Chénas upstart Paul-Henri Thillardon, the 2019 Moulin-à-Vent showcases a prettier, more mineral-inflected side of the appellation. The robe is a medium ruby. The nose is floral and effusive with aromas of nose of red-currant, white pepper, strawberry, and blood orange oil. The medium-weight palate offers an array of juicy, sour cherry and wild raspberry flavors underlain with a firm earthen core with ripe tannins and mouth-watering acidity framing all that fruit. There's great balance here and plenty of upside for aging to allow the ebullient fruit to knit with the savory, nearly ferruginous, mineral elements lurking within. Truly lovely Beaujolais and strikingly energetic and expressive in its youth. John McIlwain
This is absolutely my kind of Beaujolais and truly magnificent wine. It is spilling over with really pure ripe strawberry - fruit as vivid as those I received from my CSA the same weekend. But despite the intensity of the fruit character, there is no sense of heaviness or clumsiness or excess alcohol. The wine is juicy and buoyant, with terrific acidity to balance out the ample red fruit. Honestly, trying to describe this wine in the usual fashion is pointless. Great cru Beaujolais is something I tasted a lot of early in my career and what I loved was the pleasure it inspires. I drank this bottle over three days and not only did it not fade, it stayed vibrant, shedding some baby fat and allowing more of the minerality to emerge. Utterly astonishing. Sam Ehrlich