If you can’t tell, I really like Beaujolais, or at least Gamay, the main red grape of the region (but grown elsewhere, as is evident with Olivier Bellanger’s gorgeously mineral Gamay from the Loire). There’s nothing like having something that tastes like it should be a simple easy going red actually turn out to be complex and interesting.
Which is what brings me to Cyril Alonso and Florian Looze. These guys are crazy. They began their careers in wine by starting a négociant focusing on natural but high-quality wines, a company called Production Unique et Rebelle (P-U-R). Living up to its name, they have become synonymous with great wines made without any additives or chemicals. So when the opportunity presented itself, they quickly purchased a domaine in their favorite wine-growing area, Beaujolais, Château Bel Avenir. Which also happens to be one of my favorite regions, as I may have mentioned previously.
Now, they own 12 hectares (29.65 acres) but farm half of that in a completely natural manner. By creating an ecological balance in the field (with beehives, friendly flowers and plants, and insect hotels to attract beneficial bugs), they are encouraging life in the vineyard. The vines range in age from 8 to 70 years old, and are densely planted (7000 vines/ha for the Chardonnay, 10 000 vines/ha for the Gamay) to silty, fossil-rich soils that are over 400 million years old. Everything is hand-harvested and wild yeast fermented, with just a light filtering at bottling to maintain the purity of the wines and the expression of their terroir.
The wines, I am thrilled to report, are gorgeous. We wouldn’t have imported them if they weren’t. As you know, I am a firm believer in so-called “natural” wines, but I want them to taste clean and like actual wine. A little bit of funk is OK, but when it detracts from the pleasure of the drink, then it defeats the purpose of the beverage. This is what wine is for, after all, right?
That said, these guys are constantly innovating and trying new things. Here (above), they are making wine in small clay jars (affectionately called saucissons, or sausages). Just to see what happens. I tried a Bourgogne Blanc from one of the jars, and it was glorious and fresh, where, truth be told, I’d expected an oxidyzed mess.
For natural winemakers, they go to extremes to keep things clean, which explains the quality and durability of the wines. So I am happy to say that the first bottles have just arrived, and I’m looking forward to seeing how folks like them. It’ll be an interesting experiment for us as well, one that should also be delicious.
PS: There are more pics HERE.