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There’s a new Beaujolais producer in town: Domaine Leonis! The estate is a partnership of Raphael Champier and his girlfriend, Christine Lucca. Raphael comes from a large family (fourteen brothers and sisters from nearby Odenas) with a long winemaking background; Christine was formerly a photographer in Nancy. The couple began acquiring their own parcels of vines in 2011 with .5 hectare of Beaujolais-Villages vines near Saint-Etienne-des-Ouillières, about a twenty-minute drive from their home and cellar in Villié-Morgon. They now own almost 7 hectares of vines planted on soils of granite, schist, and basalt, including parcels in Brouilly and the Côte de Brouilly (some of which are 80+ years old!). They farm without the use of herbicides and pesticides, with the goal of transitioning fully to biodynamics in the coming years.
Prior to making wines under his own label, Raphael spent 6 years working full-time for Jean-Claude Lapalu; this is apparent in Leonis’ winemaking. Harvesting is done in multiple passes to achieve the perfect level of ripeness, often starting quite early (in 2015 they started harvesting on August 24th) to maintain acidity levels. This is a labor-intensive undertaking that helps them maintain balance, resulting in wines at 12.5% alcohol even in a hot, dry vintage like 2015. Fermentations occur with native yeasts and undergo what Raphael describes as a very pure style of carbonic maceration: 15-17 days whole cluster in vats without temperature control. Aging occurs in small stainless steel tank or neutral barriques depending on the cuvée, though the couple plans to use concrete tanks as they begin to increase their production. The wines are not fined or filtered and only a small dose of SO2 is added at bottling, with less than 10 mg/L total remaining. These are beautiful wines that we urge you to try!
In addition to the new arrivals from Leonis, there are few Beaujolais that excite us as much as the delicious wines of terroir made by Roland and Joelle Pignard, who were originally referred to us by their neighbor and fellow winemaker, Christian Ducroux. Their 4.5 hectares of vines include parcels in Beaujolais-Villages, Morgon, and Régnié and are certified organic by Ecocert and biodynamic by Demeter, with all work done by hand or horse-drawn plow to maintain the health of the soil. Fermentations occur with native yeasts, and the grapes undergo a relatively short carbonic maceration of 6-12 days. No SO2 is used at any time during the winemaking process, with a minimal dose added at bottling. These wines are not overtly fruity, instead highlighting earthy, mineral purity with ample finesse. We are offering deep discounts on the last of the fabulous 2013 Morgon and Régnié and the 2014 Beaujolais-Villages from the Pignards as we await the arrival of their new vintages. There’s really nothing quite like these. Tim Gagnon
Lip-smacking pet-nat from Raphael Champier and Christine Lucca! Made from a direct press of Gamay, it sees one year élevage on the lees. It is bright and incredibly vinous with brambly red raspberry, waxy red apple skin, blossom, and blood orange zest on the nose. Juicy, tart red delicious apple and white pepper come forward on the palate along with a subtle smokiness, finishing quite dry. This is perfect for picnics in the park and has enough structure to pair with a wide variety of foods! Tim Gagnon
Made from 80-year-old vines, this is aged in neutral barrique and stainless steel tanks. The combination of old vines and barrel-aging yields a serious and structured wine that is an absolute joy to drink. Rose petal, kirsch, blackberry, and burnt orange peel aromas fill the nose paired with a deeper, earthy note of wet tar. More dark fruits emerge on the palate with damp earth and supple tannins charging forward onto a crunchy, mineral-laden finish. Tim Gagnon
Apparently called Mont Brulius for the Roman soldier whom the region is named after, this cuvée is made from some of Raphael and Christine’s oldest vines (averaging 90 years old) and is aged entirely in stainless steel. These vines are planted in basalt and granite soils on slopes that are so steep that they don’t allow for plowing. The nose offers a bouquet of hibiscus, licorice, pomegranate, and strawberry liqueur, before skewing more mineral and savory on the palate, with dark, damp earth, iron, citrus, and brambly blackberries. Over the course of a dinner it really plumps up showing wild strawberry, cassis, thyme, and cola nut. This wine has serious structure and a bright acidity that would make it at home next to fattier fare. Tim Gagnon
I can't think of anything better than delicious Beaujolais in magnum! Apparently called Mont Brulius for the Roman soldier whom the region is named after, this cuvée is made from some of Raphael and Christine’s oldest vines (averaging 90 years old) and is aged entirely in stainless steel. These vines are planted in basalt and granite soils on slopes that are so steep that they don’t allow for plowing. The nose offers a bouquet of hibiscus, licorice, pomegranate, and strawberry liqueur, before skewing more mineral and savory on the palate, with dark, damp earth, iron, citrus, and brambly blackberries. Over the course of a dinner it really plumps up showing wild strawberry, cassis, thyme, and cola nut. This wine has serious structure and a bright acidity that would make it at home next to fattier fare. Tim Gagnon
Made from Gamay vines close in age to those in the Mont Brulius cuvée and held back for 12 months of aging in neutral oak, the Côte de Brouilly Number 2 shows incredible purity of fruit on the nose with aromas of strawberries, Bing cherry, violet petals, cocoa. High-toned and mineral on the palate, strawberries, pepper, and brown spice come to mind matched with silky tannins and a long finish reminiscent of red licorice and crushed red flowers. This seems built for medium-term aging, perhaps 5-7 years, although it is spectacular now! I recommend decanting a bit before dinner for the best experience. Tim Gagnon