Saturday, July 14, 2012

Domaine de la Sionniere, Moulin-a-Vent

Burgundy, and as a result Beaujolais, has an aspect to its personality that is both a true pleasure and a source of frustration to wine-lovers around the world.

   Burgundy has not only more AOCs then anywhere else in France, it also has perhaps a greater winemaker-density then anywhere else. Actually I take that back, there's no perhaps about it: with some famous plots of land having as many as 70 separate owners over only a few hectares, some owners controlling as little as a couple of rows of vines. No other wine-region is quite like Burgundy in that respect.

   But that's part of the charm, as I said. We grow fond of the small wineries who cherish each curve of the hill reaching for sunlight, each dip in the slope where water accumulates and each glade of trees with it's undeniable  aromas of "sous-bois" as they say.

   There should be a natural inclination towards superior quality in any wine made from such attention, such devotion bordering on affection. Well, there should be superior quality but invariably what results is just superior degrees of variation.

   One region where quality is rarely an issue is Moulin-a-Vent. Tucked into the north-east corner of Beaujolais and bordered by the Saone river racing towards the Mediterranean, Moulin-a-Vent is a pantheon of the region and its wines considered the greatest of Beaujolais. These are wines can age gracefully for 10, 15 and sometimes even 20 years reaching peaks of elegance usually only scaled by the mighty Pinot Noir of the (arguably) more distinguished neighbours to the north.

   How? Why? Some might say (and they would be right) that it's due in large part to the ancient and decomposing granitic topsoil... this topsoil is easy for the vines to penetrate in their youth and encourages them to dig deep. Down, down, down they go to the subsoil sometimes referred to as "gore" which is an accumulation of sand, clay, mica, schist and granite that give the wines their unmistakable mineral edge.

old Manganese mine in Romaneche-Thorins
   And here, in the rural sprawl of vineyards sitting atop these soils, lies the sleepy commune of Romaneche-Thorins. It's small by anyone's standards (population around 800) but the locals are doing big things with Gamay Noir and have been doing so for centuries! One of the secrets to their success is a high concentration of Manganese found only in the local soils... there have even been mines dedicated to its extraction for over a hundred years.

   Now in come Estelle and Thomas Patenotre, owners of the Domaine de la Sionniere ( ). Thomas came to North American attention recently when in 2007 the owner of Domaine Diochon  wanted to retire, but had no heir for the prestigious property. Long-time employee (?) Thomas was offered the honor and, lucky for us, he accepted.

   And so Thomas has brought the ancestral methods of the region roaring back to life in not just one, but two separate properties in Moulin-a-Vent... this is where yields are intentionally kept minimal, vines are left to age to graceful puissance, and the Gamay grape that most often receives scorn in the New Age of wine connoisseurs is aged in oak barrels to promote long-life.

    You doubt that Gamay Noir can develop into something as sophisticated as the great Pinot Noirs  of Burgundy? The proof, as always, is in the glass my friends.

2011 Domaine de la Sionniere , Romaneche-Thorins, Moulin-a-Vent
12 Euro (FRA)
20 pounds (ENG)
$25+ USA (Kermit-Lynch wine merchants)
$20+ CAD (Opimian Society
 90 Points

varietal:      100% Gamay Noir a jus blanc
soil:              decomposing granite and schist
vine age:     between 40 and 60 years old
vineyard:   13 HA
training:    goblet
harvesting  100% manual, hand-sorted
maturation  up to 18 months in oak barrels
  •  visual:   clear; light ruby core with cherry rim
  • nose:   clean; moderate+ to fully intense and youthful aromas of candied red berries (think strawberry compote), a hint of sous-bois or underbrush, mineral tones and a leathery finish
  • palate:  clean; dry, moderate red currant acids, moderate+ to full chalky tannins, light body, moderate abv (13%), moderate+ concentration of youthful flavors; explosion of youthful currants, strong mineral undertones and the recent barrel aging is still unruly. Very good balance and structure with medium+ length
  • conclusion:   whilst a great wine, this is also terribly immature and so I may or may not being giving justice to the review... best consumed 2015-2021+
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:     a perky little wine for a friendly summer day, take this lightly chilled on your next picnic with charcuterie, soft cheese and fresh bread... 

a summer day i n Romaneche-Thorins
   Most of my faithful readership know that I've been singing the praises of northern Beaujolais wines for most of the year. I have found that dollar-for-dollar, the wines from this region are truly competitive on a global level and I am hard-pressed to find their equal anywhere. Domaine de la Sionniere is a fine example; true enough this may be a fairly simple wine right now, but on a Sunday afternoon with your girl and a bit of sunshine, that may be just what the doctor ordered!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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