Beaujolais

The work done in the Beaujolais vineyards all year long is very labour-intensive due to the high density of the plantations, the steep sloping vineyards and the pruning method used. The harvest is all done by hand by almost 35,000 harvesters who come to the region every year for between 15 to 20 days. The aim is to protect this fragile varietal by handling it with the utmost care and attention; it goes without saying therefore that harvesting machines are forbidden.
Climate and terroirThe Beaujolais region enjoys a semi-continental temperate climate characterised by hard winters (although rarely with extreme cold) and hot and dry summers. The vines face mainly south and south-east and are therefore protected from the westerly winds and enjoy prolonged sunshine from spring to autumn due to a slight Mediterranean influence. Some vineyards stand out because of their topography, altitude or highly specific soil-type; in these specific cases that we refer to "microclimates".The Beaujolais soils are rich in schist and granite. The concentration of granite is particularly dense in the northern part of the region where we find the 10 Beaujolais Crus. To the south the soil is mainly made up of clay-limestone sedimentary deposit. These are poor stony soils.There are 4 main classifications of soil:Granite and sand (primary soils) forming acidic, sandy soils which are poor in clay. These thin, filtering soils are found in the Beaujolais-Villages vineyards but also in the Chiroubles appellation.Crystalline and mineral-rich soils (iron, potassium, manganese) which give some wines a certain characteristic. The soils of the Morgon appellation are made-up of blue-green rocks rich in Manganese.Jurassic soils (secondary soils), which are stony and calcareous allowing coolness and moisture. These shallow and stony soils are present in the Beaujolais appellation. The tertiary and quaternary soils differ from those listed before because of their lack of limestone and deep clay. These soils are also found in many of the Beaujolais AOC appellations.Grape VarietiesGamay: The only varietal used for red wines in the Beaujolais is Gamay which takes its name from a small village in the Côte d'Or. This early budding varietal is characterized by its compact bunches of black-skinned, white-juiced grapes. The resulting wines are delicate, round and very fruity with an elegant bouquet. Beaujolais, land of preference for this varietal, represents 70% of all the Gamay planted in the world. There is also Gamay planted in small quantities in other regions of France like in the Loire Valley and in other countries such as Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Canada and California.
ViticultureIn the Beaujolais the plantation density is one of the highest in the world with 7,000 to 13,000 vines per hectare. The authorised yields are limited to 52hl/ha for the 10 Crus, Beaujolais-Villages and Beaujolais appellations and to 70hl /ha for white Beaujolais.In the Beaujolais the non-supported Gobelet pruning method is used. The vines are pruned short and low to the ground leaving only 3-5 arms with 8 buds per vine, the goal being to reduce the yields. Particular attention should be paid to the pruning so as to achieve greater resistance and improved longevity of the vine.The Single Guyot pruning method is used for the Chardonnay. This method consists of leaving a long fruiting cane with 8-10 buds on. This cane is known as the "baguette" on which the fruiting shoots will grow in the springtime. The other cane is known as the "courson" and has only 2 buds which will be used as the fruiting cane the following year.
Chardonnay: Only 600 hectares of Chardonnay are planted in the Beaujolais region representing less than 3% of all grapes grown in the area. To the north the vineyards lie mainly on granite and flint soils and to the south-west on clay-limestone soils, this terroir produces a Chardonnay of great finesse, revealing notes of white flowers and acacia on the nose and yellow fruits, notably mirabelle plums, in the mouth.
WinemakingAlthough there are many schools of thought on the vinification in the Beaujolais, Henry Fessy has remained faithful to the traditional method which favours the balance between the seductive fruit-forwardness and the supple tannins which guarantee good ageing capability.The harvest is done manually for all the Crus allowing the grapes to be sorted first at the vine therefore limiting damage to the fruit. If necessary, a second sorting will be carried out once the grapes have arrived at the winery. This will be accompanied by a partial de-stemming and then fermentation on the skins for approximately a week. The length of the fermentation depends considerably on the vintage. Alcoholic fermentation will then be followed systematically by the malolactic fermentation. The wines will then age in vat for between 7-10 months before being bottled the following spring.

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