November 25, 2011 Domaine du Vissoux / Pierre-Marie Chermette
Domaine du Vissoux / Pierre-Marie Chermette Fleurie Poncié
Beaujolais — it would seem no French wine region has suffered more from a market strategy that’s lost its lustre. Even a few years ago these latter days of November were marked by the much publicized arrival of ‘Beaujolais Nouveaux’, wine barely off the vine and mercilessly hyped for immediate drinking. It was once all the rage, so much so that for many people Beaujolais is synonymous with characterless, rough but ready Nouveaux. So much so they fail to realize that the region is home to some very fine, terroir-driven wines, at exceptionally good prices.
At the upper echelon of such independent producers is Domaine du Vissoux, its wines sometimes marketed under the names of the domaine’s owners, Martine et Pierre-Marie Chermette. The operation is centred in the southern reaches of Beaujolais, but the Chermettes also have holdings in the higher-status, northern crus such as Fleurie and Moulin à Vent. Here they hold about 10 hectares (the domaine’s total is 30). The soil of the Poncié plot in Fleurie is composed of pink granite, rich in mica and quartz. The 35-year old gamay vines are on a relatively steep incline, 250-300 metres above sea level, the Saône River plain stretching into the distance.
Because of the gradient the vines are worked by hand. Organic guidelines have taken hold and vinification uses natural yeasts only (no banana-flavoured Beaujolais here!). No chaptalisation, minimal intervention. It matures for six months in large old oak tuns (when Pierre-Marie is willing to vacate the premises).
Pierre-Marie Chermette took over the family estate from his father in 1982. He was just 22, a fresh graduate in oenology from the Université du Bourgogne in Dijon. His father had traditionally sold the wine in bulk, but Pierre-Marie quickly turned to bottling his own. Even with the Beaujolais Nouveau craze at its height, he veered in the direction of traditional Beaujolais winemaking. He introduced a Burgundy bottle and set about to reshape the estate. In 1990 his wife Martine left her job at a major laboratory of homeopathic medicines to work full time as director of sales for the winery. The domaine’s reputation has grown with each passing year.
2009 has turned out to be an exceptionally good vintage in Beaujolais, the best for several years. Those in the know have bought the Chermette wines by the case. I have only this one much-anticipated bottle.
Domaine du Vissoux Fleurie Poncié 2009
Brilliant dark cherry red in the glass. A vibrant, earthy, fresh fruit nose with considerable depth. Acidic freshness on the palate, with pleasantly smooth tannins. A young sophisticate out to impress in the short term, but with long term potential. Drinks very well solo, but I could see it charming a variety of savoury tarts. Leaves this drinker with a whole new appreciation of Beaujolais. $
And the only thing nouveaux in the photo is the snow.