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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Domaine des Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc

France (Beaujolais)

chardonnay

[no website]

The bottle seemed entirely appropriate for the “terres dorées” of western Newfoundland, the Tablelands of Gros Morne National Park.

Stacked up against what some would call “industrial” wine, there was just no contest. The other glass I held in my hand — a new world, manipulated, over-oaked chardonnay — came in a very, very distant second.

Yet, the chardonnay of Domaine des Terres Dorées is hardly a blockbuster. It doesn’t bombard your palate to get attention. It is richly subtle, charming, but understated. In short, a naturally honest wine, appealing in all its dimensions.

On top of that, it is a chardonnay from Beaujolais, a wine region that is not exactly a magnet for connoisseurs of white wine. Nor, for that matter, red, bearing a reputation tarnished by the questionable phenomenon of “Beaujolais nouveau”.

If there is a winemaker who would cause you to rethink Beaujolais it is Jean-Paul Brun. His vines are found mostly in the limestone soils outside the southern village of Charnay. (The region’s preponderance of golden stones gave rise to the name.) He began in 1979 with just four hectares, on soils that had for the most part been given over to mixed farming. Today there is a total of 45 hectares, mostly for the production of white wines, but with vineyards in the granite soils of several of the red Beaujolais grand crus.

Brun’s style of winemaking could rightfully be called Burgundian. Rather than the Beaujolais tradition of whole cluster semi-carbonic maceration, Brun has gone the route of using sorting tables, hand-picking the clusters, then de-stemming. This is followed by 4-6 weeks in vats with pigeage (punching down the cap). The wine is generally aged in cement vats and barrels. Brun’s approach differs in other ways. Fermentation with only indigenous yeasts. Minimal chaptalization (adding sugar to raise the alcohol level). Minimal addition of sulphur, minimal filtration. His object, in his own words, is “to make wines that you can drink and appreciate easily, but also that can pair well with a full meal or that you can keep and age in a cellar.”

Modest ambition, but leading to exceptionally appealing organic wines. Wines that express what Beaujolais can be when nature and terroir take precedence.

Domaine des Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc 2010

Golden light in the glass, and for the nose a quiet concentrate of floral and citrus aromas. Light and crisp on the palate, but with an acidic liveliness. A very pleasurable wine that sings with all the right notes. Value plus. $

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