Dulwich Wine Society

Beaujolais Mâconnais Visit - Easter 2005

After an excursion into Spain in 2004 this April saw the Society once more in France, this time in the Mâconnais/Beaujolais region. Twenty seven members and partners travelled by car, plane and train to our headquarters hotel Le Villon in Villié-Morgon. The event started, as usual, with a sparkling wine reception at the hotel. This was a happy and sad occasion. It was John and Barbara Howard’s 48th wedding anniversary and John supplemented the wine so that we could drink their health. John and Barbara

The sadness came when it was announced that Bob Price, an ever-present on previous tours had died the previous night.

The reception was followed by a gargantuan meal of regional specialities, accompanied by a good white Mâcon and some excellent Morgon reds.

Our coach arrived on time the next morning and our excellent Portuguese driver negotiated the Macon rush hour to get us (a little late) to our first tasting to the Domaine de Chazelles, where we were greeted by Monsieur Jean Noël Challand, the vigneron playing his accordian It was an interesting visit, since on the same site is the Domaine de Ste. Barbe, run by the son, Jean Marie, whose operation is Biodynamic.
The wines are all Pouilly-Vinzelles from 10 hectares in various locations in the appellation. The tasting was accompanied not only by lively accordian music, but also by excellent charcuterie and Gougères. Madame Challand has put together a small museum of wine and agriculture which added to a most entertaining visit. A great deal of wine was purchased!
After a lunch stop in Mâcon there was a contrasting visit to the Caves de Lugny , a large and impressive co-operative making large quantities of very commercial wines. The Cremant de Bourgogne was especially good. Fortified by that and some still Mâcon-Lugny and small local cheeses the party left with some wine and with souvenir tasting glasses.
April the First was fine and bright and the first stop was at the Château de Lavernette , an estate once owned by the monks of Tournus, but in 1596 the land and mansion of Lavernette became the Manor of Lavernette and it has remained in the same family, he Boissieu family. Bertrand and Anke Boissieu are the twelfth generation of winemakers there (and their son is now a very active member of the team. The estate sits astride Leynes and Chaintré, where the Mâconnais and Beaujolais regions meet.
They make an excellent white Beaujolais, and Beaujolais-Leynes, and a Beaujolais-Villages, both equal to any Cru Beaujolais. From their Mâcon holdings they produce a very good Pouilly-Fuissé and a Cremant. An addition to the comprehensive tasting was a “Cuvée d’Avril” especially for April 1st. Tasted in a dark cellar good French tap water fooled more than one experienced taster!
The lunch break on this day was in Belleville-Sur-Saone from whence we went to Odenas and Claude Geoffray’s Chateau Thivin . Thivin is part of the Côte de Brouilly appellation. The wines are exceptional, particularly the “Cuvée Zacharie”, named after monsieur Geoffray’s ancestor, who bought the estate in 1877. A full, rich Beaujolais, matured in oak casks it give the lie to those who think that Beaujolais is a somewhat frivolous wine.
Monsieur Geoffray gave an interesting run down of the wine year, and almost everyone enjoyed the sunshine in the vineyard where he explained his methods of viticulture. Most, that is, except for one of the organisers who stepped back into a small trench and demonstrated the art of the spectacular fall.
The Saturday was left as free time, except for a visit to the Maison du Vin in Villié-Morgon, for an interesting video and a brief tasting. The party divided; some going to Georges Dubouef’s “Hameau du Vin ”, some to Macon, some to Cluny, and others to wine villages left out of the tour.
The final evening was spent at the Chateau de Pierreclos , an almost fairytale castle, dating over eight centuries, high on a hill near the Rocher de Solutré. The dynamic, enthusiastic (some would say eccentric) chatelaine, Madame Pidault gave a wonderful guided tour.
There was a splendid mediaeval kitchen, a guardroom and a unique spiral staircase. After a tasting of the château’s wines – and wonderful cassis- in the twelfth century cellars it was upstairs to a candle-lit dinner in an elegant, if faded, eighteenth century salon. This was accompanied, of course, by the wines of Pierreclos.
The coach journey back to Le Villon could be described as cheerful.