Inside the bottle: When tasted in Jean-Louis' range of wines, it is hard not to feel like this could be from Burgundy's famous Côte de Nuits. It may be the most complex and profound wine he makes but also one of the slowest wines to evolve, in the glass. Sometimes, it is easy to overlook it amongst its brothers and sisters who give without reservation only ten minutes after opening. Perhaps it’s the deeper soil and root systems of these older vines that endows this wine with acidity similar to Pinot Noir. The nose has tension with fresh orange fruits of persimmon and kumquat. Dried roses and purple flowers with sappy fresh, wild red fruits slowly emerge for the patient drinker. This wine is a knockout.
All of Jean-Louis’ wines are made with whole clusters, zero extraction and natural fermentations. They are made from a combination of nearly perfect farming and zen-like observation. The elevage of this wine is 100% in futs de chene (barrel.)
Terroir: Like the “Clos de la Grand Coeur” bottling, these vines are situated on this small plateau, in Fleurie. These old vines, which are well over 60 years of age, are scattered throughout the vineyard in various spots but most are on a deeper soil base than the rest of the vines that go into his larger cuvée labeled as “Clos de la Grand Coeur.” The soil is very dry sand principally made from decomposed granite.
It’s never too late for a renaissance. Nearing the age of 60, Jean-Louis Dutraive has done just that. After prying him for what has happened over the last five years, there seems to be no other answer outside of pure inspiration and enlightenment. You get the feeling it was always there but has just emerged over the last years. This extremely humble and hard-working vigneron has unintentionally become (for me) an iconoclastic vigneron within Beaujolais. He has found his own unique style of winemaking and has pushed his wines to a place that knows no equal. He has abandoned conventional farming in favor of organic many years ago and has become at one with his vines and his wines. He has come to realize and practice that with near perfect work in the vineyard of a great terroir, one must observe more and react less.
Lay of the Land
Fleurie is perhaps one of Beaujolais’ most elegant appellations. It, like the other crus of Beaujolais, is scrunched up in the north half of Beaujolais and are dominated by more the more complex soils: schist and granite. At Jean-Louis’ Fleurie vines, the soil is granite; the exception being the Brouilly, which is on limestone. The vineyards in Fleurie are spread out with quite a different elevation between 250-500 meters. The vines of Dutraive are just a short walk from the town center, which sits around 300 meters.
The climate of Beaujolais is semi-continental and is warmer than the rest of Burgundy. In fact, it is one of the warmest places in France during the summer months. Thankfully, they are the eastern foothills of the Massif Central which helps the vineyards cool down at night following hot days.