Nicolas Chemarin

Beaujolais Villages
Nicolas Chemarin

Nicolas Chemarin farms 5 hectares of land in the village of Marchampt and a few small plots in Brouilly, Regnié and Morgon. Marchampt is a tiny village secluded in the forested hills of western Beaujolais just past Quincié-en-Beaujolais, on the edge of the Massif Central. Nicolas is the fourth generation to farm the family property and the only male of his generation to stay in the village, a fact that has earned him the nickname “Petit Grobis” a local term of endearment having to do with small hollows in trees used by owls. It was Nicolas’ father, Lucien, who first moved the family farm away from polyculture to concentrate his activities on his vineyards and wine production.

Beaujolais Villages "P'tit Grobis"

The Beaujolais-Villages vineyard in Marchampt is truly something to behold. The extremely steep slopes range from a 25% to 55% grade at an altitude of between 400 and 500 meters. The vines are head pruned, “gobelet,” and are planted at a density of 8,000 plants per hectare. Their average age is 40 years. The vinification is whole cluster, using indigenous yeasts, and done without SO2. The maceration lasts 15 days after which the wine is matured on its fine lees until the spring. No sulfur is used during the entire process until just before bottling when a minimal dose is introduced.

Brouilly “Saburin”

The Saburin vineyard is one of the nine “lieu-dits” in Brouilly. It is located on the slopes of a south facing hill between Odenas and Quincié-en-Beaujolais. Nicolas’ parcel is at an altitude of 350 meters and faces south/south-east. The terrain is quite steep, and the predominant soil is pink granite. The vines are densely planted and pruned in the “gobelet” style. The vinification is whole cluster, using indigenous yeasts, and is done without SO2. The maceration lasts 15 days after which the wine is matured on its fine lees until the spring. Before bottling, which is done with the waning moon, a small dose of SO2 is added. The wine is un-filtered.

Régnié "Haute Ronze"

Nicolas Chemarin farms .43 hectares in Regnié, all in the “lieu dit” of Haute Ronze. The Haute Ronze vineyard stretches along a gently sloping hill at an elevation of 400 meters. The predominate soil is a fine, pink granite called “granite rose”. Nicolas’ plot has an average age of 45 years and is densely planted with 10,000 vines per hectare in the “gobelet” style. The grape bunches are hand harvested and the entire bunch is dropped into a cement tank for fermentation at low temperatures using indigenous yeasts. Maceration extends for 15 to 25 days after which time the wine is pressed and then matured for 9 months in 4- to-10 year old Burgundy barrels. The wine is neither fined nor filtered and SO2 (20mg/l) is added only before bottling. Nicolas recommends “carafing” the wine for a good half hour before serving.

Beaujolais Villages “Primeur” (1er Jus)

Normally selected from the young parcels on the slopes of Marchampt, Nicolas makes a full bodied “nouveau” with 12 days of maceration in cement vats. As with his other wines, indigenous yeasts are used and there is no heating of the vats. No sulfur is used during the entire process until just before bottling when a minimal dose (20g/l) is introduced.

Region: Beaujolais

Our exploration of French vineyards has often been guided by the study of soils and it was while investigating the wines of Côtes du Forez and Côte Roannaise in the Auvergne that I realized the vineyards of the Cru Beaujolais covered an area that is an extension of the same Massif Central. Our first visit to this geological outgrowth focused on the northern most crus of Julienas and Saint Amour. It was apparent from the start, by simply taking in the idyllic landscape and observing the small gnarly trunks, densely planted and “back-breakingly” low to the ground, that this region could produce some special wines...

Beaujolais takes its name from the region’s early capital and strategically placed town of Beaujeu. The first official record of vineyards in Beaujolais dates from 957 when the Seigneur of Beaujeu purchased vineyards in Morgon. It is more than likely, however, that with the important Roman metropolis of Lyons so close by, the Romans had planted vineyards in Beaujolais long before. Until recently, the red wines of Beaujolais were divided into four classifications: Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, Cru Beaujolais, and Beaujolais Nouveau, with Gamay being the only authorized grape. In 2011 a new AOC was created called Coteaux Bourguignons which includes vineyards in both Burgundy and Beaujolais and among other things, authorizes Pinot Noir to be grown in Beaujolais. There is also a small production of white wine which is classified as Beaujolais/Beaujolais Villages and made with Chardonnay or as Coteaux Bourguignons which permits a small percentage of other varieties to be blended with Chardonnay.

Beaujolais wines offer a unique combination of characteristics. Generally, the wines are very satisfying, enticingly aromatic and fruity with soft tannins and enough acidity to leave the palate refreshed. In contrast to their northern neighbor, Burgundy, Beaujolais wines are earthy rather than ephemeral. Like the Pinot Noir in Burgundy, the Gamay variety is intriguingly transparent as it expresses itself across the many Beaujolais terroirs. The key variables are much the same as those in Burgundy: soil composition, elevation, slope of the vineyard, and exposition. The style of winemaking reflects the vinification options of carbonic maceration, semi-carbonic and “classic”. Equally important is the quality of extraction as influenced by the length of maceration and the temperature of fermentation. And then there is the choice between selected and indigenous yeast and the quantity of SO2 added. The native of Beaujolais, Jules Chauvet, is credited with igniting the movement known now as “natural” wine. The ideas were practiced by a small group of his colleagues and have significantly influenced the younger generation of Beaujolais winemakers.

When we began importing Beaujolais in 2001, the marketplace was dominated by Georges DuBoeuf and other negociants and wines from independent producers were difficult to find. The last two decades has spawned a new generation of wine producers who sense the remarkable potential of their terroirs and are willing to do the hard work of farming the land, producing their wine and finding a clientele. In the U.S., the wines of Beaujolais have been too frequently associated with Beaujolais Nouveau. In contrast, our portfolio celebrates the variety of expression in Beaujolais and dispels the perception that all Beaujolais sing the same song. Finally, the wines of Beaujolais are remarkably versatile in terms of their ability to be paired with food; something long understood in Lyons where Beaujolais perfectly pairs with coq au vin, poached eggs and lardon, pâte and cornichon, grilled or cured sausages, steak and potatoes. Beaujolais and “frites” – now that’s some comfort.