Tasted in Vauxrenard with Yvon Metras, 23 February 2017.
Domaine Yvon Metras
Tel: +33 4 74 60 03 47
Vauxrenard seems in a mini ‘land that time forgot’ in the hills above and behind Fleurie – though it’s only 5 or 6 minutes from Fleurie centre. Yvon was just back from a sales trip in Japan – I found him a super-engaging character and somebody with such knowledge of the well-known producers of Beaujolais – though it starts differently: “You’re who? You’re dong what?” But 90 minutes later I’m struggling not to be too late for my next appointment – and we’ve only tasted three wines!
I asked Yvon about his location – “It’s a little paradise on the hills. The domaine is complicated, the domaine is not really here. I bought this place 5-6 years ago, previously the family were in Fleurie, and also in Romanèche-Thorins, I still vinify in Fleurie, here is a little elevage and sales. Bizes is an old French name for wind – and it can be violent up here – but here you can also breathe well. I think many terrains up here were abandoned as people looked for flatter areas which can be mechanised.
“The vines here are classed Beaujolais Villages. I use no chemicals, but there’s no certification as I’ve no time for the paperwork and controls – the work is part bio, part biodynamic. I’m replanting some parcels here which were en-friche. Last year we were hailed here – Fleurie is just the other side of the hill. My son, Jules, is also working a hectare here in bio. We have a couple of Fleuries, some Moulin à Vent, a hectare in Lancié and also Beaujeux. I’ve 5 hectares and Jules now has 3.
“We also have sheep, pigs, chickens – it’s old style – it was just like this 50 years ago!”
The house probably dates from the middle-ages – the cellar is quite large and used for some elevage, but there was not enough wine in 2016 so none is currently here – Yvon comments on 2016: “2016 was looking like it would bring a good volume but because of the hail we lost close to 70% – Grille-Midi completely – Jules made virtually no wine, the hail hit 15 km away in Beaujeux and took the line directly here and then onto Fleurie.”
And 2015? “2015 was a bit of a misery in terms of the dryness and the low volume it brought – about half a harvest – about 20 hl/ha, though I suppose we never make 40, perhaps once or twice such as 2011. I don’t always say keep Beaujolais but I think that 2015 really merits it, I think it’s a super vintage.”
In the shed is the tractor bought by Yvon’s father in 1963 – they also use a small plough that can be pulled by cable up the hill, pulled by the back of the tractor – Swiss-style.
“I vinify in the manner of Jules Chauvet, from old research, I use just a little sulfur for some cuvées, but for others not in 2015. There’s no destemming, no grills – actually I did use a grill to start with – maybe 30 years ago to test what I thought was best – I was persuaded that I could do better without it. It took a while, but now I find it relatively easy to produce a wine without sulfur. I think the blend of the practical that I learned from Marcel Lapierre and the scientific that I learned from Chauvet, is what was needed to take this route.”
A certain ‘reset’ is needed when tasting, as these wines are not the same as at other domaines, yet there remains a brilliant purity of style. And purity is rarely a word used for wines that see no sulfur! It seems to me that all these wines demand opening and keeping for an hour or so, or even decanting – these babies, anyway!
Vines on the hill – 500 metres – the highest of domaine, declassified from appellation Fleurie many years ago. I’m very happy with this magic parcel, the vines are 25 years-old. I really have a lot of hope for these vines.
Deep red fruit, perhaps a little texture and a suggestion of gas. Slowly adding more and more depth of aroma. A beautiful texture, fine depth of flavour with a little point of tannin. Really a nice mineral edge to the finishing flavour and lots and lots of finishing flavour dimension. Really not your average Beaujolais! And the last drops in the glass do have a very nice acid-cherry purity…
Above the windmill, almost in Champs Cours – bit hailed in 16 so only 5 hl/ha for that vintage.
More depth and complexity, a subtle floral aspect to the nose. Ooh that’s very silky, layered flavour, and a super length to the flavour too. There’s a bright light to the flavour here that’s different to the majority of wines I taste, and it holds true right through the finish too – super long. A wine that makes me think! Floral accents to the finishing flavour. Like the last, I’m happy I had the time to see the last drops on the glass, because the aroma is beautiful.
A bigger and deeper nose, less clarity here at the start – slowly opening, slowly becoming more floral. Again a very silky palate just a hint of textural richness, freshness of-course, a little rasp of tannin but very fine-grained. Really wide and complex, and it just keeps changing and changing. Less overtly long as the MAV but with more finishing volume of flavour. Again the last drops in the glass are a beautiful thing.