Tasted in Salles-Arbuissonnas en Beaujolais(!) with Franck Large, 07 February 2018.
Domaine du Breuil
Rue du Breuil
69460 Salles-Arbuissonnas en Beaujolais
Tel: +33 4 74 60 51 00
I hadn’t visited Salles-Arbuissonnas-en-Beaujolais before (what a mouthful!) – maybe the length of the name was to blame! Clearly that was a mistake, because not only is there (at least) one great producer, this beautifully kept village is also home to the Chapitre de Salles – a well-preserved Cluniac dependence – and worth a visit in the summer.
I sat with Franck in his modestly proportioned but cosy cellar – apparently built in the 1700s. Franck confirms that this is an old family domaine, though the family were long-time metayeurs, so the domaine was only created in 1987. The produce was sold to the coop, but Franck’s parents retired in 1993 which is when he took on the domaine. “Since 2000 we have been selling from the domaine, I bought the vines from the owners (they were on metayage) in 2001.”
Franck explains “Essentially it’s Beaujolais Villages here, and since last year I can add the name of the commune too. I also have some white, rosé and bubbles here – and some natural wine – there’s also a hint of Brouilly that comes from my grandmother’s side.”
Franck identifies with a group called Terra-Vitis, working the vines in a combination of bio and other methods that they deem reasonable; “‘Chemical’ is not automatically bad, but dosage is important. Biodiversity in the vines is equally important, we need to have some competition between the insects in the vineyards…”
The domaine’s wines are mainly sold in France, the UK has bought a little Nouveau. 25% of his production is sold in bottle – the négoce buys the rest – mainly Duboeuf, Piron and Loron…
Franck on 2017:
“The 2017 harvest was at the start of September – we had a great summer but had to be patient because the grapes didn’t develop colour due to the dryness, but eventually rain came – about 30mm – it was just what we needed. Here was about 35 hl/ha – so about 40% less than normal. But it’s only a small vintage from the perspective of quantity!”
Franck on 2016:
“2016 was quite a difficult vintage and very wet in the first half of the year. Like in 2017 it was necessary to wait – it’s the first time I stopped a harvest and waited another week, well into October, but it was worth it. We experienced no hail or frost and it was a quite good yield – with terra-vitis we have to estimate our crop quite early which gives us the time/opportunity to make a green harvest if required.”
Such a great range of BJV – this was a great find – look-out for the wines.
2016 Beaujolais Blanc
Schist soils with stones and clay – a good metre of soil depth. ‘More fruit less structure, I harvest really late and that’s why there is fruit and no rigour. If I waited longer the grapes would probably start to rot!’
Fruity, perfumed wine. Mouth-filling, nice depth, a little grapy, well-textured and long. Very tasty wine!
This all tank elevage.
Again really quite a perfumed nose. Really mouth filling too and with seriously fine texture – depth of flavour almost a suggestion of caramel. Seriously super wine – €5.20 is practically a joke!
Bottled 10 days earlier. I say the name isn’t easy for an English speaker – Franck jokes ‘It’s not easy for the French either!’
Also very perfumed. A little more direct but also more overtly concentrated with layers of flavour – a little perfume in the flavour too. The 16 is more enveloping today but this has a little more drive – it will only get better as it ‘recovers’ from the bottling – mineral and mouth-watering in the finish – excellent!
2016 Beaujolais Villages Cuvée du Chapitre
A single parcel 1.5 ha – 9 months in barrels ex Guigal used for whites – then racked into tank – it’s just bottled. From below the abbaye, more clay here and more structure – ‘it was always a little hard in the first winter but improved in the spring so I decided to try to tame it a little with some barrels.’
Like all the previous wines there is some perfume here but in this case with a little vanilla impression. Ooh – great line, freshness and energy – the structure is present but beautifully textured. Far too much vanilla in the finish today – but the wine isn’t for today – I’d wait 4-5 years for this but it’s really complex and excellent wine.
2014 Beaujolais Villages
Pretty and freshly perfumed again – more open, a little less innate density. Ooh – high-toned fruit, fine width, and again with beautiful texture – only towards the end of the palate a little texture of tannin – relaxed, open but slightly mineral-inflected flavours. Delicious!
1998 Beaujolais Villages
‘A vintage which made excellent nouveau but wasn’t a vintage for long keeping’
Nice depth, some flowers and a very subtle oxidation – red fruits still. Round, nicely fresh, still a baseline of tannin – less impact vs previous wines and with a hint of Marsala in the melting mid-palate flavours – open, easy, tasty and still a treat!