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Beaujolais-Lantignié may have existed as an AOC since the 1930s, but for a long time its 110 hectares of vines have been more anonymously labelled as Beaujolais-Villages – and there are 6,475 hectares of that – but that’s slowly starting to change.
Click on the map of Beaujolais-Lantignié and you may see that it has two faces – on its western side are bluestone soils like those of the Côte de Brouilly or the Côte du Py, on the eastern side it is granitic sand and rosé-coloured granite – here it is very similar to Chiroubles. The producers think these two different faces of Lantignié so important and the wines that they produce so distinctive, that they working hard to fully differentiate themselves from the generic label of Beaujolais-Villages.
The case for Beaujolais-Lantignié
I spoke about Beaujolais-Lantignié with Cosima Bassouls & Frédéric Berne (right), makers of some of the most interesting 2018s from my Beaujolais-Lantignié tasting…
Cosima Bassouls – Château des Vergers
They have been making wine at this château since 1605 – the same family for 400 years – that was until the estate was bought by Cosima’s family in 2002. Cosima decided to take on the domaine after training in agronomy; her first vintage here was in 2018 and from her first steps she has been working with organic certification in mind. “I’ve been helped by the work and more environmental approach of Frédéric who has been making wine here for a few years having taken on some of the family vines under metayage.”
Cosima is working around 6 hectares of vines and has young vines trained in the Burgundian style – but with wide gaps between the rows ‘biodiversity is an important factor for me‘ – but she also has older goblet-pruned vines where she is also encouraging the wild flora and fauna with just twice a year ploughing. “Here there is much on bluestone, some alluvial sections and a parcel that’s high up too. The white is on bluestone, planted 2006-2007, but there’s a band of clay and limestone at the base of the hills too.” Not everything is commercialised just yet as it’s early in the life of the domaine, but all the parts that are in organic conversion see separate elevage and are retained for bottling. Nothing is exported yet but her sales growing well in France.
Domaine Frédéric Berne
Frédéric runs a larger estate of nearly 15 hectares but hasn’t been established under his own name for much longer than Cosima – 2014 – working not just some of the estate of the Château des Vergers, but also working from the château too. Frédéric also produces wines from the crus, but it seems that his heart is here in Lantignié, now also working together with his brother, Cedric. The approach in the vines is organic, often biodynamic and when I ask if he does any destemming he laughs and says “Maybe if there’s been a little hail, but otherwise only if I haven’t done a good job with the grapes!”
Although it’s Cosima and Frédéric here who are stating the case for Beaujolais-Lantignié, they are keen to emphasise “It’s a great collective of producers here in Lantignié – we share a lot – it’s an impressive cohesion, and it’s not just the young winemakers. It’s particularly encouraging that we are not just an island of organic production in the middle of conventionally treated vines, we are all trying to have a similar approach. For us, Lantignié is the hidden terroir of Beaujolais.”
The growers have been preparing a dossier for the INAO, not looking for promotion to crus Beaujolais and not looking to establish the AOC Beaujolais-Lantignie – because it already exists. They explain “In the end, it’s not about creating a new appellation, it’s been there since 1936, but we want to properly document what there is and the certification behind it and for instance tightening the yields from 58 hl/ha – the maximum for Beaujolais-Villages – to 50 for Beaujolais-Lantignié. We also consider the privileging indigenous yeasts, limiting the amount of sulfur used and encouraging vignerons to limit the use of thermo-vinification – it’s not about banning, just ‘limiting’ – it would be symbolic – like moving from December to March the possibility to commercialise the wines of this appellation, and, of course, trying to avoid the use of low prices as the main tool to sell the wines.
“When we speak more generally about Beaujolais-Lantignié we don’t all have the same slope in our vines, or even the same kind of rock below the soil, we all have different challenges but we want to be a little more resilient: Things like 2-metre-gaps to allow both ploughing and biodiversity. If you take away the trees you lose the organic material and then you lose the life in the soil. There were too many excuses for doing it the old way, adding some fertiliser is not the same as already having more organic material in the soil. We are not alone in pushing for these things – we have close connections to Fleurie & Chiroubles, and you also see Beaujolais-Quincié on labels too these days.
“It’s not just about the new generations, we learned a lot from some of the more experienced vignerons too. In the end, it’s about telling our story, of what we have and the terroirs that we have and increasing the confidence of the vignerons and both buyers and sellers having value. Helping us tell this story, we will son have online a website dedicated to the appellation and producers of Lantignié – probably launching after the harvest – but most of the work is already done, we just need some portraits of the vignerons – perhaps about 15 of them. It’s another opportunity for us to speaking about our terroir. The idea isn’t just to do our own thing but also create the links to allow, to enable, others to do the same.”
I come back to my favourite word for this article and my tasting of the 2018 AOC Beaujolais-Lantignié – ambition. The wines already show it – and I’ve already ordered some!
The vigneron(ne)s have their 5-year plan to provide ‘as big and thick a dossier as we can make it‘ to the INAO in 2023 and they are already considering their collective brand with the plan to show more of a presence as a group, by offering masterclasses or taking-part in salons – “And not just in Beaujolais – why not New York too?!“