- Saint-Amour, Beaujolais, France
In 2013, Gregory Barbet was looking for a house in Beaujolais. Gregory's father, Xavier Barbet, helped with the search and called Gregory one day, saying that he found a beautiful house in Saint-Amour and that he should take a look. There was a catch: the house included a winery that was originally founded in the 1600's and fifteen hectares of vines, all in Saint-Amour. Gregory admits that knowing the amount of work that the winery and vineyards would require, he was a bit intimidated by the project, but in the end, the opportunity was too good to pass up. The family who previously owned Domaine de la Pirolette lived in Lyon and used to sell the wine in bulk. It was a special opportunity for Barbet because the vineyards are in choice parcels on the top of the hill, with little topsoil and the average vine age is 65 years-old. It's also an old winery, that needed work, but a beautiful space to make wine.
Saint-Amour, although it is one of the smallest crus in Beaujolais, has the most diverse terroir. You find blue volcanic schist, granite, pink granite, clay, alluvial fans, and also sandstone from the time that Burgundy was under water. Pirolette has twelve different parcels in three main soil types. Barbet quickly took to converting the vineyards to organic viticulture, not using any herbicides, and in 2019, the vineyards are certified HVE or Haute Valeur Environmentale. They have big parcels in each soil type, so they are lucky to be able to vinify nearly everything by parcel. Some parcels are located on pink granite, which is typically found in Fleurie or Brouilly. This terroir gives wines with fruit and energy. Some parcels are located on blue volcanic soils, similar to the Côte du Py or Côte de Brouilly. Blue volcanic soil gives powerful wines. And some parcels are located on clay with flint which gives peppery notes to the wines.
Winemaking is traditional. The wines are fermented in cement with 50% whole cluster and are very gently extracted using the chapeau grillé method, which simply means keeping the cap submerged with a grate, infusing the skins with the fermenting juice. (Think of this like steeping tea, with the bag in the hot water, letting the flavor come out naturally, versus squeezing the bag, which will make your tea more tannic, the equivalent of punching down in wine.) After fermentation, the classic wine is aged for nine months in stainless steel. Eventually, they are hoping to purchase some large foudres for aging. To eccentuate the special terroirs of Saint-Amour, Barbet is bottling two very special and limited production single-vineyard wines from two parcels, La Poulette and Le Carjot, which are aged in cement eggs and barrels. Each wines has great purity of fruit and really showcases the diverse terroir of Saint-Amour.