Beaujolais adventures (3) Domaine Les Garçons, an exciting newcomer

This is a very exciting new project in Beaujolais. First vintage of this domaine was 2020, and it is run by Loic Crispin and Fabien Pinguet. They have 7 hectares of vines in all, but still sell around half their grapes to create cashflow. We met in their main plot, which is in Beaujolais-Villages in the village of Charentays. As well as farming biodynamically, they are also beginning with agroforestry, planting trees in the vineyard. Their new vines, planted 2 years ago, are from a massale selection done at a nursery in Savoie.

Loic Crispin and Fabien Pinguet

The agroforestry involves 18 different types of trees. They are mostly planted to improve vineyard biodiversity, but they will also provide some shade. They have already noticed more animal life in plots with the trees. The animals are welcome, even if they might eat a bit of the vine growth – they won’t take too much and the vines grow back. There have been no wild boars so far: these wouldn’t be welcomed. Both Loic and Fabien have a very strong connection with the vineyards. If they do tractor work, it is with the older tractors as these are lighter, and they are planning to implement more cover crops rather than tilling the soil all the time.

The project began with vines from Loic’s family, and in 2020 the debut release was 1400 bottles of Beaujolais Villages and Brouilly. These sold pretty quickly, and in 2021 they bought 4 hectares of vines in Beaujolais Villages, as well as purchasing some Chardonnay. They upped production to 15 000 bottles. They made just 533 bottles of the Chardonnay and have just 30 left. They’ve had nice orders from SAQ in Canada and 67 Pall Mall in London.

Loic thinks that the Demeter label has helped a lot with sales, as has the fact that some of their vinifications are with longer macerations, and this has intrigued buyers. Most people just do 8-10 days he says. They are thinking of buying a cellar that’s energy smart: currently the wines are made at Loic’s parents, and the wines are stored at his grandparents.

The labels are made from cherry wood, which is pretty distinctive!

We had a chat about the price of grapes. These are sold in the region by the hectolitre, so to do the sums in a way that corresponds with price per tonne, the formula is that 135 kg makes 1 hl (100 litres). Conventional grapes typically sell for €1850 a tonne, while Demeter-certified biodynamic grapes sell for €3700 per tonne. They initially felt guilty selling their grapes for this price, but Loic says that working 7 hectares with just two people, including replanting, is a lot of work. And they are probably the only ones selling biodynamic grapes.

Fabien is from Savoie. He initially didn’t believe in Beaujolais, but when he moved to the region he gradually got more into wine and ended up doing an internship with Thibault Ligier-Belair.

Domaine Les Garçons Beaujolais Blanc 2022 France
13% alcohol. Lovely intensity here with a strong mineral edge to the sweet pear and citrus fruit. Stony and mineral with some chalky notes. So fine grained and delicious. 94/100

Domaine Les Garçons Beaujolais Villages 2022 France
12.5% alcohol. From the Garanche lieu dit, east facing. Organic/biodynamic, from a 2.75 hectare plot, 45 year old vines. 6 day carbonic maceration with no additions, then aged 4 months in stainless steel. This is beautiful: juicy and vivid with good acidity and a bit of crunchy structure, showing pure, joyful raspberries and cherries, with some dried herb complexity. Fine and focused with a lovely juiciness and drinkability. Lovely vitality here. 93/100

Domaine Les Garçons Brouilly 2021 Beaujolais, France
13% alcohol. From the La Valette and La Pillonière lieux dits, average age 38 years. 75% whole bunch, 15 days of vatting, no inputs. Aged in a mix of stainless steel and old oak. Some sappy green hints on the nose, as well as a touch of nice reduction, with pure, lively redcurrant and raspberry fruit. The palate is really lively with a stony mineral edge to the incisive cherry and berry fruits, showing good acidity and nice fine-grained structure. There’s a lovely balance, with pure fruit but also some vitality. So alive, and the reduction works well here. 94/100

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