09 July 2015

n.d.p. in beaujolais: jules métras, fleurie

Young Fleurie-based winemaker Jules Métras released his first wine under his own name this year, a Beaujolais-Villages sourced from two parcels, one in Lancié, the other in La Chappelle de Guinchay. The latter parcel was formerly owned by Jules Chauvet. Jules Métras vinifies the wine in his father's cellar, an anonymous-looking, un-insulated concrete structure perched amid the Fleurie climat of Grille-Midi.

He makes the wine in much the same way his father does. The fruit, harvested relatively late, is cooled down before gentle, long, cool carbonic fermentation with natural yeasts in lidded cement vat. "It took eight or nine days to start fermentation, which is pretty long. At the end of five days I was going crazy," he says. "But my dad says, 'Noooo, don't worry.' He's never worried."

We taste the wine in April, not long before bottling. The nose is deep, redolent of crushed berry, and faintly roasty, although only older barrels are used in elevage. Its black-current fruit possesses the suavity and dark florals that made his father's wine legendary. Jules Métras titled the cuvée "Bijou," a bit of local youth slang whose popularity Métras credits to his friend and fellow Beaujolais scion Kéké Descombes. "Everytime he plowed a parcel, he'd send some photos and say 'Wow, it's bijou!' Meaning it's clean, magnificent. Now when we drink great wine, it's bijou. When a pretty girl passes, she's bijou."

A sneak preview of the label design.

I first met Jules Métras on the night of Beaujolais Nouveau at La Quincave in Paris' 14ème arrondissement. His friends had been teaching me the definition of another Beaujolais slang word, "troll," which, in its narrow definition, means something like 'carpetbagger,' a latecomer to the region, insufficiently dedicated to its culture. I was telling them I was thinking about writing a book on Beaujolais. Am I a troll, I wondered? 

I suppose the jury's still out on that one. But Jules was very kind, some months later, to receive my friends and I on a windy evening the weekend before the La Beaujoloise tasting. Along with his own new cuvée, we tasted his father's 2014 wines, and it was a uniquely edifying experience hearing them curated by Jules, who helps in their production, and who seems slightly more at ease than his father with the role of de facto regional ambassador. The Métras wines are a beacon in the region, after all. In their depth, ageworthiness, and grace, they embody the region's soaring, still-largely untapped potential.  

The keen Beaujolais tout court is, unusually, sourced from the highest-altitude parcel of the village of Fleurie. (Much basic northern Beaujolais is grown on clayier soil, guyot-trained vines closer to the Saone river.) It's a parcel that was declassified from cru Fleurie to Beaujolais on account of its height. Jules reports that the vines have never undergone chemical farming, and the resultant fruit is host to a beautiful plethora of yeasts. Accordingly, it always naturally ferments the fastest, typically between 10 and 20 days. 

The Fleurie "Cuvée Le Printemps," meanwhile, is sourced from a young-vine parcel just above the cellar. This is the one Métras cuvée in which I occasionally encounter strong reduction. He observes that the vines are in a sort of adolescence, that when the vines were even younger, there was less reduction in the wine. 

The Fleurie "Vieilles Vignes," tasted from cuve, was in a transitional state, showing intense persistence, with just a hint of acetates on the nose. I have no doubt they'll disappear in the finished wine. An interesting aspect of the Métras operation is that the vineyards are very "fragmentés," with small parcels spread throughout the Fleurie appellation. One surmises that part of the genius of Métras pére lies in his skill at blending them. 

An old vine parcel downslope from the cellar.
Another part of his genius is probably maniacal attention to detail. It's custom at the Métras cellar to continuously monitor fermentation temperatures on the fermentation vats themselves, with the result that they resemble the cell wall of a madman in jail.  

Lastly we tasted the Fleurie "Ultime," a very-old vine, selection-level cuvée which was last produced in 2011. The barrels in which this wine ages are positively drenched in wine, presumably a result of super-rigorous topping-up, or frequent dipping-in, or both. 

I admit to usually preferring the Fleurie "Vieilles Vignes" when I taste the wines from bottle; the "Ultime" always seems unapproachably rich. From barrel the latter wine was extremely forthcoming, however, with a vivid, bloody, red-currant nose, and fermenty notes of china bark. 

I said we tasted this last, but in fact there was no identifiable last wine; we doubled back to wines already tasted, as friends, family, and neighbors began to arrive. Jules' sister Inès, his neighbor, fellow winemaker, and good friend Yann Bertrand, others. No doubt some of the rarity of these wines derives from how much the family and their friends enjoy them. Who can blame them? Among the most beautiful characteristics of the Beaujolais region is the perceptible resolution, among the great winemakers whose wines risk becoming rare luxuries, to refuse to treat them as such. 

Jules Métras / Yvon Métras

Related Links:

Beaujolais Bike Trip 2015:

Rémi et Laurence Dufaitre, Saint-Etienne-des-Ouillières
Jean-Claude Lapalu, Saint-Etienne-La-Varenne
Benoit Camus, Ville-sur-Jarnioux

Beaujolais Bike Trip 2011:

Karim Vionnet, Villié-Morgon
Café de la Bascule, Fleurie
Isabelle et Bruno Perraud, Vauxrenard
Le Coq à Juliènas, Juliènas
Le Relais des Caveaux, Villié-Morgon
L'Atelier du Cuisiner, Villié-Morgon

A beautiful report of harvest time visit to Yvon Métras at Wine Terroirs.

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