05 December 2016

n.d.p. in beaujolais: romain des grottes, saint-etienne-des-ouillières

The man standing there with the huge elderflower bush in his vines is Romain des Grottes. He's a métayer, or sharecropper, working 8ha vines belonging to the Château de Lacarelle in Saint-Etienne-des-Ouillières. Almost everything about that sentence is misleading, though.

The Château de Lacarelle belongs to des Grottes' grandfather, a peculiar situation that allows des Grottes considerably more creative leeway than most métayers. And his 8ha of vines is effectively 4ha, because since 2003 des Grottes has uprooted half the rows, planting cereals in the remaining spaces. He also works the soil less than many organic winemakers, content with a wilderness of grass cover that would make his elders blanche.

"I think I’m liberated from the tradition, because I never grew up here," admits des Grottes, who was born in Paris. "As much in the vines as in making the wine."