Chateau des Jacques, Beaujolais, France with Guillaume de Castelnau

Owned by Burgundy’s Louis Jadot, Château de Jacques is one of the best houses in the Beaujolais village of Moulin-à-Vents. In fact, Jadot has fallen for Beaujolais in a big way, with estates in several other ‘Cru’ villages including Morgon, the Côte du Brouilly and Chénas. label I met up with Jadot’s man in Beaujolais, Château de Jacques’ winemaker Guillaume de Castelnau. The first surprise was to see the bottles, without the famous Bacchus head and Jadot name appearing above the main label.

Traditionally the Beaujolais wines were packaged with an unmistakable Jadot livery, but from now on the wines will mention neither Bacchus nor the name of Jadot. Guillaume de Castelnau told me “In the first phase it really helped to have the Jadot name and distribution, but now we must stand on our own.” At the height of its popularity, the vineyard area of Beaujolais covered around 25,000 hectares. Now that stands at only 17,000 hectares. “Lots of the poorest vineyards have disappeared,” says Guillaume, “but quality is definitely up.”

In fact Guillaume has formed a group of 15 estates working together to promote quality Beaujolais. The group has already presented in the USA and Switzerland, and hope to bring their wines to the UK next year. It consists only of growers, not négociants, and Guillaume tells me “We have stopped all communication about Beaujolais Nouveau.” He also talks about how farming and vine training techniques have changed. 45hl/ha is the average yield now, largely through changes to sustainable and organic agriculture.

Guillaume is on a path towards Biodynamics for Château de Jacques, but says “It’s not easy, and I am not sure how long it will take.” The main problem is the old vineyards which have to be treated very delicately “so you don’t kill them.” It is difficult to move the old, Goblet-trained vines to organic or biodynamic farming, because the vines are trained so low that it is impossible to work the ground beneath. “We have to raise the vines and widen the rows,” he says, “but Gamay is very lazy and might not adapt – or even survive.”

xGuillaume (left) told me about some of his interesting organic practices. He makes teas from water-retaining green plants which are sprayed on to the vines to ‘teach’ them to store and use water better. An experiment patch stayed green during a drought, whilst all around showed stress and browning. He also keeps bees, and from observing them – feeding patterns, levels of aggression – says he can see when they are under a cosmic influence. “Fire, water, earth and air influences the bees behaviour,” he tells me. If the bees are behaving abnormally he has been known to halt or change the work being done in the vineyards. “Biodynamics serves my vineyard,” he says, “my vineyard does not serve biodynamics.”

All of this is part of Guillaume’s vision for wines that are as natural as possible, giving the best expression of each of the individual clos vineyards. “It is a slow process,” he says with a resigned smile. “It took seven years after I arrived just to clean the soils of herbicides.”

The wines

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Louis Jadot, Combe Aux Jacques 2007
A mix of one third each of de-classified cru wines, Jadot’s own vineyards and one third from one of their best growers. This was a good vintage, but not exceptional. Lovely nose, very soft and attractive, with vivid fruit and delicious fruit on the palate that retains lots of freshness and grip, with little liquorice touches. 85/100

Louis Jadot, Fleurie Poncereau 2007
This is a négociant wine made by Loron. Adds a nice layer of gamy, deeper, more vegetal character to the soft berry fruit. The palate has lovely texture and weight, with the fleshiness of the mid-palate adding textures over the brighter fruit of the Combe Aux Jacques, but delicious and fresh on the finish. 86/100

Château de Jacques, Moulin-à-Vent 2004
The straight Moulin a Vent (not a clos wine) from a ‘horrible’ year according to Guillaume. Quite a light, herbal nose, with a certain vegetal nose, but soft and appealing, with an earthy sweetness. The palate has a beautiful red berry fruit sweetness, with lots of fine tannins and a sour cherry acidity that makes it very juicy and delicious. 88/100

Château des Lumière, Morgon 2002
2002 in the south was very wet further south, but Beaujolais was good – “not ‘top’ like Champagne or Alsace, but good.” Big, creamy, full nose with lots of bright, full berry fruit. A little gamy background. On the palate this has a really fine, savoury, vinous character with lots of grainy, mouth-filling tannins that add some real structure to the sweet, full fruit. The finish has fine balance, with a nicely fresh, if not terribly long, finish. 89/100

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