Philippe and Catherine Jambon began their wine adventure by starting a winery against all the trends of the time ; Back in the mid-1990s' the common rule in Beaujolais was to "make the vineyard piss" to use a common expression in the milieu, meaning having yields as high as possible to satisfy the then ever increasing world demand. What Philippe Jambon had in mind was an entirely different sort of wines, wines made from carefully chosen terroirs, and in a traditional way, that is without the additives and manipulations that were often the norm in these Beaujolais bubble years. At that time, he had tasted organicly-farmed, natural-wines by vintners like Dard & Ribo and Gramenon, and he felt that this was the right direction for making beautiful wines. He bought his first vineyard plot in 1997, a one-hectare Gamay vineyard. 1997 was a pivotal year in the Beaujolais, the beginning of a crisis for the region and its high-yields wines which didn't sell anymore. That's when you could find great bargains and buy vineyards at cut-price rates. He found the house with the chai [picture above] a few years later (2000) and added along the years a few carefully-selected vineyards here and there to reach the total surface today of 3,5 hectares
Another thing about this visit is that another outstanding vintner was visiting there too for a couple of days : Pat, from "Les Griottes" in the Loire. He is also a winemaker who makes these true wines with none of the modern additives. The good side with sharing a visit with this kind of visitor is that you get a prime opportunity to taste some wines that he doesn't propose to everybody.
About the Loire sweet whites for example, since the heavy chaptalization and sulphuration era took off in the 1960's, the consumer demand dropped because people somehow felt that these wines had lost something in the process. Philippe Jambon compares the problem to a skier who would go to the hospital before skiing and ask a doctor to put plasters on his legs "just in case I break my leg"...Of course, he'll thus not ski well and will not really enjoy his sport, but he would feel "safe"...That's about the same weird philosophy that prevails in the use of SO2, they say, and it's valid for all the wines in fact : what they've gained in "security", they've lost in life.
__1 Chard 2000. Nice golden turbidity. Blood-orange aromas. Residual sugar in the mouth, with freshness and exceptional acidity. Nose of the empty glass : so beautiful...
__2 Chard 2000 (other jar). Clear, gold. Neat. Morello cherry. No sucrosity, very mineral.
__3 Chard 2000 (other jar). Very dry wine also, but with a bit more sugar maybe. Was tasting like truffle not long ago, he says. Pat exclaims himself : underwood, forest, this is life !... Philippe says that Chardonnay is like a nice girl : this variety can be beautiful everywhere, all over the world, but here this wine wouldn't have come to exist if they hadn't forgotten some grapes by accident on the vines in 2000. They picked these leftover grapes in november 2000 just to see what they might give, and here is the result...
__ 4 Chard 2000 (other jar). Clear yellow. Nose like a Savagin from the Jura ! intensity in the mouth, no sugar at all. Peat aroma, he says. Even something close to whisky. Pat marvels : all the sugar was mineralized and cristallized.
Further, we reach his Roches Noires plot, located right under a hill with a huge bulging, black manganese rock, and surrounded by woods. Gamay here too. Manganese, which can be found in the sub-soil of the Morgon and Moulin à Vent areas, is often credited for the qualities of these wines, and here, its concentration is even thicker. He bought the plot here in 2003, with the house and the chai.
__1 Jambon Blanc, Table Wine. Chardonnay 2005. From the vineyard just in front of the house [pic on top].
__2 La Grande Bruyère 2005. Chardonnay. Very clear wine. Ready to be bottled, he says. No SO2, like all of his wines since 2003, neither during the vinification or at bottling. He says that the small millesimes get the refineness and the great millesimes make massive wines. As the wines are not filtered, there a natural oxydoreduction resulting of the interaction between the air and the lees, leading to a natural protection of the wines.
__3 La Grande Bruyère, Chardonnay 2003. Liquorice with dill, and menthol notes. Flowers also. Very classy and ample in the mouth. Great wine. yields : 30 hectoliter/ha. He has 5 casks of this wine.
__4 Roche Noire 2006, Gamay. THe bought the Roche Noire vineyard in 2003. Nose : candy, spices, fruits. Concentration. He says that it would be better to wait a bit more before releasing it.
__5 La Tranche Pressée, Gamay. There was 2 casks of La Tranche, and La Tranche Pressée is the 20% of the wine resuting from the press juice. Nose : pepper, something like spicy fruits. Very close to the gingerbread. Really superb, this is La Tranche to the power of 4...
Baltaille 2005, Gamay. Will probably be labelled as Table wine. From a 20-hectoliter vat. Chocolate and liquorice, here. A blend from two plots (Balmont and Bataille) that we saw at the beginning of our tour. Very dark wine. Lots of character and concentration. He says that the millesime is enormous, but he waits till he is sure that the wine did everything id has to do and went throughall his long fermentation...
Philippe and Catherine Jambon raise three children in their beautiful village.