Cercié is only 5 kilometers away from Villié-Morgon, the village houses seem to be lower compared to Villié-Morgon, a long street around which the village built up. You already feel the proximity of the plain and of Belleville, a big village/small town along the Saone river.
Christophe Pacalet's facility is on thee outskirts of the village, and his wines are making quietly their way through the winter, but we could have a glimpse on their becoming. Christophe Pacalet doesn't own the vineyards he's making his wines from, he buys grapes from different growers who follow his organic guidelines and limited-yields requirements. This fits into the winery format which we usually call négoce although here it's mostly around a non-interventionist winemaking philosophy and overall small volumes.
__Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles 2011. Not bottled yet, a bit cold because it's quite cold around here. No SO2 during the vinification here. There will be a bit at bottling. He says that until now he thinks that 2011 is a good vintage in many regards although he thought differently last july (it was raining the whole of july). But august reversed this completely and was sunny and healthy; they harvested starting august 27. What was great was that the damaged grapes dried under the north wind and the sun (ça a "figué", he says in French, meaning that it dried fig style). He had to tell the pickers not to throw away these withered grapes here and there even if they didn't look so nice.
__ Christophe Pacalet Juliénas 2011, from a cask. Could be bottled in april, at Easter. Enjoyable. A bit oaky.
__ Christophe Pacalet Fleurie 2001. A bit of reduction here, he says. Not very noticeable for me. Very nice wine in the mouth, I like that. No sugar left, he says, it's dry. He says that before Christmas it was lots more reduced. He uses to be very wary when reduction shows up but his uncle Marcel Lapierre always taught him not to be afraid and just wait, adding that reduction is the opposite of oxydation, so it's good for the wine actually. This wine needs more time than the previous wine, and in june or july it should be fine, he says. He has 13 casks of this wine.
Chenas is the Beaujolais cru which makes the highest alcohol, he says. While the north of Beaujolais has a terroir of crushed granite, here there's a lot of clay which holds the water and with the sun it makes higher photosynthesis which in turn makes more alcohol. The rain also brings occasionally problems on this terroir like for Pinot, same on Moulin à Vent where there's clay too. If rainy they can get lots of damaged grapes. Chenas is not a famous appellation including in France, he says, and there's a reason for that : before the AOC system was set up in 1936, all the Chenas wine was purchased in bulk by Burgundy wineries which would use it to blend with the Pinot Noir. The reason was that at that time the alcohol level of Pinot was too low and the Gamay adding helped it up. When the AOC rules were fixed in 1936, the Chenas growers lost their customers from Burgundy overnight and that's when the local coopératives were set up to open a new distribution window for Chenas wine. The Burgundy wineries were also unsettled by the fact that they couldn't anymore blend their Pinot with the Gamay of Chenas, so the AOC let a small window open : the Passetoutgrain, which is maybe the sole Burgundy wine where you blend Pinot with Gamay.
__Christophe Pacalet Moulin à Vent 2011. More closed at this stage. Moulin à Vent needs longer time in the cellar before it gives what it is meant to. Moulin à Vent is the Beaujolais cru which can have the longest cellaring time when bottled, something like 10 years, probably closer in this regard to Burgundy wines. It is thus a cru which isn't easy to taste that young.
Christophe Pacalet had recently the opportunity to work with several parcels belonging to the family of Jules Chauvet. They are part of about 6,5 hectares of vineyards near La Chapelle de Guinchay (Jules Chauvet's hometown) which belong to the Chauvet family, namely to Jules-Chauvet's niece. As the previous grower in charge of these blocks was retiring, the Chauvet heirs looked for other vignerons to follow suit on the rent. The niece of Jules Chauvet knowing well the Beaujolais vintner Jean-Claude Lapalu, she offered him to take the surface but he didn't want to add more surface to his estate, so Mr Lapalu told Christophe about it. Christophe decided to take 1,7 hectare in Beaujolais Villages (in fermage or rent) while a couple of other vignerons took the rest. He will also rent an additional 3,5 hectare of the block with the other vignerons so they can share the investment needed to put the vineyard back in shape, particularly regarding the soil which hasn't been plowed for 20 years as it had been on conventional management with lots of weedkillers. They'll hire a service company to introduce back regular plowings, doing that on a gentle mode first, so that the vines can handle the change in the management. It will take a couple years, three maybe, before the weedkillers slowly vanish in the underground and the life comes back for good under the form of microbial activity, worms, insects and diverse weeds. They also got to drain the lower end of this plot so that the water doesn't surface.
On the picture above you can see Christophe Pacalet with Peter who is beginning to take care of the vineyard. Peter comes from Slovakia he's been travelling to Beaujolais for 20 years, working part time here in the vineyards and the rest of the time he's a mountain guide in the natural reserves of slovakia. When we drove to the block, he was busy pruning the old vines and taking away the dead ones. He noticed that the density in this vineyard is higher than elsewhere, with only 70 cm between the vines in a row instead of 90 cm or 1,1 meter.
My profile of Christophe Pacalet
Christophe Pacalet's winery website
Article about Jules Chauvet by Philippe Pacalet, Christophe's cousin