We had arrived in Villié Morgon late that day, we went to the local hotel and I hadn't had the courage to drive around for a place to eat, so we went to the local venue there in spite of the warnings we had here and there about the food (many nice wines by the glass from terrific vignerons but poor food to go with, we were said). After that, not wanting to remain on this indeed mixed-feelings experience, we drove to Fleurie and realized__too late__ that we could have instead dined at Le Cep which was open, or even in one of the two other casual restaurant in the village square which have also good wines and a relaxing terrace. But what we spotted first while parking the car was a small crowd in (and out) of what looked like a wine shop, it was already dark in the street but I understood instantly that we were in for a good surprise.... Welcome to the vibrant Cellier de Fleurie, a caviste with an excellent selection of wine from the Beaujolais and beyond.
The first person I recognized standing outside the busy venue was Fred Cossard, for me one of the best winemaker in Burgundy (too bad I can't afford most of his cuvées). But I was to recognize a few more people in there, the party seemed to have been going for a while if you see what I mean, and having had already shared a bottle at the restaurant in Villié Morgon (by the way a Lapallu that was disappointing, kind of too square, I don't know, too much SO2 maybe) I wondered if we'd make it safe back to the hotel, not that the 10 km road between Fleurie & Villié-Morgon is that windy (actually it has a few sharp curves) but Beaujolais is like the Loire there could well be a breath-check trap by the Gendarmerie, especially that this was saturday evening... But Alea Jacta Est, I did like everybody and showed no restraint...
Here I guess Yohan Lardy pours his Moulin à Vent Vieilles Vignes de 1903 (priced 23 € in the shop), a wine which I tasted later and seemed maybe a bit square to me, but that may be that I was so much into easygoing wines.
We're now used to find great wine shops in most major mid-size cities in France, and not only Paris (just look at the 354 natural-wine venues listed in Paris in 2015 -- how many more in 2017 ?) But finding all these real artisanal wines in a village the size of Fleurie is indeed encouraging. Given what you see in most of the vineyards in Beaujolais (they're sprayed by herbicides like crazy and the related wines are certainly on the same doctored vein) you'd assume there's no room for a wine shop offering wine made totally naturally, and from vineyards that are taken care of in a natural environment with weeds, insects, worms and a vibrant soil life. Fleurie, population about 1260 according to Wikipedia has its shop, long life to this place....
Pictured here (whom I can name) : Center (sitting) Lise Lacroix, with red polo : Alex Foillard, far right Romain Renoux (manager of the wine shop).
Well, don't ask me too many details but from I understood between two glasses was that this wine shop was the result of a collective effort, like it happens in the natural-wine milieu with winemakers giving a hand to help things move regardless of the financial interest or other potential returns, and Damien Coquelet is part of it as well as Alex Foillard. Romain Renoux who lives next door and is a graphic designer is in charge of the wine shop a couple of afternoon at the end of the week, possibly more in the future. Given the dwindling opportunities in Villié-Morgon (in spite of being a bigger village with 20100 inhabitants) I think Fleurie might well take the lead in the area for eating opportunities as well as wine shopping.
I looked around on the shelves, they have a reasonnably-large selection for a specialized shop in a village of this size, all quality driven. I'll tell about the labels I spotted randomly, like a Julien Sunier Fleurie 2015 at 17 € tax included, it's usually almost impossible to get an allocation for this winemaker but thanks to a cancelled order by a Parisian caviste, they could get some of his wines. This year Sunier makes a Morgon, Fleurie, and a Régnié which he downgraded as Vin de France (and named Wild Soul, soon to be bottled) because he was not fully satisfied with it, you'll find this cuvée also in the Cellier at Fleurie.
They have also the wines of Marcel Joubert who is now reaching retirement age and vinifies his Beaujolais without sulfites and bottles them unfiltered. Romain says he is a central figure in the regin, has lots of humor and is a pleasant person.
You'll find in the shop many cuvées from the younger generation of the region there are also a few cuvées that aren't found elsewhere, from what I understand. I tasted an excellent wine from the Domaine la Derniére Goutte (Cyrille Vuillod), the Cuvée Tisane en Bois Tordu, Vin de France XVI (2016) at a cost of 14 € in the shop, made without additives, unfiltered and everything. Cyrille who trained with Lapallu has been making his 4th or 5th vintage now and he also makes a cuvée in amphora.
There's also a cuvée by Raphael Champier who was spotted at the Dive and now makes wine with his wife under the name of Domaine Léonis. Alex Foillard who is already quite a good winemaker according to independant commentators says he likes his wines, they had a blind tasting of his wines and they stood out.
Kevin Descombes has also some of his wines here like the cuvée Kéké (priced 12 € here). They have also wines by Anthony THenevet, which Romain says everybody around drinks these days because they go down easily, here he points to a cuvée of his, a Morgon Vieilles Vignes at 18 €.
Here you can see the Cuvée du Chat, from the nickname of Chanudet, who is part of the first generation of natural-wine makers in the region with Foillard and Yven Metras. At only 14 € tax included in the wine shop, a good deal. This cuvée (with a label by Siné) is also a cooperation between two winemakers, here Marie Lapierre with Jean-Claude Chanudet.
For this special saturday evening Romain opened some bottles, some bought others which was very affordable given the prices and this was a good opportunity to taste some of these new names. Here Romain Renoux pours a bottle of Jérome Balmet, la Côte de Vaux. I remember having had one of his wines a while ago, and here is the vigneron's profile Aaron wrote last year.
Romain want to focus on the Beaujolais-Villages wines which are left on the side compared to the established Beaujolais appellations. He points for example to the cuvée Séléné by Sylvere Trichard (priced 18 € in the shop), an up and coming player in the region, he farms organic without additives, very good work. Romain says he was taking part to Boj'Alien recently, a small wine fair with many young winemakers (Facebook page of the event) where the focus is making wines with 100 % grapes (organic of course) nothing else. He says the wine fair has also a few faulty wines but that's part of the thrill of the experiment.
They're also going to have the wines of Pierre Cotton who this year in his 3rd vintage makes two Beaujolais wines, a generic Beaujolais and a Beaujolais Villages (didn't hear the name) plus a Régnié and a Côte de Brouilly les Grillées on a very special climat. The Americans are currently importing his wines like crazy (Paris Wine Company) but at least you will find the bottles here in Fleurie.
Because there are also some visitors who may enter the wine shop and obviously not know these types of wines, Romain has a couple of conventional wines (trad for traditionnel) also, and we'll not name the domaines here...
Among the (now-established) winemakers from other regions, they also have a Ganevat wine (Jura), les Chalasses Vieilles Vignes (priced 35 € in the shop), they have also magnums from him, Romain says they had over cuvées from Ganevat but they all was quickly sold (I can undestand that given the shortage in his wines).
At one point Damien Coquelet or Romain opened this Saint Amour which was a terrific treat, it's a 2016 and the front label displays 3 names : Damien Coquelet, Fred Cossard & Kevin Descombes, all certainly good winemakers but I think there was the magic touch of Fred Cossard in this splendidly velvety light-colored gamay with a vibrant acidity, a total pleasure at only 26 € in the wine shop. If you can't afford buying other Burgundy cuvées by Cossard you can at least find this alternative in Fleurie.
Spent a very good time speaking with Lise Lacroix who is a young native from Jura and just spent months working with Jean-François Ganevat, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. She says it was very hard work as Jean-François is very demanding for the vineyard side but this was also so gratifying, and Ganevat himself speaks to his staff and asks them what they think, putting himself in question, he's never looking self-important, the whole experience was unforgettable. Remember Lise, you will hear about her one day, She has already 40 ares of vines of her own in the Jura, all complanted with 15 + varieties, and plans to further her experience before opening her own domaine in a few years in Jura. She is a true jurassienne from what I felt, she says she could work in the south of France for a winery but will find instead a domaine not too far from her Jura homeland (Burgundy or Beaujolais for example) so that she can go help her grandmother if she need to. A real person with great values...
I began this story telling about a disappointing dinner in Villié-Morgon, here is a great venue just outside villié-Morgon (but closed on evenings), this is the Auberge du Col de Truges. The restaurant has been managed by Jean-Jacques Soudeil and his wife Michèle (pictured on left) for almost 40 years, It is located among a few houses on a pass overlooking the region and in addition to a great cuisine they have there a terrific wine list. Jean-Jacques is the cook and Michlèle at the servive, we had a great savory terrine as well as a coq au vin which is rightfully the flag dish of the maison. The two rooms are spotless and authentically traditional with simple tables and chairs, nothing faux retro. We had there a delicious Fleurie 2014 by Jean Foillard for 32 € if I remember, gorgeous unfiltered wine.
There begins to be more and more of such restaurants in France, located in the middle of nowhere but sticking to their discipline of quality cuisine and with demanding, almost expert wine lists. You can do that anywhere actually, all it takes is being stunbborn and believe in quality and the customers will make the drive from far away to sit at your table, like I did in a lost corner of southern Oregon for the New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro beautifuly managed by Vernon and Charlene Rollins....
Read Aaron's story on this Auberge du Col de Truges.