This is Beaujolais but not as you know it. No flower-adorned labels or promotion by races. Not your six-week-old Nouveau. This is serious wine, yet it has retained the wonderful exuberance which is the hallmark of fine Beaujolais.
Château Thivin is a Côte de Brouilly specialist and when combined with a stellar vintage like 2018, the results were always going to be exciting.
Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape, the same Gamay which Philippe the Bold, in 1395, outlawed from Burgundy, believing it substandard – “a very bad and disloyal plant”. It found its way south to Beaujolais, where it has flourished ever since. There is a tiny amount of White Beaujolais made from Chardonnay and even Rose Beaujolais, even rarer.
Gamay makes a lighter, fresher style of wine, low in tannins but reasonably high in acidity and is usually consumed when young. Carbonic maceration is used in the winemaking.
There are 12 appellations for Beaujolais, including ten Crus, the best of the best.
Château Thivin is located in the Côte de Brouilly, a favoured Cru. They are the oldest estate there, built in the 15th century. In 1877, it, and its accompanying two hectares, were purchased by a local farmer, Zaccharie Geoffray. Subsequent generations have expanded the holdings.
Côte de Brouilly was originally planted by the Romans. It is located on the slopes of the old volcano, Mont Brouilly (the wines are considered to be more intense and offering less of an earthy tone than neighbouring Brouilly, which is on the lower slopes). There are around 320 hectares planted in Cotes de Brouilly, with fifty producers. The soil is largely the blue stone of Brouilly, but the steep slopes, a grade of sometimes 48 to 50%, make work difficult.
The vines average 50 years of age. No insecticides are used. Grapes and juice are transferred by gravity. The estate has moved to organic viticulture, commencing in 2008. Fertiliser is by natural composts. The family vinify each plot throughout the vineyards separately, hence they can bottle those plots individually. ‘La Chapelle’ and ‘Le Clos Bertrand’ are examples.
Château Thivin ‘Vignes d’Ecussol 2018 ($41*) – From a slope behind the village of Quincié-en-Beaujolais. Bright, fruity and with floral notes. Juicy, even a little sappy. Notes of mulberries. A mid length style, though drops off in intensity. Simple, easy, a style to drink while youthful. Lots of flavour. 88.
Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly ‘les Sept Vignes’ 2018 ($55*) – A meaty Beaujolais, this is from a blend of all seven of the family’s plots on Mont Brouilly. Soils are largely blue stone, though there is more clay in the plots near the base of the hill. Vine density is 7,000 to 9,000 vines/hectare. The wine eventually sees seven months in oak tuns.
Among the meaty notes, there are lovely red berry characters. A hint of bacon and deli salami. There are some of the earth and mushrooms and a slight touch of tannin. Decent length. Would be perfect with a picnic of smoked meats. 91.
Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly ‘Clos Bertrand’ 2018 ($62*) – This wine has 1% of Chardonnay included with the Gamay, all vines from within the Chateau’s walled vineyard, which was planted as far back as the 14th century – there is an inscription found here which reads ‘1383’. The vineyard is at the base of Mont Brouilly, with deeper soil and some pink granite mixed throughout. Vine density is 7,000 vines/hectare. Seven to nine months in oak tuns. This all results in a more refined Beaujolais than some. Spice, cinnamon, a hint of vanilla, raspberries and mulberries. Even a hint of mild milk chocolate on the finish. Complexity, good acidity, a soft finish and good, satiny length. Bright, juicy and delicious, this definitely has a future. 92.
Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly ‘La Chapelle’ 2018 (AUD$69*) – My pick of the range. This site is a stony plot high up on Mont Brouilly, a very steep vineyard. The vines average 60 years, with a density of 8,000 vines/hectare. The wine sits in oak tuns until the following June. Bright purple in hue, this delicious wine offers spices, mulberries, dark fruits and much more. Bright and juicy. Terrific length. Real exuberance here. Good acidity and excellent length. Quite
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