Monday, February 08, 2010

A New Discovery: Domaine Ruet Beaujolais


Jean-Paul Ruet shows off some of the blue granite underlying his vineyards

I love good Beaujolais. For too long, the region's been associated with cheap, mass-produced plonk, especially that Nouveau crap. Let's face it, that's not real wine. It's not even edible and, frankly, should be banned by the FDA. But, what do I know? I just want some real, authentic wine, not some factory-made product that tastes the same year in year out, without any soul.

Yes, the camera's straight, it's the hill that's steep

You want soul? Come to the real Beaujolais, where the hills are steep, the vineyards gnarly, and the wines swoon-worthy. As I wrote in my Battle of Bojos post, real Beaujolais, from real farmers, is something to get excited about. Names like Foillard, Lapierre, Descombes, Brun and Metras are well-known and highly sought after by winelovers like me.

Looking up the slope at 65-70 year old vines

Well, while looking for Beaujolais producers, a friend mentioned I should seek out the wines of Domaine Ruet. Luckily for me, they were at the last trade show I attended in Paris in November, and lo and behold, he was right. The wines are very, very good. Full of fresh Gamay fruit with earthy backbones, they are beautiful renditions of their terroirs and of Jean-Paul Ruet's gentle guidance.

Gravity-fed tanks through the wooden doors on the right

When I was offered the chance to visit the winery in the Beaujolais on this past trip, and despite having hit 7 trade shows/tastings in 10 days, I jumped at it. If you've never been to the area, I seriously recommend it. Just south of the Macon and north of Lyon, the region is full of very steep hills covered in Gamay vines that jut from the earth like crooked fingers. The food is hearty and warm, and the people generous and soft-spoken. There's a warmth of character that is both welcoming and reassuring.

Stainless steel fermentation tanks

I was met by Jean-Paul Ruet, whose family has been making wines in the Beaujolais region since 1926, when his grandfather started farming. Located in the small town of Voujon à Cercié, they own 16 hectares (39.55 acres) of south-facing, steep, old-vine vineyards on granite-rich soils that are filled with pebbles and stones, scattered between the communes of Brouilly, Morgon and Régnié (see pic below).

A panoramic view of their holdings

Jean-Paul Ruet subscribes to a philosophy of sustainable agriculture in the vineyard and strict quality controls in the winery (gravity feeds, semi-carbonic maceration, very little added sulfur), trying to respect his various terroirs and get the purest expression of his lands. Everything is manually harvested (granted, that is the law in the region), and selection starts in the vineyard and continues into the winery. In some years, he does whole-cluster fermentation (leaving the grapes on the stem), but that depends on the grapes' phenolic maturity.

To show his wines' ageability, he opened this, and all I can say is wow

And the wines? Well, they're fantastic. Full of fresh red fruits with earthy minerality and crisp, almost tart accents backed by bright acidity, they are what all Beaujolais should be but sadly isn't. Tasting through his line-up was a pleasure, and I say that as someone who has sat through some tastings where all I wanted to do was rip out my tongue so I didn't have to endure the pain anymore.

Look for this label, kids, it stands for quality!

I will begin showing the wines to distributors in the coming weeks, and hopefully someone will grab them. I think they offer great quality to price ratios, but what do I know? I just represent what I can drink, and I could chug these wines. Seriously.

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