Une Tranche Sudiste Blanc
When Philippe Jambon and his wife Catherine established their small domaine in the Northern Beaujolais village of Chasselas in 1997, the region’s wines were in a state of crisis. Overproduction of cheap, high-yielding gamay had driven the price of commodity fruit to an historic low and many vignerons in the area were struggling to survive. A native son of the Beaujolais, Philippe had an entirely different model of production in mind. With gentle farming and meticulous cellar work, he reasoned, the unique terroirs of the Northern Beaujolais could produce singular wines of exceptional beauty and longevity. A decade later, Philippe is known throughout France as a truly visionary winemaker.
Philippe’s cellar work is notoriously experimental and subject to change between vintages. Diverse cuvées come and go, orthodoxies are trampled upon – recently, for instance, Philippe blended a botrytized 2004 chardonnay, 8 years in barrel, with a 2011 Gamay! “The wines defy simple classification,” remarked one Burgundy vigneron. “You might even taste the future chez Philippe.” Despite experimentation, there are at least two constant maxims: no additives of any kind are used and the wines are not bottled until they are absolutely ready. In reality, these two are one and the same, for Philippe believes that long élevage in barrel helps mitigate the so-called “faults” associated with zero-SO2 winemaking. As a general rule, macerations are long and wines may spend anywhere between 18 months and 5 years in barrel. Ironically, Philippe once excelled as a student of oeonolgy, training under some of France’s most esteemed educators, where he mastered the rules of conventional winemaking. Asked about his time at the Ecole, he jokes that he learned about “everything that must not be done.”
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