A Challenge Accepted and Won
For many people, choosing the path of least resistance is the best way to achieve their end goal. But for winemaker Jean-Pierre Rodet, making the sulphur-free Jean Loron Rift 71 and 69 wines is one of the most challenging paths he could choose – winemaking that is not for the faint of heart!
The use of sulphur and sulphur dioxide (SO2) in winemaking has been a common practice since the early 1900s, sprayed in the vineyards as a fungicide and added in the winery as a preservative. All wines also naturally contain SO2, as yeasts produce it during the fermentation process. But making a wine that does not have additional SO2 takes a lot of time and skill. For winemakers like Rodet, making “sans soufre ajouté” wine requires many conditions to be met: having meticulously farmed vineyards and grapes with healthy microbes that foster strong native yeasts; undertaking a very careful sorting at harvest to make sure only the best fruit is used; extreme care in the winery to avoid exposure to harmful bacteria as well as oxygen, against which the addition of SO2 would normally protect. It is this intense level of care and attention in every step of the winemaking process that is required to produce wines that are clean and stable.
And here’s the real prize: without sulphur, which some winemakers describe as having an inhibiting effect, Rodet’s wines are more vibrant, aromatic and complex than many other examples in the region, and can more fully express the terroir and wines’ namesake – the north-south rift formed in the earth’s crust millions of years ago that resulted in the rolling terrain and complex soils of granite, magma and metamorphic rock – in unique and surprising ways. The path of sulphur-free winemaking is definitely not an easy one, but the resulting wines make the challenges entirely worthwhile.
Jean Loron 2021 ‘Rift 71’ Mâcon-Villages, Burgundy
Retail: $27.95 / btl
Jean Loron 2021 ‘Rift 69’ Beaujolais Villages, Burgundy
Retail: $24.95 / btl
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Creamy notes of baked apple and apple crumble are surprising and inviting on the nose of this wine. The palate is slender and bone dry, with a phenolic edge that lends texture and concentration. Peppery spice and freshness show on the dry finish.
Inky crimson in the glass. The wine gives off cherry, blackberry and blueberry aromas, embellished with spicy and mineral notes. The mouthfeel is dense, powerful, round and balanced with noteworthy spice and liquorice length.
About Maison Jean Loron
Over 300 years (1711 to be precise) and eight generations ago, Jean Loron took a departure from the traditional farming roles of the time and dedicated himself to viticulture in the village of Chénas, in the heart of the steep hills of Beaujolais. Initially, he started vinifying some ‘lieux-dits’ (future Beaujolais ‘climats’) with the aim of obtaining the perfect vines to create superior quality wines. He was something of a revolutionary at the time.
In 1821, Jean’s grandson Jean-Marie, took over the estate and set up the business in Pontanevaux. Over the years, Jean’s descendants have continued the tradition building up great partnerships with some prestigious names in the area. Fast forward to the present, eighth generation, Xavier Barbet is the current owner of the business. Xavier grew up in the area, studied in Dijon and the United States before returning to the region in 1977 to take control of the family business. In 2009, he bought Chateau de Bellevue in Morgon, along with its eight hectares of vines in order to develop parcel-by-parcel vinification, clearly inspired by his ancestor Jean Loron. He also runs an estate in Moulin-à-Vent with his brother Nicolas. Many of the estates such as Chateau de Fleurie and Domaine des Billards (Saint Amour) have been in the family for centuries and recent acquisitions have enhanced the remarkable collection of estates.
Today, Maison Jean Loron manages 10 different estates: three in the Maconnais region of Burgundy, and seven in Beaujolais. In 2016, the management of Jean Loron was passed down from Xavier Barbet to Phillipe Bardet, originally from Beaujolais himself he is an avid connoisseur and advocate of the region. Phillipe is married to a member of the Charlet family, so with this ‘succession’, Maison Jean Loron added the prestigious Domaine Bellenand, located in the heart of Solutré in the Maconnais. This domaine has been in the Charlet family for 4 generations. Additionally, the company owns 350 hectares of estate vineyards and purchases additional fruit from top growers for the value-driven Maison Jean Loron selection of wines. Always looking for innovation, today’s portfolio includes their natural ‘Rift’ wines made without the addition of sulphites from harvest to bottling.
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