Jean-Louis Dutraive runs one of the most important domaines in Beaujolais. Not only is he a leader in low-impact farming and semi-carbonic, low SO2 winemaking, but he is one of the region’s most respected teachers and mentors – renowned for having his doors always open.
Dutraive inherited his Domaine de la Grand’Cour from his father in 1989. His father purchased the domaine in 1969, making it one of the oldest in Fleurie. Today, owing to Jean-Louis’s spectacular skill with coaxing ethereal aromas and textures out of his wines, the domaine is a cult favourite and its wines have become very difficult to find. Dutraive employs whole cluster ferments and partial carbonic maceration with no SO2 at that stage. The macerations last 15-30 days depending on vintage. The gravity-fed winery houses Burgundy barrels for the 6-12 months of ageing each wine sees. Farming is organic. Soils are granitic.
The 2016 vintage saw considerable hail. Nonetheless, enough quality fruit survive for Dutraive to make this village bottling (one of only two bottlings from that year, with the single vineyard fruit all declassified). The result is a wine much like 2013 Burgundy – crunchy and highly aromatic with a focus on elegance rather than power. Part of this village wine’s profound aromatics is due to Dutraive’s style, part due to Fleurie’s more ethereal fruit, and part due to the vintage. If the Morgons from Lapierre or Foillard are the Morey and the Vosne of Beaujolais, Dutraive’s wine is more in the style of a Chambolle.
The 2016 needs air and a decant to release some barny-funk that thankfully completely dissipates with oxygen, revealing a precise, clean, and highly aromatic wine that evolves over 24 hours and survives open for 2-4 days. The quality is not unlike village burgundy in a cooler vintage. The aromas are incredibly compelling the purity of the fruit makes the wine enjoyable without food. This is truly great Beaujolais in a difficult vintage that those familiar only with the beefier northern appellations should discover if they can find the bottle. I’ve been looking for a few years and finally found it on the bottle list at Archive in Toronto (which, incidentally, is one of my favourite wine bars in Canada).
$100 on the wine list at Archive, Toronto