Camille Melinand Chiroubles 2019
In Chiroubles Camille farms one of the highest elevation crus in Beaujolais at 400m, a 1ha lieu-dit called Tempéré, which is located on a very steep south-facing slope of 35% grade. To work the soil, he has to utilize cables and winches for plowing. It is painful, manual work, but Camille feels the results in the vineyard are worth the massive effort. The vineyard is planted to 50-year-old, gobelet trained Gamay vines on pink granite.
Camille Mélinand comes from a family of winegrowers in Fleurie, the center of the northernmost section of Beaujolais. He is a young, cult producer handcrafting small amounts of ultra-elegant and delicious Cru Beaujolais from estate vineyards utilizing natural farming and production methods. Presently, Camille farms two vineyards he owns in Fleurie and Chiroubles, vinifying the wines in traditional large foudres at his family’s cellar in Fleurie, Domaine de Marrans, where he works with his brother Mathieu to make the domaine wine. Growing up during the Beaujolais crisis, Camille wanted to do anything but make wine, so he pursued other interests, working in Lyon. Gradually, as he returned home to the family winery every weekend, life in the vines began to call to him, and in 2015/2016, he decided to come back to Beaujolais.
Even though he had grown up in the vineyards and knew the Beaujolais terroir very well, he needed to gain more winemaking experience. Camille trained in Beaune for a year, followed by an apprenticeship at Domaine Sérol in Côte Roannaise. There, he learned how to work with biodynamics in the vineyard at a domaine with a similar philosophy to his. After that, he went to work in the US for a little bit in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. 2019 was his first vintage vinifying his own wines under the Camille Mélinand label.
Camille works organically and does not use any chemicals in the vineyard or winery. Whole clusters are harvested by hand in small boxes, and in the cellar, he does a traditional 15-day carbonic maceration, followed by alcoholic fermentation with native yeasts and without added sulfur. Aging is in old, large traditional foudres for 12 months, and wines are bottled without fining, filtering, or manipulation of any kind. Average yields in his vineyards are around 40 hl/ha.
Delightfully playful, but also capable of impressive gravitas, Gamay is responsible for juicy, berry-packed wines. From Beaujolais, Gamay generally has three classes: Beaujolais Nouveau, a decidedly young, fruit-driven wine, Beaujolais Villages and Cru Beaujolais. The Villages and Crus are highly ranked grape growing communes whose wines are capable of improving with age whereas Nouveau, released two months after harvest, is intended for immediate consumption. Somm Secret—The ten different Crus have their own distinct personalities—Fleurie is delicate and floral, Côte de Brouilly is concentrated and elegant and Morgon is structured and age-worthy.
The bucolic region often identified as the southern part of Burgundy, Beaujolais actually doesn’t have a whole lot in common with the rest of the region in terms of climate, soil types and grape varieties. Beaujolais achieves its own identity with variations on style of one grape, Gamay.
Gamay was actually grown throughout all of Burgundy until 1395 when the Duke of Burgundy banished it south, making room for Pinot Noir to inhabit all of the “superior” hillsides of Burgundy proper. This was good news for Gamay as it produces a much better wine in the granitic soils of Beaujolais, compared with the limestone escarpments of the Côte d’Or.
Four styles of Beaujolais wines exist. The simplest, and one that has regrettably given the region a subpar reputation, is Beaujolais Nouveau. This is the Beaujolais wine that is made using carbonic maceration (a quick fermentation that results in sweet aromas) and is released on the third Thursday of November in the same year as harvest. It's meant to drink young and is flirty, fruity and fun. The rest of Beaujolais is where the serious wines are found. Aside from the wines simply labelled, Beaujolais, there are the Beaujolais-Villages wines, which must come from the hilly northern part of the region, and offer reasonable values with some gems among them. The superior sections are the cru vineyards coming from ten distinct communes: St-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. Any cru Beajolais will have its commune name prominent on the label.