Chateau de Lavernette Les Vignes de la Roche Beaujolais Blanc 2013
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The chateau has been passed down through the Lavernette family since 1596, when Philibert Bernard de Lavernette bought the property from the monks of Tournus. It was a Seigneurie, or lordship, and as such a seat of power that administered justice in the area. (Those decisions, along with tax records, land deeds and the like, are recorded in ledgers in the Lavernette library, and have been studied by historians.) Documents from 1684 inventory two wine presses and four large vats on the property, but no doubt vineyards and wine making were part of Lavernette's makeup long before this. Early in the twentieth century, René de Boissieu married Gabriëlle Bernard de Lavernette, the heiress of Lavernette, and the property passed to the de Boissieu family. Today the twin shields on the Lavernette labels represent the coat of arms of the two families.
René was the grandfather of Bertrand de Boissieu who, with his Dutch wife Anke, was until recently the director of Lavernette. Bertrand and Anke were the first in the Beaujolais region to farm according to the ecological principles of lutte raisonnée, or reasoned fight, a pragmatic approach to organic farming that was, in their younger days, a radical thing in France. Beginning in 2006, their son Xavier, with his American wife Kerrie, took this one step further by converting the chateau’s 28 acres of vineyards to biodynamic farming. Certification came in 2010.
Xavier did an internship in New Zealand, followed by one at the Saintsbury winery in California. There he met an enologist, Kerrie O'Brien. They were married at Lavernette in 2006. In 2007 they purchased the parcel of Vers Chane near the summit of the hill that borders Fuissé, and in 2012 they bought three small parcels adjacent to their Gamay parcels. Today, apart from the parcel of Vers Chane, Xavier has his vines growing in homogeneous zones on three sides of the property.
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.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.