When we look back at the natural wine movement, it is easy to trace many of its founding ideals back to the Gang of Four back in the 1980s Beaujolais. Chemical farming had taken a stranglehold on the region whose wines were at the time difficult to sell, and the answer to that–Beaujolais Nouveau– threatened to force real Beaujolais into extinction. As the story goes, at this time a generation of young vignerons was poised to inherit their family domaines, and many of them who enjoyed drinking and rabble-rousing together got tired of the morning after hangovers. They–correctly or not–linked it to the pesticides and sulfur used in their parents’ wines, and vowed to find a way to do things differently, for all of our sakes. This tale, true though it may be, is inherently exclusionary because the so-called Gang of Four only included winemakers that would come to be imported by Kermit Lynch. Indeed, there were several others who set about onto the same path, and made wines that were every bit as incredible as those from Lapierre, Thévenet, Breton, and Foillard. Chief among those folks was Georges Decombes. Georges’ wines never caught on quite like those of the Gang, but they are among the most popular choices across Paris’ best bistros for Cru Beaujolais. Fast-forward to today, and Georges has passed on his know-how to his step-son Damien Coquelet, who is making waves among the younger generation of Beaujolais vignerons and vigneronnes. This month, we’ll be diving into his Beaujolais Villages–the ultimate and O.G. chillable red.
Hailing from the little hamlet of Vermont in the heart of the Beaujolais, Damien’s wines are made according to the principles that define natural wine for us. Native yeast, organic farming, and minimal sulphur. But not only that, Coquelet is avowedly opposed to any chemical interventions in the cellar that are not often talked about, from the use of sugar to increase the body of a wine, to acidification and deacidification. Like Lapierre, the goal here is the production of pure Gamay using nothing but healthy, organic fruit. It’s fresh, it’s mineral, and it’s a bit funky. It’s killer with a duck leg confit and some fries. Try it!