A WINE FOR KEEPING
This is an assertive wine with an extraordinarily dense color, an elegance that comes from its complexity, and a velvety power. It is delightful when young, when its fruit matches the smooth tannins. But one can also wait for it to become more rounded over time, drinking it in 10, or even 20 years time, depending on the year.
The deep stone cellar provides a safe shelter for these rare wines with so much promise. Pierreux is the expression of life and all the authenticity of a wine that goes beyond the great appellation of Brouilly; Pierreux has itself become unique.
On the cusp of the harvests, the plots are visited to sample the grapes, pips and juice and set the ideal picking dates depending on location. Then the manual harvesting begins, which involves around 100 pickers from far and wide.
The fruit is painstakingly sorted before going into the vat. To optimize maceration, each vat is only filled to 80% with destalked grapes, which means only the tannins from the berries are extracted. Maceration lasts for two to three weeks, depending on the potential of each cuvée. Daily tasting allows the winemaker to monitor the evolution of the future wine, and only to press once the maximum has been obtained from the grapes. Throughout vinification, the temperature of the must is carefully controlled to preserve the most volatile aromas. The vats are kept at 27°C at the start of fermentation, dropping to 22°C at the end.
Pressing is done gently, then the free-run juice is blended with pressed juice, which then undergoes static settling for 48 hours.
The wine is racked off into oak vats at the end of fermentation to encourage micro-oxidation, which helps smooth the tannins. Malolactic fermentation occurs naturally over the winter. In early February, the wine then goes into Burgundy barrels that have already been used for three or four vintages, and remain there for 10 months.
Oak ageing, tradition oblige !
The wines of Pierreux are rare among Beaujolais wines since they are almost all aged in oak. The Château de Pierreux has around 40 wooden vats, spread among three cellars. The youngest are a year old, the oldest around 50. Besides the benefits of this kind of ageing, these vats imbue each wine with its own history, and in doing so, confer on them a strong personality.
Since summer 2015, the “cellar under the chalet” has been home to eight impressive 50hl vats, which were built inside the cellar, and which join the four vats installed in 2011 and the 31 older vats. This type of ageing was widespread in Beaujolais until the 1960s, when it was largely abandoned in favor of cement vats. It has, however, always been practiced at Pierreux, where it contributes to the style of the wines that are appreciated for their gentle tannins and appealing roundness. The oak vat is in fact the ideal container to underline their personality, minimizing the influence of the wood and conserving their light character.
The next stage, that which determines the declaration of a Cuvée Grande Réserve, takes place at the start of the year, after all the vats have been tasted to see if an ideal blend can be achieved.