In Villié-Morgon and Beaujolais, winegrowers still speak of Jules Chauvet, a chemist and negociant who was one of the pioneers of what is loosely known nowadays as the natural wine movement: painstaking work in the field and during the harvest to pick only healthy grapes, natural fermentations, no sulphur during elevage, and bottling without fining or filtration. Joseph Chamonard was one of the earliest adherents, making wines which were completely unlike any others in the appellation, and today his daughter Geneviève and son-in-law Jean-Claude Chanudet carry on his legacy, making long-lived Morgon (the 1995 is superb now) and Fleurie.
Jean-Claude farms completely naturally, preferring to preserve the biomass in the vineyard as far as possible. The cellar is bare, with wines either bubbling away (in winter and sometimes spring) or resting before bottling. It’s the exceptional vintages where his wines really stand out; without losing the imprimatur of that year’s climate, he somehow manages to tease the wines towards a balanced, proportionate state. In 2003, a hot, dry year which led to many unbalanced wines, it was by accelerating the fermentation and retaining a good proportion of the lees (the wine is still turbid, but wonderful now). When asked how he knew what to do, he shrugs apologetically, “I don’t know – the grapes tasted different, and it just seemed like the right thing. Didn’t turn out too bad, eh?”