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“It is clearly one of the very finest Cru Beaujolais producers in the firmament of the region today and an estate that I plan to be drinking with great regularity from this point forward… These are clearly some of the most pure, expressive and refined examples of Cru Beaujolais to be found in the region, and the domaine clearly deserves to be more widely known amongst the Beaujolais cognoscenti.”
- John Gilman, View from the Cellar #28
In 1821 the mayor of Chénas, Jean-Marie Loron, began exporting the wines Beaujolais and Mâcon around the world. After taking over the business some years later, Jean-Marie’s son married one of the daughters of the Charlet family in 1852. Her family owned the Clos de Billards vineyard in Saint Amour and, following the marriage, the two businesses merged. By the 1900’s the Loron family was one of the most famous négotiants in Beaujolais, with holdings in almost all of the famous crus. Unlike other négotiants, however, the individual domaines continued to produce their wine independently using the traditional methods they always had. Six generations later, this venerable family is still firmly rooted in the region and still producing outstanding Beaujolais. The wines are made by Xavier and Gregory Barbet, direct decedents of the original owners, and are labeled under each of the different wineries: Domaine des Billards, Chateau de Fleurie, Grand Moulin, Chateau de la Pierre, and Beau!.
This is seriously old-school winemaking: after hand-harvesting, the grapes undergo semi-carbonic maceration in vats using only indigenous yeasts. The wines are then aged half in cement tanks and half in large old wooden foudres with a light fining before bottling. Although delicious when young, the wines are incredibly age-worthy. A recent tasting of wines ranging back into the mid-1970’s showed great intensity and complexity without any sign of fatigue.
The Beaujolais region is finally getting the recognition it deserves and the Barbets are a perfect example of why; these are impressive wines with surprising complexity and elegance. They would not be out of place in any collector’s cellar nor on the table with your next meal. Luckily, good Beaujolais is still one of the great values in French wine.
There is a personal connection for us too:
"Owner Xavier Barbet is my wife’s first cousin and I have spent many a good time with him and his family. It was he-with four cases of cru Beaujolais as a wedding gift-who got me into wine, and I am very happy and excited to be able to work together." – David Bowler