Perhaps one of the best examples of unintended (beneficial) consequences was Philip the Bold’s 1395 ordinance that the Gamay grape be exiled from his duchy (Burgundy) in favour of Pinot Noir. In the six centuries since, Gamay has found a natural home in the Beaujolais, just a few miles south of Mâcon.
A naturally prolific vine, Gamay on rich soils tends to produce insipid wines; on the poorer soils of Beaujolais, that exuberance is expressed not through higher yields but greater depth of fruit. The granite and schist rocks of the region weather to produce a thin, sandy soil (which the locals call arène), naturally low in nitrogen, which also washes away easily on the convex hillocks. This causes industrial farmers in the region to perpetuate a sad cycle: overuse of chemical fertiliser (especially nitrogen), leading to rapid weed growth, necessitating herbicide use, and an accumulation of acid in an already acidic soil, making nitrogen fixing ever more difficult.
We work with growers who are justly proud of their farming methods, and whose wines reflect the landscape: fruity but not facile, just the right amount of sunshine and cheer, and quite often, a cool, dark edge on the mid-palate and finish, as if the grape seeds were made of granite and schist. Good Beaujolais can often be aged for up to a decade, but it never takes us that long to finish the bottles we can get our hands on.