A fortified red from…. the Beaujolais?!

My uncle came to visit for a couple days, and in addition to some of my favorite Jura reds, he also brought along this very original bottle of fortified wine from the Beaujolais.

Domaine des Terres Vivantes

From the little I could find online, the Domaine des Terres Vivantes -Living Soils Estate- is a relatively recent organic estate in southern Beaujolais run by Marie and Ludovic Gros. Before setting off on this new adventure, she was a baker and he was a sommelier, and so they not only craft wines in the Beaujolais AOC, but also bake and sell their own artisanal bread.

Fortified Gamay: Volutes

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this bottle, since my uncle didn’t really know what it was, just that it was sweet. Also, the Volutes is labeled as a “spiritueux” (spirit) and contained 18% alc/vol, so my first thought was a Pineau des Charentes type drink, which is made by adding distilled spirits to grape must (ie. unfermented juice).

After contacting the winery, I found out that Burgundy/Beaujolais does have such a product called riquiqui., but it turns out that this bottle is actually a fortified red wine similar to a Banyuls or Porto. The estate first made the experiment in 2003, the year of the heat wave which provided many over-ripe grapes. They were able to repeat the process in 2006 and 2010 by harvesting part of their Gamay 15 to 20 days later and adding a neutral spirit to halt the fermentation at around 40g of residual sugar.

Ripe aromas of dark fruit and griotte cherry reminded me of some of the more exuberant Uruguay wines which I had very much enjoyed in South America, though with noticeably more alcohol. On the palate, soft tannins confirmed this impression, but the sweetness gives the wine a more mellow feel, while the surprisingly racy acidity keeps it composed and relatively fresh on the delicious finish, with lingering pomegranate notes.

I think it is this freshness that sets this Beaujolais apart from the more southern Banyuls or Porto, and I very much enjoyed the wine, though the alcohol can be a bit too present without some food to balance it out.

Ludovic Gros also mentioned that they are currently working on a proper “cooked” wine, which is reduced to only a third of its initial volume and reaches 19.5% alc/vol. Interesting, but probably not for me…

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