Producer Focus: Guy Breton

Producer Focus: Guy Breton

Let me tell you a story...

Beaujolais in the '70s was about one thing, and one thing only: volume. Vignerons were pumping out hundreds of thousands of bottles of bubble gum scented reds to fill the glasses of diners in bistros from Paris to Poughkeepsie. But then a man by the name of Jules Chauvet came along and decided enough was enough.
Chauvet suspected that the only way to rescue the wines of his home ground was to look to the past and embrace traditional winemaking values. First was learning to value and nurture the few old bush-vines that the appellations still had rather than favouring younger, more plentiful, but lower quality young vines. Once the vineyards were ready, the winemaking process required dedication and craft. Grapes were to be rigorously sorted, vinified using indigenous, wild yeasts and definitely not smothered with sulphur at every opportunity.
Jules Chauvet's lessons on winemaking led to him being known as the godfather of the natural wine movement. Amongst his acolytes was Guy Breton, one of the now infamous 'Gang of Four' winemakers known for changing wine in Beaujolais, and much further afield, forever.

Guy.... Or Max?

Guy took over the running of the family domaine from his father Max in the early 1980s. Guy, known as P'tit Max locally, had very little interest in making wine, that was until his friend Marcell Lapierre introduced him to the teachings of Jules Chauvet, inspiring him to look upon his inheritance afresh and start making wine in the traditional way. Together with Jean Foillard and Jean-Paul Thevenet, Guy and Marcel were dubbed the 'Gang Of Four' by the hugely influential American wine merchant Kermit Lynch for their revolutionary approach to winemaking, which has had repercussions throughout the world.

So there you have the back-story, but what about the wines?

Gamay, when grown on the almost inhospitable granite soils of the ten villages classified as Beaujolais Crus, shuts it's normal vigorous production down and rather than producing fleshy, juicy berries perfect for volume wine production, focuses it's energy into smaller, concentrated grapes with intense flavour, perfect for making wines with a depth and complexity to rival those up the road in the Cote D'Or.

The winemaking here is hands off. These are not heavily extracted wines, they are light, ethereal wines with perfumed aromas of ripe redcurrants, fresh cranberry, hints of black cherries and in Guy's case particularly, hints of spice. White pepper, fresh herbs and anise dance around in the glass, more intriguing with every sip. They are joyous in their youth, but a few years patience will be rewarded if you can wait.

Personally, this is the sort of wine that I get very excited about; delicate and pure on the palate but made by someone with a punk desire to buck the trend and fiercely follow a path that they know is right. Sometimes things don't have to be big to make an impact.
So vibrant, fragrant, so beguiling, and so utterly yummy, best served just chilled. Redcurrants, tiny strawberries, and perfectly ripe cherries, with raspberry coulis, soft spice and the most glorious perfume. A fruit bomb without being sweet or sickly, and with pitch perfect acidity, lots of marshmallow and soft leather notes.  If we could start every day with a small glass of lightly chilled Marylou, we think the world would be a much happier place.
Max’s Chiroubles is a site owned by a good friend of his, sitting 400m above sea level on decomposed granite soils, with the average vine age around 65 years old. This is the most delicate and aerial style of all, with brambly blackberry fruit sliding into freshly picked rapsberries and cherries. The tannins are soft and feathery, yet the aromas are a highly concentrated, with fresh hazelnut, cacao, liquorice and cassis there too.
80 year old bush vines. The concentration and precision of fruit is remarkable - sweet cranberry, blackcurrant and black cherry. The nose is suggestive of a forest during summertime, with scents of wild flowers and violets, liquorice, mint, fern and hummus. Beautifully balanced, the acidity adding freshness to the fruits and the velvety texture adding charms to the savoury notes. A complete wine that has many years of interesting evolution ahead of it, but which is fully opened already.
Should this trigger a passion for new-wave Beaujolais or progressive Gamay in your heart, please click the bottles above and you'll find other cult winemakers from the Beaujolais and beyond such as Julien Sunier, Anne-Sophie Dubois and Ochota Barrels who have followed the path laid down by Guy and his Gang of Four.
Kit & The Love Wine Team

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.