2018 Paul-Henri Thillardon Beaujolais 'Raisin Libre'
Region: Beaujolais < Burgundy <France
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming with biodynamic practices; sandy granite soils; whole cluster, long, cool semi-carbonic macerations; bottled both unfined and unfiltered with no added sulfites; 12.5% ABV
Winemaker: Paul-Henri Thillardon
This is pure Gamay glou glou from one of Beaujolais’ rising talents, Paul-Henri Thillardon, whose family farm is home to horses that work in the vineyards, as well as geese, turkeys, pigs, and dogs. As if this wasn’t pastoral enough, he even lives in a converted pigsty on the property. But he’s no country bumpkin – Paul-Henri has positioned himself as the champion of Beaujolais' smallest, sleepiest cru, Chénas. In 2008, he began making wine from 3ha of vineyards that he farmed organically from the start, working some of the vineyards with said horses and using biodynamic treatments. In 2009, he met Fleurie winemakers and lynchpins of the Fleurie natural winemaking scene, Jean-Louis Dutraive and Yvon Métras, who took the young Paul-Henri under their wing and inspired his evolution towards completely hands-off, zero-zero cellar work and the use of carbonic vs. Burgundian vinification techniques. The rest is history. He should be famous for the kind of incredible farming and heroic winemaking he’s doing, and his are among the best Beaujolais out there, but somehow he hasn’t made it to the top of the natty wine charts. Maybe because he makes such tiny quantities that if you blink, you miss them. Raisin Libre is his entry-level wine, the most glou glou of the lineup, and is extremely clean, classic and drinkable. All the fresh, gulpable Gamay feels in this one, with none of the junk found in the mass-produced Beaujolais Village plonk…