Château-Thivin Côte de Brouilly 2016
We tasted and positively loved this iconic Beaujolais from the Côte de Brouilly. Imported by French wine specialist Kermit Lynch, serving a bottle of this wine is a classic lesson in the great Gamay-based wines of the Beaujolais region, and Côte de Brouilly specifically. We quote from Kermit's website for the full and wonderful story:
'It is no surprise that Château Thivin is the benchmark domaine of the Côte de Brouilly; everything about it is exceptional. Built in the fifteenth century on an ancient volcano which juts out steeply into the valley below, Thivin is the oldest estate on Mont Brouilly. Even more important, however, is its tremendous success since farmer Zaccharie Geoffray purchased the château with its two hectares of land at auction in 1877. His son Claude expanded the property over the next few decades, and his son, also named Claude, boosted the prestige of the zone in the face of the Great Depression when he played a pivotal role in the creation of the Côte de Brouilly appellation. With his wife Yvonne, he also helped to bring greater recognition to the entire region with the establishment of the Maison du Beaujolais in 1953. Over the years the family continued to promote the appellation, receiving many influential artists and journalists at the château. The French novelist, Colette, wrote admiringly of her visit to Thivin. In 1976, Richard Olney brought Kermit Lynch to visit the estate on their first wine trip together. It was Olney’s top recommendation in all of Beaujolais. The current generation of the Geoffray family continues their tradition. Today their grandnephew Claude, his wife Evelyne, and their son Claude-Edouard continue the tradition as staunch and proud defenders of the terroir of the Côte de Brouilly.
Thivin’s Côte de Brouilly parcels are predominantly south-facing and are planted entirely with Gamay vines that average 50 years of age. The soil is plowed and composted regularly while cover crops are left between some rows to encourage microbiotic activity. Absolutely no insecticides are used. On a slope with a grade of 48% and crumbly surface, implementing these techniques is essential to safeguard the soil from erosion, but it isn’t easy! Each section of the vineyard is harvested and vinified separately to preserve the unique characteristics afforded by variations in exposure and altitude. Even the estate’s vineyards in the Brouilly appellation are planted on a moderately steep hillside of decomposed pink granite, while most of the appellation is planted on the flat valley floor. Traditional whole-cluster fermentation keeps the characteristic fruity qualities of Gamay, after which the grapes are transferred to cuves by gravity without being crushed. Each vintage spends a few months in large oak foudres before bottling. The resulting wines, according to Kermit, resemble “…a country squire who is not afraid to get his boots muddy. Handsome, virile, earthy, and an aristocrat.”
From the Wine Advocate:
"Château Thivin must be one of the prettiest wineries in Beaujolais, perched on the steep slopes of the Côte de Brouilly like something you would find on a postcard. It is always a pleasure to meet winemaker Claude-Edouard Geoffrey (still a dead-ringer for Harry Potter—apologies for keep mentioning that), and in recent years he has certainly been casting his magic over the wines that are among the finest in Beaujolais. "The 2016 season started very warm," he told me as we tasted in his dining room, "and for one month [in early spring] it stayed around 25 degrees Celsius. This was followed by a cool period. April to June was very rainy, which made the viticulture very difficult, and then there was good weather during flowering. Afterwards it was a very good August and September, very hot and dry. Some of the young vines suffered during this period. We started the harvest around 21 or 22 September and finished 6 or 7 October. The next day the vines were freezing." Although the 2016s faced a more challenging growing season than the previous year, Thivin's wines performed extremely well, demonstrating freshness and satisfying fruit, not just with respect to the reds but also a wonderful Beaujolais Rosé that is one of the finest I have tasted from the region. I have bleated on about the brilliance of Thivin's Côte de Brouilly, in my mind one of the finest offerings from Beaujolais, an exemplary expression of Gamay from one of its most propitious terroirs. In summary, it is onwards and upwards from Château Thivin."