DOMAINE THILLARDON, Paul-Henri et Charles Thillardon, Chénas Organic
‘Contemporary Beaujolais is rife with opportunity – overlooked terroirs, abandoned vines, appellations ripe for rehabilitation. But few young vignerons have committed to such ambitious challenges as Paul-Henri and Charles Thillardon, who have positioned themselves as the future of Beaujolais’ smallest, sleepiest cru, Chénas.
After graduating with a BTS viti-oeno from the Lycée Bel-Air, Paul-Henri says his initial, outmoded goal was to make all ten crus. Much has changed since he founded the domaine in 2008. “We even used selected yeast, our first year,” he says. “Because I didn’t know how to make natural wine, I’d never seen it in my life, and I’d never drunk it.”
Then in 2009 he met Fleurie winemakerJean-Louis Dutraive, a lynchpin of the Fleurie natural winemaking scene who himself had just attained organic certification for his own domaine. “He was the most open,” says Paul-Henri, citing Dutraive as introducing him to the aesthetics of natural Beaujolais.
Gradually, as his domaine has grown to its present 12ha, Paul-Henri’s winemaking has aligned with those of his mentors. 2015 is the first year he’s aimed for long, cool semi-carbonic macerations, refrigerating the harvest for the first time, and vinifying entirely whole-cluster.
The Thillardon brothers hail from Frontenas, in the south of Beaujolais, where their father still grows vines. Paul-Henri founded the domaine in 2008, with his brother Charles, who formerly raised cows, joining him officially in 2014.’
Aaron Ayscough, Not Drinking Poison in Paris
(Their sister Aude and third brother Baptiste are now also working in the Domaine.)
Chénas ‘Les Blémonts’ comes from a parcel planted on clay and manganese soil, the vines are 60 years old. Carbonic maceration for 20 days, whole bunch, no remontage nor pigeage, no additives and bottled with a tiny amount of SO2. Gourmand and inviting, it soars from the glass with aromas of cherries, wild berries, rose petals and orange rind. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied, satiny and layered, with a supple attack, melting tannins and a textural, fleshy profile. This is hard to resist.