Lafarge, biodynamics, Gamay, granite – sounds like a match made in heaven n’est ce-pas? As if managing the Lafarge family’s iconic domaine in Volnay wasn’t enough, Frédéric and Chantal Lafarge decided in spring 2014 to embark on a new adventure a little further south. Still Burgundy but a new sector, a new grape variety and the inspiring Beaujolais Cru terroirs that come with it. What’s perhaps most beautiful about the new project is that the couple really wanted to invest in something together that would be entirely their own creation. This equal partnership is reflected in the inclusion of both of their names for the domaine’s title and on the label (Vial is Chantal’s maiden name).
The couple kicked off their venture by purchasing 2.25 hectares and winemaking facility in 2014. For this first vintage, they produced three cuvées – Chiroubles, Fleurie Bel Air and Fleurie Clos Vernay. In true Lafarge fashion, each one reflects its individual and specific vineyard origin. Frédéric and Chantal immediately began working all acquired vineyards biodynamically, with the same intention and detailed observation as for their Côte d’Or vineyards.
Following a few additional vineyard purchases, the domaine’s total surface area increased to 4.1 hectares for the 2015 vintage. This includes the acquisition of the gorgeous, high altitude, old vine plot of Joie du Palais in Fleurie. Here the steep slopes require horse-plowing, for which the Lafarges recruit Max, a beautiful gray horse who also spends time working Olivier Merlin’s vineyard in Moulin à Vent.
Frédéric is as giddy as a kid with a brand new toy – new terroirs to understand, new vineyards to observe and adapt his biodynamic methods to, and a new grape variety through which to communicate the combination of these complex elements.
The slight delay in ripeness between the Côte de Beaune and the Beaujolais allow the Lafarges to be fully present during harvest at both domaines for their first two vintages. The steep, gobelet-trained vineyards are hand-harvested and mostly de-stemmed, though there is up to 25% whole cluster in 2015. The couple prefers to stick to their traditional Burgundian vinification to ensure transparent terroir expression. Gentle extraction (with alternated punch-downs and pump-overs in 2014 and only pump-overs in 2015) and a relatively short élevage of 12 months in older barrels (228 or 350 liters) or foudres (30hl) is the rule of thumb for these Beaujolais Crus.