The New New Beaujolais

I met Lauren Faupin at Domaine de Briante in the Beaujolais. It’s a beautiful spot. Standing outside the renovated C18th chateau you can see for miles to Mont Blanc. Lauren has been responsible for developing the domaine and the smart B&B in an annex. The Faupin family are foremost suppliers of equipment and machinery to the the wine trade on the Côte d’Or and beyond. When I was short of a tank for my 2017 Savigny-Lès Beaune, Alexandre Faupin stepped in to help, lending me a vat. I in turn promised to go down to the Beaujolais and see what his sister was up to.


Lauren is on a mission to change the outdated perception of Beaujolais as ‘nouveau’ easy drinking, to something more serious which is made in a more Burgundian style. “There is a bit of a fight between Beaujolais and Burgundy. Burgundy does not want Beaujolais, but Beaujolais needs Burgundy in a way. We are from Burgundy, but we want to develop our identity here. We bought Domaine de Briante in 2011 and that was our first vintage although we had not worked the vineyards that season. As more people invest here, it becomes more dynamic and it helps that domaines from Burgundy are now making wine here too,” Lauren tells me.


The vineyards of Brouilly are wrapped around two sides of the chateau. As is traditional, the Gamay is goblet pruned although Lauren has changed this to cordon and spur pruning and the vines are now trellised and the new vineyard areas have been planted on a 1m x 1m density. Goblet is difficult to work and with the dry soil and old vines Lauren found they lost too many vines. The wind was particularly damaging. The soil is a mix of sand and clay. There is a particularly good parcel of old vines which is slightly south facing and this becomes the Baronne cuvée.



Lauren cut her teeth making wine in New Zealand, Oregon (Drouhin) and Tuscany with a stints in Burgundy Senard and Arlot) ending up in Canada where she rediscovered the Gamay grape. In Canada she was cellar master in a winery where she found herself making Gamay in a Burgundy fashion. She began to question what she was doing so far from home. “I believe in my country and so I wanted to come back. I have brought my experience to work on Gamay in a place where it has its home. In Canada they were growing so many different varieties.”

She describes Gamay as a flexible grape. “It is not going to give you strong tannins and it does not have the shoulders to take too much new oak. It can make a fruity wine at one end, but also a more complex wine. On sandy soil it is ‘easy’ while on clay and limestone it has more structure. Gamay on granite is best. This is the best terroir. It gives the freshness and the minerality of the stone.”

A mile or two from the chateau, the Côte de Bouilly rises like a crumpled witch’s hat from the levels – a hill that a child would draw. It offers a 360 degree vineyard aspect. Domaine de Briante’s are on a north facing slope on blue granite soil. “It’s a poor and acid soil,” says Lauren.

Lauren is experimenting. In 2017 she has used some whole cluster in the Moulin a Vents. For the vinification – after sorting on a vibrating table – she puts some whole cluster at the bottom of the tank and does a cold maceration for 2 to 3 days at 10-12 degrees. She prefers to add selected yeast than relying on a natural fermentation, especially in a warm year. She uses a mixture of remontage and pigeage.


“Concrete and oak tanks work well with Gamay as it can become quite reductive,” she remarks. This is also why she likes to age Gamay in larger format 350 litre barrels so there is less contact with the oak than in tradition 228 barriques.

Lauren uses amphora for 50% of the Côte de Brouilly. They are really rather lovely vessels made in Italy by Fonteldi, a company that makes tiles. They will take 400 litres of wine for ageing, but Lauren also uses them for fermenting – 300kilos – the equivalent for a barrique. She needs the extra room as this year she used 100% whole cluster. “It’s artisanal work,” says Lauren. The pump over is simply a case of taking buckets from the bottom and pouring over the top. After a 15-16 day vatting it is pressed. Lauren has a small and rather smart vertical hydraulic press – tiny with fetching orange markings. She is experimenting with it as her brother Alexandre has lent it to her to make trials. I was rather envious. I’d love to try it out.



She remarks on her winemaking approach. “I prefer to give emotion to my wine – from the soil, through the fruit to the wine.”

Lauren describes Domaine de Briante as “a life project, so I must do everything.” The family have a ten year plan to restore the vineyard and the château and build the business. This began with more hardship than she envisaged as she shivered her first winter in the unheated château.

“There are many changes in Beaujolais now with the cru. We are working on Côte de Brouilly and Moulin a Vent and people are listening. We need to communicate about the different terroir.”

I admire her spirit and desire to make a change. “We believe in the new Beaujolais. We have one grape and lots of soils and so many terroir to express.”

Domaine de Briante, Beaujolais, Brouilly Tradition

Vertical 2011-2016

I tasted a vertical of Beaujolais, Brouilly Tradition. Laurent releases the some wine from each vintage later in the market having aged them first. Now they are selling the 2012 for example. “We propose a vintage when it is ready to drink.” However some of the vintage is released earlier. “We work at two speeds.”

First a quick canter through the vintages in the Beaujolais with Lauren. These are her thoughts.

2011: Very mature. By the end of August it was finished
2012: Wet year with disease. We harvested mid September. Lots of sorting. Finesse. A vintage to keep.
2013: We harvested from the 29th September. It was a late vintage. Good acidity and structure.
2014: With hail we lost 50% in July. So this was difficult. However it’s made wine which are classic, light and have good acidity, but not big structure.
2015 Hot and dry with an end of August harvest. Low quantities. High degrees and low acidity. We prefer more digestive wines.
2016 A great vintage, although there was some hail in Moulin a Vent. Very heathy and the structure is lighter than 2015 with good acidity.
2017 Close to 2015 in style, but with better balance. It was dry, drier than in 2015. High alcohol, but better acidity. A nice vintage – between 2015 and 2016 in style.

Tasted in November 2017.

*Beaujolais, Brouilly Tradition 2016
Plentiful juicy red fruit on the nose. It’s soft and nicely rounded. A charming wine with the acidity to be nicely energetic. Well ripened red fruit and supple tannins. Notes of Victoria plum. All most pleasant and easy to enjoy. It’s ready when you are.

**Beaujolais, Brouilly Tradition 2015
Darker fruit. Touch of black plum and certainly some spice here too. The tannins are richer, fuller and more marked. Touch of liquorish. Quite a bit more matter and grip than easy going 2016. Both are nice, but this has more substance.

Beaujolais, Brouilly Tradition 2014
This is light and fresh. Red cherry fruit and a touch of mint. Definitely a cooler feeling here. The tannins are light, slightly leafy, but the acidity is not too high. It’s quite light. Not a lot of substance here.

Beaujolais, Brouilly Tradition 2013
Quite light bodied; maybe a touch lean. More acidity here. There are red cherry notes, but also showing some development with some nutty, mushroom notes and a touch of soya and dried leaf on the finish. It is a little drying on the finish, maybe the combination of the acidity and tannins. I do not think this will improve.

*Beaujolais, Brouilly Tradition 2012
The 2012 is a good deal better than the 2013 (and showing less development) and more appealing than 2014. There is good substance; dark fruit, really quite spicy with firm ..if not slightly tart acidity to balance. The tannins, which are certainly ripe, seemed a touch grippy, but as the wine opened they smoothed and became rather more elegant. It’s quite peppy and there is some tension here. I liked it.

*Beaujolais, Brouilly Tradition 2011
This is supple and charming. A nice fluidity. Actually not unlike the 2016 in the easy charm. Plentiful, ripe red fruits, rather luscious, and the tannins and soft in the mid palate. The tannins show a little on the finish, but in a good way, giving it a edge of bitter bite, to balance the sense of sweetness. This is very nice now. As it opens it shows more of the evolved character..acorns and a hint of forest floor. It’s very pleasant and easier than the 2012. Moreover it stayed this way for several days. You cannot help liking this wine.

Having tried the vertical, it’s clear you could keep the 2016. It will keep 4 or 5 years, but I am not sure there is a great deal to be gained. The 2011 is lovely now, but it’s a wine that has not developed much complexity with age. This is Domaine de Briante’s entry level wine, hence it is made to be enjoyed young. This the vertical I was given to take away and try, but this promises well for their more serious cuvées. It would be interesting to taste a vertical of the Côte de Brouilly another time.

The Burgundy Briefing 2016 Vintage Report contains the notes for 2016 Domaine de Briante’s other wines -Beaujolais Baronne, Côte de Brouilly, Moulin a Vents and Beaujolais Blanc, which is really rather good. 


On my drive back I stopped in Cluny for a spot of lunch and I just have to mention Le Bistrot Chez Les Garcons a quirky, kitsch place with delicious, hearty food, paper napkins and tin chairs on Place du Commerce. I was persuaded to have the pork loin, not something I normally eat, but it was very tasty indeed.