Now the oddest thing is the coincidence of it all. Not 3 weeks ago I won a bottle of Henry Fessy Fleurie in a college auction. Today I’m visiting the producer and having the best tasting of the trip. What a treat again as we went through a couple of whites, and then one red from each of the 12 Beaujolais appellations (10 Cru plus Beaujolais plus Beaujolais Villages).
Fessy produces 1.5m bottles per year (did half of this go to negociant? my memory fails me), with 70ha across all the Beaujolais appellations except Chiroubles. Yields are low (40hl/ha in recent years) and plans are to slowly replace old plantings to improve this. The change may mean Fessy tries to move slowly away from goblet to cordon royale if this is found to work better. This is seen as potentially desirable since mechanisation such as spraying is easier and more controllable (and efficient tunnel-sprayers more useable) when moving away from goblet (the manager estimates a 30% improvement in spray efficiency). However, I am left wondering whether it might be these low yields which gives such excellent wines, and Fessy is a favourite of mine. Another comment of the manager’s which really sticks in my mind is when he talked about their attitude towards organics and treating the environment: he said it was stupid not to use some of the excellent chemicals available for efficient and effective use in managing the vineyard, as long as this was done in a responsible and measured way. I was persuaded that here was a pragmatic man who, though some would disagree with him, had taken the time to consider the matter carefully.
Another point I found interesting was to hear how contracts with third-party growers work. These growers enter a contract in the year before harvest, but only receive payment after harvest, usually starting in the January of the next year and then getting money in 3 monthly or monthly payments which extend up to a year. I was told this is typical across France. It’s a tough life being a grower!