At the foot of the rolling vineyards of Moulin-à-Vent, just across the road from its famous namesake windmill, Domaine Diochon has been making Beaujolais the old-fashioned way since 1935. Bernard Diochon, the beloved, mustachioed character immortalized by photographer Gail Skoff, succeeded his father in 1967. As a torch bearer to the ancestral methods passed down to him, Bernard explains, "I like tannic wines without heaviness; with fruit and floral aromas. I don’t like weighty wines with hard tannins. My favorite wines are St Emilion from Bordeaux, and Chambolle-Musigny and Nuits-St-Georges from Burgundy. Every vigneron naturally chooses to make wines in the style they prefer. It works well that Kermit and I share the same taste; it’s what has allowed our relationship to last for so long." Picking when the grapes are perfectly mature, traditional whole cluster fermentations, aging in large old oak foudres, and bottling unfiltered in the springtime have characterized the house style.
According to Bernard, one of the most unique qualities of the domaine is the quality of the soil that they farm. Crumbly granite allows the vines to plunge easily towards “gore” subsoil, which feeds the vines, while adding a pronounced mineral component to the wine. (James E. Wilson, author of Terroir, explains gore to be an accumulated mass of sand and thin clay deposits with weathered feldspars, mica, and quartz.) Given the old age of his vines, anywhere between forty and one hundred years old, yields are naturally small. These are wines that are easy to enjoy in their youth but can handle years of cellar aging with great ease.
In 2007, Bernard wanted to retire but had no heirs. He appointed Thomas Patenôtre as his heir apparent, which has turned out to be an easy transition. We are grateful that the Diochon tradition continues through Thomas, safeguarding the ancestral methods that distinguish real Beaujolais from the mass-produced and highly over-commercialized juice that floods the market today.
Kermit Lynch: "Diochon’s Moulin-à-Vent is juicily delicious yet there is a majesty to it. It is full-blown and full-bodied, yet it has a lush, supple, swallowable texture. No hard edges. No astringency. No heat. Moulin-à-Vent is supposed to be the grandest of the region’s Grands Crus, and here you sense a certain grandeur throughout the taste experience. And don’t overlook the visuals. Diochon’s color is always a sight to see. The color, like the flavor, is cassis-like. This wine is a perennial favorite at the retail store in Berkeley, and Bernard himself is one of the most respected and beloved figures in the region. His wild moustache looks as if it has seen the inside of a million wine glasses, and it’s hard to imagine a world without wine like this."
February 201592 Dark ruby. Smoky cherry and blackberry scents are complicated by hints of violet, black pepper and star anise. Deeply pitched, energetic dark berry and floral pastille flavors show excellent clarity and an appealing sweetness. At once powerful and lithe, finishing with excellent thrust and length. Youthfully chewy tannins lend grip.