The domain les Côtes de la Roche

In the north western corner of Beaujolais, taking the small winding roads in the grey stony terrain beyond the village of Julienas, you will reach the small village of Jullié.

Continuing further on into the hills you will find the Domain of les Cotes de la Roche in the hamlet of Le Préau. Here Gérard and Joelle Descombes created their own vineyard in 1973.Their love of the vine was inherited from their respective parents whose lives in the vineyards they shared from an early age.

Today their domain covers 38 acres and in addition 20 more acres on the slopes overlooking the Chateau de la Roche (Beaujolais Villages). This has been augmented over the years by some prestigious vineyards in Chenas, Julienas, Moulin-a-Vent and St- Amour.

The vines grow for the main part on quite steep slopes. Growing uniquely gamay grapes, as required in Beaujolais, the vines are pruned in the goblet style with 5 short stems bearing the grapes. The youngest vines are 8 years old whilst the oldest are nearly 90 years old. Finally insecticide and chemical treatment are restricted and carefully controlled.

Mildew is combated by applying powdered sulphur.The wine is all made and bottled at the domain.

The Harvesting of the Grapes

The high moment of the year is in September. After many months of hard work all through the winter then beneath the early spring sun at last the winegrower can hope to reap the fruits of his labours. For many it is a rendez-vous that they would not miss for anything in the world. “One meets again the friends from the 4 corners of France reunited in Beaujolais at the grape harvest”

The grapes are all picked by hand .Each harvester with his/her pruning knife has a row of vines to tackle. Those most to be pitied are the porters for whom, on the steep slopes, it is no picnic to carry their many kilos of grapes to the awaiting skip.

Any grapes of poor quality (unripe or rotten) are discarded and the rest are unloaded into the vats for fermentation. Even as the famished harvesters are settling down to enjoy Joelle`s evening meal the vinification will have begun.

The winemaking 

The Domain of the Cotes de la Roche has recently been fitted out with brand new vats in a traditional building. Now completely renewed it makes an ideal cellar. Cleanliness everywhere in and around this building is a priority for the winemaker. This is one of the best guarantees for the quality of his wines.

Once in the vats, the bunches of grapes are heated to between 25 and 30 C to ensure the start of the fermentation process. The vats are sampled daily to analyse the aromas and tannins that determine the length of fermentation. This depends on the type of wine: 6 days for Beaujolais Villages, 4 days for the Nouveau. This is to release the aromas without suppressing them with excess of tannins. On the other hand the better village wines stay in their vats for 8 to 10 days.

Now it is the time for the pressing of the grapes, much to the great joy of the initiated who gather to taste the young wine, called “paradise”, straight from the vat.

The work of the wine grower is far from over. The wine has to be decanted and the secondary malolactic fermentation must be carefully controlled. The wines require special attention as they develop and reach maturity at their own pace before November for the Nouveau and all winter for the special wines.

So we still need a little patience…

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