From €11.90, $21.99, HK$206, £18.50, CA$24.55, NZ$35, AU$46
This wine is a benchmark beauty, everything you want from a Beaujolais cru: pure, fresh, vibrant with dark-red fruit, a very slight floral note (peony?) and tannins that are smooth and fine-grained enough for current drinking with food but sufficiently structured to age well over at least the next decade, as Jancis can confirm from her tasting of the impressive 2007 in 2014 (see Bojo with mojo for more on how well beaujolais can age).
This is Gamay at home and at its very best. There's also a hint of something dry and stony in both the aroma and the texture which adds to the wine's overall elegance and freshness. All these flavours and the gently peppery aftertaste persist long after you have swallowed the wine.
Please note that Ch Thivin, Les Sept Vignes 2016 Côte de Brouilly is Thivin's estate Côte de Brouilly sold everywhere but in the US, where Ch Thivin 2016 Côte de Brouilly is widely available thanks to importer Kermit Lynch. While I have not tasted the US blend, owner and winemaker Claude-Édouard Geoffray (below) explains that the wines are very similar and all from the same vineyards on Mont Brouilly. The main difference is that the US blend is unfiltered, which seems to give the wine a little more body.
Château Thivin is, apparently, the oldest estate on Mont Brouilly. The original manor was built in the 14th century and the estate was bought by the Geoffray family at the end of the 19th century, their descendants being instrumental in the creation of the Côte de Brouilly appellation in the 1930s. Today Ch Thivin is run by Claude Geoffray and his wife and their son Claude-Édouard and his wife.
Their viticulture is certified by Terra Vitis, which promotes sustainable farming methods and healthy soils. The Ch Thivin website gives a bit more detail:
'Vines, like any living thing, need a complex and diverse environment to provide natural regulation of pests and diseases. That's why we maintain the hedges which border the vineyards, we cultivate mixtures of grasses and flowers between the rows to create a refuge for a multitude of insects and, above all, we use no insecticide.
'On another level, the soil plays an essential role in feeding the vines and regulating the water they receive. So we have to add compost regularly and aerate the soils by harrowing the surface, which does have its difficulties in our Côte de Brouilly vineyards, where the slope is 48% [see below].
'The summer pruning of the leaf cover is done by hand to optimise exposure to the sun and promote good aeration of the grapes. When some tasks require the use of machinery, we have opted for microtractors, which have the twin advantage of using less fuel and not compacting the soil.'
Les Sept Vignes refers to Ch Thivin's seven parcels of vines (8.3 ha/20 acres) on the steep slopes of the east, south and south-west sides of Mont Brouilly (I took this picture from the top of the hill, at about 480 m/1,570 ft). The soils are blue stone rather than the pink granite more common in Beaujolais, so there tends to be more clay than sand and also some gravel. Claude-Édouard Geoffray believes this type of soil gives a floral note to his wines.
The parcels are fermented separately and their fermentation method is what is generally referred to in the region as 'traditional', though this seems to have many nuanced interpretations among the producers. Basically it involves intracellular carbonic maceration until the skins break, proceeding to 'normal' fermentation in the same vessel, then pressing before fermentation has finished.
At Thivin the fermentation starts in concrete tanks and large wooden vats which are fed by gravity from the reception area. The still-fermenting wine is pressed off the skins after around 16 days. Shorter maceration and the firmer pressing that this requires can make the wines hard, Geoffray believes. The fermentation finishes in oak foudres (pictured below), where the wine also ages for around nine months. The alcohol is 13.5%.
He prefers to work with 70% whole bunches as he believes this gives him the sweet spot of structure, freshness and fine tannins. Thanks to the influence of this vineyard site, he does not need to use 100% whole bunches to increase the wine's floral character or freshness.
In the US, Ch Thivin Côte de Brouilly is widely available in both full and half bottles. In the UK, Les Sept Vignes Côte de Brouilly is available from Richard Kihl, Taurus Wines, Four Walls, Berry Bros & Rudd, Alpine Wines, Old Butcher's Wine Cellar and also from Domaine Direct, Ch Thivin's principal importer (£18.99 per bottle, minimum order is 12 bottles but these can be mixed). Contact Domaine Direct by email or on 020 7404 9933.
It is also widely available in France, elsewhere in Europe, as well as in Hong Kong, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Some retailers are still selling the 2015, which I have not tasted, but which Jancis rated very highly and as very good value last year. Chris Piper Wines in Devon, south-west England, stock both the Thivin whites (Cuvée Marguerite Beaujolais-Villages Blanc and Clos de Rochebonne Beaujolais Blanc and they always stock an aged Thivin Côte de Brouilly, as part of the 'insane desire to show/sell every facet of the Beaujolais region', says Chris Piper. Currently, it's the Clos Bertrand 2015.
At Ch Thivin I had the chance to taste the latest vintages with Claude-Édouard, including the 2017 of this wine, which promises to be as good as the 2016. The 2016 single-parcel wines were also excellent – the slightly more oaky Cuvée Zaccharie the only one aged in 228-litre pièces – and I have no hesitation in recommending Ch Thivin's entire range including their very good 2017 Beaujolais Blanc. Their slightly lighter Ch Thivin Reverdon Brouilly, which comes from vines on granite and is slightly cheaper than the Côte de Brouilly but less widely available, is deliciously fresh and fragrant in both the 2016 and 2017 vintages.