Back in the 80's there was the gang over in Morgon fueled by copinage and working naturally. Some lone wolfs went about their business like chickens running through vineyards. One of them was over in Regnie, one of the ten crus of the Beaujolais.
I came late to his wines, but thanks to David Lillie of Chambers Street Wines, better late than never.
The first time I tasted the Ducroux expression of gamay, I had no idea what to expect. One sip and I had that smack across the face: recognition of beauty. From the Prologue (his nouveau entry, released in April after the vintage) to the Patience which is released after three years, I love them all. My favorites are his unsulfured variations. His 2010 Prologue was the wine I took to show to a dinner party in Austria. It was a bold move because there is nothing flashy about it. The wine is a whisper. When Willi Klinger, the host and head of the Austrian Wine Board tasted it, he knew me better, and realized the essence of the kinds of wines I had been writing about.
We drove up to a run down farmhouse and working on a tractor was a lanky man with terribly long limbs, in need of face shaving education, in a Beaujolais apron, working on a tractor's engine. There was an almost ancient, walking into a blacksmith sort of feeling to the setting. The almost rain. The old spreading trees.
Christian Ducroux moves slowly with a fabulous, balletic grace. He walked to us, almost as if we were unexpected. When he came up close, I saw that Christian bore close resemblance to David Lillie. Separated at birth, I suspected.
Ducroux has the kind of winery that would give most New World makers apoplexy. Cement tanks from the 1950s, ancient equipment. Probably everything left over from his father's era. Animals and children running around the courtyard, stopping for a sip of Beaujolais when thirsty.
We strolled across to his vines and the talk commenced: as of 2011 he has been 31 years in organics and 25 years in biodynamics, certified. This was in complete split with his family's history. His brother also makes wine, but conventionally from conventionally farmed grapes. But C. Ducroux is an organic/bioD fanatic who also produces his own fertilizer and compost, plows with a horse, and has that animal passion horse plowers seem to have. But he is looking towards an ox. "A horse walks at 2k an hour," he said, "but an ox is much slower! 1k an hour." So, better for soil health.
Look above at that shot, he has taken out every other row and planted with trees, his attempt to develop greater biodiversity. He doesn't believe that vine age is so important (though his are not so young) what is important is yield. Proving the point, he works on high density, 10,000 vines per hectare and averages 25-30 hectoliters per hectare. Another obsessions of Christian's is to limit or eliminate the use of copper sulfate. The use of copper is an 'organic' treatment against mildew--often a large problem in the Beaujolais. It is contentious because of its toxicity and often cited by chemical advocates, offering that their products are safer for the environment. But what is often ignored by the critics is that people like Ducroux actively work to limit their use, rarely approaching the legal limit. In many years, in fact, he has used no copper sulfate. At one time he had a seven year copper -free run. Instead he fools around with sprays of clay as well as fenugreek. He's experimented with petit lait (whey), but alas, it doesn't work for him. When asked why he battles the use of copper to this extreme, he says he views it as a personal challenge.
I have met many humble, hardworking vignerons before but I never met one who admits to being a farmer and wanting to make farmers wine. Nor have I met anyone who believes that to express a wine of terroir, one must make a nouveau. And so he does. Next year to be labeled Vin de Table.
I've added this little video, on which I rival Jonathan Nossiter for the shakieset hand. The material isn't great, and it's meandering, but you'll get a sense of the man and his vines. Those are his small children playing in the background. Meet Christian Ducroux, man and farmer and maker of farm wine. The wines as far as I know it, are Chambers Street Wines exclusives.