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The greater than ever availability of the best Beaujolais producer's wines has alerted American wine enthusiasts to their unique balance of sheer deliciousness with hidden structure, layered complexity and the ability to age.
Both names from the old guard like Foillard, Lapierre and Coudert and new Bourguignon entries from Lafarge, Boillot and others are rightfully taking their place in cellars throughout the country, alongside the best of the Côte d'Or, the Rhône, the Loire and Alsace.
Yet, the otherworldly wines from the grower who many regard as the greatest of all are conspicuously absent—Yvon Métras.
What those lucky enough to have put their hands on a few bottles of Métras' wines know is that no one else's Beaujolais is as ripe and concentrated while paradoxically having such purity and finesse. His wines simply transcend their appellations.
Such were our experiences in the late 1990's, but few today have the same opportunity for the simple reason that Métras doesn’t have a U.S. agent and apparently has no interest in doing so.
Even in France his wines are difficult to find; Métras' miniscule production is highly allocated, and they are immediately snapped up by his ardent following never to be seen again.
That Métras can't be bothered to export his wine to the U.S. isn't surprising from what little we know of him. By all reports, he is something of a mad genius, far more interested in spending time in his vines and cellar than with exportation or receiving visitors.
Numerous anecdotes of Métras being either absent or on his way out when an appointment had been made are testament to his enigmatic nature. Our own unsuccessful attempts underscore the difficulty of trying to visit him even with a pre-arranged appointment.
Those who've actually managed an encounter describe Métras as either a humble man who prefers to let his wines speak for themselves, or as unfriendly and egotistical, contributing further to his eccentric reputation. So does his reported tendency to refer to himself in the third person.
What is clear is how thrillingly pure and intense yet deep and concentrated Métras' wines are, though just how he manages to walk this knife's edge is not well known.
Inspired by France's father of vin natural Jules Chauvet and Morgon's Marcel Lapierre, Métras began working naturally in his vines and cellar in the early 1990s.
His holdings are small but great: his Fleurie is sourced from very old vines—some planted in 1898—in the top lieux-dits of Grille-Midi and La Madone. From a tiny plot of vines at Fleurie’s highest point comes Métras’ wine labeled simply Beaujolais, declassified solely because of its elevation.
He also has a half-hectare of old vines in Fleurie’s neighboring village of Moulin-â-Vent, whose terroir produces Beaujolais' most structured, sinewy wines. All of these parcels are worked entirely by hand and pruned severely for low yields. Métras harvests at perfect ripeness, ferments and macerates in whole clusters a l'ancienne and handles the wine as gently as possible.
Aside from these very basic details, the rest is all rather mysterious. As with Henri Jayer and Bruno Giacosa, something of how these wines come to be lies within Yvon himself. From the basic Beaujolais to his top Fleurie L’Ultime—sourced entirely from his oldest Grille-Midi vines—all of Métras’ wines bear his hallmarks of depth and complexity balanced by uncommon breed and grace.
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