Domaine Gerard BrissonPortrait of a winemaker

Anna Caidan meets up with Louis Brisson winemaker at Domaine Gerard Brisson; discover the history, labels, secrets and passion
Wine Story

What could you tell me about the history of Domaine Brisson?

‘It’s a family domain. My grandfather bought it when he came back from Algeria, and he bought it when it was abandoned, so he did a great job planting new vines and building a new winery and cellar. As life went on, my father started in the late 70s, and now it’s me who has taken over.’

What is your favourite step in the wine making process?

‘For me, what is very important is the harvest time, and the choice of when you harvest. It is important to harvest at the right time, to determine how it will behave in the tank. We always harvest our grapes when they are 100% matured, so everything in the grape, the berries, the seeds, the stem must be matured to give the wine all the fruit flavours and all the good tannins. For me, it’s the crucial point. After that, if we have good potential, we can make a good wine; we can’t make a good wine if the grape quality is not good, otherwise it would not be an authentic wine, it’s not what we want to achieve.’

What is the secret to making Domaine Brisson wines?

‘First is harvesting at the right time, with the mature grapes. We produce Gamay wines; in Beaujolais all of the red wines are made from 100% Gamay. We vinificate the Gamay in a traditional way, not just because it’s traditional, but because we think it’s the best way. We put the whole grapes in tanks, we don’t remove the stems, that’s the second specificity of the domain. The third one, is to do a low fermentation, to extract structure and give the wine we produce a fruity flavour. And the fourth one, is the elevage, especially with the cuvée Noble Tradition; we age the cuvée when the vintage is good, and with high tannins, in oak barrels.’

What is your best memory since working at Domaine Brisson?

‘It’s a tough question! It’s a wine we opened for American clients, two months ago. It was from 1997, and it was delicious! It’s a good memory because every day we tell our clients that Beaujolais wines are not just Beaujolais Nouveau, not just easy to drink, easy to forget, one you can’t keep in the cellar for very long, but that’s not true! And to enjoy this old vintage with those people, it was a very pleasant experience. It’s good to know that people can still enjoy our wines that are 10,15 even 20 years old, that’s rewarding for us!’

What would you say is your most challenging memory?

‘I would say it’s the wine making process, the harvest period. It’s a bit risky to plan the harvest period, because we harvest manually, so it’s not like a machine, where if it’s not ready today, you can just put the machine in the garage and wait. If the people are there to work, they can’t wait. So, it’s very challenging to determine in advance the right time. So far, we have managed to do it! We have the chance to harvest in multiple plots, so if one is not ready, then maybe we can harvest in another.’

When is the best moment to drink your wine?

‘Our wines, or Gamay wine in general, are very good wines to drink because they range from lighter wines to drink as an aperitif, or with light food like salad or charcuterie, to a more structured wine to have with steak or a spicy meal. For me, it’s very interesting because you can have a single bottle to enjoy from starter to the cheese!’

How would you describe the Beaujolais way of life?

‘The Beaujolais way of life is very friendly. Because Beaujolais is a social wine, it’s easy to share good moments with other winemakers and producers. What is good in Beaujolais as well, is the nature and landscape, which is not very well known in France and overseas. Some parts of Beaujolais, near Lyon, is called the “little Tuscany”, the landscapes are very diverse and so are the wines!’

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