An interview with Ghislain de Longvialle for La Voix de Lyon

photo of Ghislain de Longvialle

Subject: Ghislain de Longvialle - Propriétaire, Récoltant Le Château de Vaurenard
Interviewer: Susan Templin
Transcriber: Patrick Hammerlund

The segments in this interview excerpt were recorded during fall 2000, as part of for a travel documentary on the city of Lyon, France calledLa Voix de Lyon. The documentary is a production of The Duncan Entertainment Group.

Can you list the winemaking regions of France and what wines they produce?
We have many well-known regions here are some, Burgundy, Côte du Rhône, the Beaujolais. Then we have Champagne, also well known, The Loire, the Anjou, the Provence wines. Also we have the Rossion, the Gerac, the southwestern wines. Also if you go up into the higher altitudes you have the Savoy wines and the Alsacian wines. So there are, I don't know. I couldn't tell you the precise number of wine producing regions in France there are so many.

What is Beaujolais and how do the different types of Beaujolais actually differ?
In Beaujolais we have three families of Beaujolais. We have Beaujolais, Beaujolais Village and the ten vintages. After that we have, in the Beaujolais family we have Beaujolais Village, Beaujolais, and Beaujolais Village nouveau. (Beaujolais nouveau is) The wine from the past year that will be consumed the month after the harvest on the third Thursday of November. This is important. A traditional Beaujolais is one that will be aged in the cellar and put into the bottles the spring after it was harvested, which will then be aged a bit more in the bottle. There's the Beaujolais Nouveau that you drink very young and then there's the Beaujolais, which will be aged. That is drunk after being aged five to six years.

Can you tell me how many years a vine lives? How long it can produce? How old does a vine have to be in order to be good?
When you plant the vine, you can have wine after the third year after planting. And then you can keep the vine, in theory they say 50 years, but here on my property, I have vines that are 100 years old. But for me, as long as it produces good grapes, and we have enough to do our production, we keep them. So, there's no limit. We go beyond the theory.

Could you tell me the name of the vineyard and where we are in France?
We're here in the region, which is called the great burgundy region, more precisely the Beaujolais. And the name of the property is the Château de Vaurenard.

How long has the vineyard been in your family, and how many generations of wine-makers does your family have?
The property has been in the family since 1672. The number of generations, I don't know the exact number, but if you really count the name of Longevialle, I am personally the 5th generation. So, that's how long Longevialle has taken care of the winemaking.

Can you talk about the different generations of grapes within one season?
First of all, we must trim the vine in winter to orient the production. It is a work that is very important. It lasts four months, from December to March. And after, the vine will grow and we will see very quickly, visually, the grape, the fruit. And it's true that the vine will have several generations of fruit, but what we're interested in is the first generation of fruit. That's the generation that will be the ripest when we harvest. And so, after when the vine pushes, grows more, we have many operations to make the vine grow in the best conditions and give the best grape that we will be able to harvest in the month of September.

You said that you share the grapes with the birds. How does that help the health of the vine?
Beaujolais is a region where it is an appellation contrôlée that means a production that is limited. We are allowed to make a certain amount of wine. Here it is 6,200 liters per hectare and we know that with the first generation of grapes we will be able to produce this amount. But this year we have some second generation grapes that are ripe right now and they'll be wonderful, but that's because we had a wonderful season as far as the weather was concerned and we don't need those for the production. So, some other year we may not see the second generation of grapes, so I would say that that grape is just like an extra gift from nature.

What impact does soil have on the grapevines?
The soil is very important. It will be the expression of the territory as we call it in French. You will find in the tasting of a wine you'll be able to know which part, what soil from which the wine was produced. That's very important to allow this expression of the soil to exist in the grape. So, we must let the roots of the vine go down and then they can come up and return to the surface. That's maybe the reason why there's a difference between the French wines and wines produced in other parts of the world, where we don't have the same geological expressions from the soil. I think that's very important to our region and we're very attached to it.

What is the process? How are the grapes are picked and what happens after that?
In the Beaujolais region, the harvest is by hand. We really pick it by hand here. On our property, it lasts 15 days with 30-40 students who are here for about two weeks. They're lodged and fed on the land. And what is particular here, is we keep the entire bunch of grapes, we don't smash it, and the fermentation takes place within the grape. We will create a fermentation in the skin, the sugar will become alcohol, and it'll produce some carbon gases and some heat and the grape will expand until the moment that it will naturally explode. And this process we are very attached to in the Beaujolais region and we will keep it. So, the fermentation of the entire grape is intercellular and it creates a natural liberation of the juices, because of the by-hand harvest. The amount of time we'll leave the grapes fermenting is a function of what we want to obtain. For five to seven days more or less here for the Beaujolais Nouveau and 12 to 15 days for the other Beaujolais. And we will have them ferment in the cellars.

What is it about France and French culture that makes wine so important here?
Why is France the number one country (when it comes to wine)? It's simply because it is directly linked to history. That is to say the history of France. The vine and the wine have always been linked. The wine in France already in the 10th or 11th century, the whole history of France was built around this vine of the tradition. And today it makes it so the wines of France have this reputation and if you look in the past, vines were even more widespread in France, in all the regions. Now there are just the quality regions left which produce… The regions that didn't produce very good wine have disappeared and the better regions are left to produce good wine. That's our history.

What is special about the wine produced at this vineyard?
The first thing is that the average age of our vines is about 50 years old. The second thing is that the way we produce wine is a little different in the Beaujolais Nouveau in that we have the wine ferment a few days longer than in other Beaujolais Nouveau productions. And then, for the past 15 years, I have worked on producing Beaujolais nouveau and all Beaujolais wines in the traditional manner, which is not often practiced in this region. Fermenting that will take 12-15 days and aging the wine from six months to two or three years in casks, That is particular to my production. And that allows me to then keep wines for 5-6 years or possibly 10 years in the bottle. But what's important is that it's not something that I've invented. It's simply a tradition that I have gone back to. They did it in the past, and it is part of the success of the Beaujolais Nouveau.