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Wines of Terroirs Originels

There is a commonality among restaurateurs and winemakers that is crucial to both, but which is sometimes ignored by both – at their own considerable peril. Too often an owner/chef or an owner/winemaker gets caught up in the belief that if they make a truly quality product, customers will seek them out. It’s what I call the “field of dreams” marketing plan – make it, and they will come. It generally doesn’t happen that way. Which was why I was so interested in meeting the wine-producing group, Terroirs Originels, on my recent reporting trip to Beaujolais. Terroirs Originels (www.terroirs-originels.com) gets it – the concept that quality winegrowers also need quality marketing if they are to succeed. In 1997, winemaker Robert Perroud decided to organize Terroirs as a small group of independent producers from Beaujolais and from Macon in next-door Burgundy that would be a combination quality alliance and marketing force. Each grower is independent, although the members help each other as a knowledge-sharing support group. They do they work with or through negociants, which is how most of the area is marketed. (That is not to say that negociant-produced wines cannot also be excellent.) And all of Terroirs production is estate-bottled. Today, 14 years later, there are 18 growers in Terroirs – 11 from Beaujolais, six from Macon and one from Côteaux du Lyonnais – and together they finance a marketing plan, have an attractive, multilingual website, host visiting writers and buyers, and produce brochures and videos. I met a few of them – Perroud, Pascal Aufranc and Pascal Berthier – at Domaine Laurent Gauthier in Morgon for a tasting and presentation. I found the wines all very good – some excellent – but by no means cookie-cutter. In some ways they reflected their producers, a friendly group of individualists who don’t screw around in each other’s terroir. “It’s like a big family,” Berthier said. “It’s also a big challenge. We challenge each other to produce higher quality.” All are very much into sustainability, and a handful are organic certified, not always an easy task in this continental climate. By their own admission, 2008 was a disaster for organic growing, with too much mildew-producing rain, while the last three vintages – including the stellar 2009 – have been much more grower-friendly. Most of their members’ wines are available in the U.S., and I would highly recommend checking out both the group and the wines. You might have a lot in common.

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