The ongoing renaissance of the Beaujolais has been a joy to behold. As more and more growers have adopted better farming practices, more thoughtful approaches to vinification, and an increased emphasis on site-specific bottlings, the immense potential of these bucolic hillsides has been unlocked to an unprecedented extent.
At the forefront of this movement is Anita Kuhnel, a former professional cyclist who launched her eponymous domaine with the 2015 vintage. The winery is located in Chénas, a stone’s throw from the Fleurie border and the renowned Poncié vineyard, and today encompasses 18 hectares spread among the crus of Chénas, Fleurie, Morgon, and Moulin-a-Vent.
Anita’s goal from the outset was to produce wines of minimal intervention that express site character with maximal clarity. Her staggeringly dense plantings—10,000 vines per hectare—range from 40 to 100 years old, providing her with enviable raw materials which she treats with utmost care, intervening with chemicals only to save a crop. She even uses a horse to plow her oldest holdings, a nod to the pre-technological era in which these vineyards were first planted.
Her work in the cellar—assisted by the esteemed Guy Marion, who oversaw no fewer than 52 harvests as cellarmaster for Georges Duboeuf—is precise and thoughtful. A battalion of small cement tanks allows her to vinify each parcel separately, according to its character and its needs; nothing is performed by rote, and she varies proportions of whole clusters, durations of maceration, and percentages of oak barrels (from Aloxe-Corton, and always used for at least three years before purchase) to best suit the potential of each batch of fruit. Fermentations proceed spontaneously, exclusively in cement, and sulfur is kept to a reasonable minimum and applied only after malolactic fermentation.
Anita’s wines exude liveliness and vigor, capturing the essence of Gamay grown in great sites, yet nearly transcending the category in their incorporation of fine, close-focus mineral elements. A sense of subtlety and refinement permeates the lineup, yet the wines read as direct, pure, and unpolished; they are neither ultra-natural in feel nor clunkily structured in a wannabe-Burgundy manner. Furthermore, each wine in the lineup possesses a distinct, strong, clearly articulated personality, and taken as a whole they reflect an ideal we hold sacrosanct: that of great terroirs rendered with utmost sensitivity by an intelligent human steward.