Jules Chauvet is regarded in France as being one of the founding fathers of the natural wine movement, so I was very interested when one of my colleges Virginie brought me a copy of an interview with him that she'd picked up at her old hotel.
The interview was conducted in 1981 (year of my birth), and I imagine that back then, a lot of what he was espousing would have been quite revolutionary. However in the more enlightened? 2010 it's something that is much more acceptable, what with the likes of Terroirs, Les Caves de Pyrenes and Frederic Grappe's Dynamic Vines traipsing around London singing from the same hymn sheet.
Chauvet was regarded as one of the best wine tasters of his generation, combining a very thoughtful and holistic view of enology with a passion and understanding of his native terroir of Beaujolais. He was a very well regarded Chemist and Microbiologist who took the view that one had to understand all of science to get a closer understanding of the complex interplay of factors that produces wine.
He did a lot of work on yeasts, and studied natural yeast populations across France, finding 'Namely, we saw that every yeast produced a different flavour, being more or less well judged, you see, but it was unanimously found that most appreciated teh flavour that was produced by indigenous yeasts.... there you are.'
His views on terroir and it's importance are also very perceptive and balanced ' It is a mystery. We know that roughly in granitic soils, for example, one gets wines finer than in clayey soils... some things like that.... we know for example that in clayish-calcereous soils Gamay gives products coarser than in granitic soils, but that is all you can know, there are so many variations, it is complex, isn't it, that is there is the age of the vine, there is the climatic year, there is, how shall I say, the sanitary care provided to the vineyard, there is the time of the harvest, there is processing: in all there are too many factors. It is know that there exists a direct relationship.... but study of the soil has not been made and probably never will be,, why? Because the vine plunges its roots into the soil to very great depths, so that one does not know what is going on. One cannot, one cannot, one cannot say anything.'
About use of Sulphurous Anhydride -'But it has been used for ever' 'Yes, but precisely, I think that has to be changed.'
In all it's a very perspicacious and insightful interview, one that I feel I will probably come back to again and again. I'm certainly going to be looking for more of his work to read, as he's come to the position of making natural wines through a very careful study of much of the science involved.