It is no surprise that Château Thivin is the benchmark domaine of the Côte de Brouilly; everything about it is exceptional. Built in the fifteenth century on an ancient volcano which juts out steeply into the valley below, Thivin is the oldest estate on Mont Brouilly. Even more important, however, is its tremendous success since farmer Zaccharie Geoffray purchased the château with its two hectares of land at auction in 1877. His son Claude expanded the property over the next few decades, and his son, also named Claude, boosted the prestige of the zone in the face of the Great Depression when he played a pivotal role in the creation of the Côte de Brouilly appellation. With his wife Yvonne, he also helped to bring greater recognition to the entire region with the establishment of the Maison du Beaujolais in 1953. Over the years the family continued to promote the appellation, receiving many influential artists and journalists at the château. The French novelist, Colette, wrote admiringly of her visit to Thivin, for example. In 1979, Richard Olney took Kermit to visit on their first wine trip together. It was Olney’s top recommendation in the whole of the Beaujolais region. The current generation of the Geoffray family continues their tradition. Today their grandnephew Claude, his wife Evelyne, and their son Claude-Edouard continue the tradition as staunch and proud defenders of the terroir of the Côte de Brouilly.
Thivin’s Côte de Brouilly parcels are predominantly south-facing and are planted entirely with Gamay vines that average 50 years of age. The soil is plowed and composted regularly while cover crops are left between some rows to encourage microbiotic activity. Absolutely no insecticides are used. On a slope with a grade of 48% and crumbly surface, implementing these techniques is essential to safeguard the soil from erosion, but it isn’t easy! Each section of the vineyard is harvested and vinified separately to preserve the unique characteristics afforded by variations in exposure and altitude. Even the estate’s vineyards in the Brouilly appellation are planted on a moderately steep hillside of decomposed pink granite, while most of the appellation is planted on the flat valley floor. Traditional whole-cluster fermentation keeps the characteristic fruity qualities of Gamay, after which the grapes are transferred to cuves by gravity without being crushed. Each vintage spends a few months in large oak foudres before bottling. The resulting wines, according to Kermit, resemble “…a country squire who is not afraid to get his boots muddy. Handsome, virile, earthy, and an aristocrat.”