When Nicole Chanrion began her career in the 1970s, convention relegated women to the enology labs and kept them out of the cellars—even her mother thought winemaking was man’s work—but she would not be deterred from her dream of becoming a vigneronne. With six generations of family tradition preceding her, she grew up helping her father in both the vineyards and the cellar in the Côte-de-Brouilly, one of the southernmost crus of the northern Beaujolais. Though she is mild-mannered and slight of build, her determination and conviction have consistently defied all doubts. Ever since taking over the family domaine in 1988, she works all 6.5 hectares entirely by herself, from pruning the vineyards and driving the tractors to winemaking and bottling, all without bravado or fanfare. In 2000 she became president of the Côte-de-Brouilly appellation, a position of respect and importance among peers. It’s small wonder then that she is affectionately referred to as “La Patronne de la Côte,” or the Boss of la Côte.
The Côte-de-Brouilly appellation sits on the hillsides of Mont Brouilly, a prehistoric volcano that left blue schist stones and volcanic rock along its slopes. These stones yield structured wines with pronounced minerality and great aging potential. After her formal training at the viticultural school in Beaune Nicole had a brief internship in the Napa Valley, where she learned another approach to winemaking but, happily for us, gained a deeper appreciation of the traditional winemaking techniques of the Beaujolais: hand harvesting, whole cluster fermentation, aging the wines in large oak foudres for at least nine months, and bottling unfiltered. The resulting wines are powerful, with loads of pure fruit character and floral aromas.