I love the fact that I'm not sure how I feel about the wines of Yvon Métras! That may sound odd--and perhaps it is--but I've had so many wines that are pleasant...and obvious. Five seconds after you swallow them, you have forgotten them. That is definitively not the case with the wines of Métras. I first tasted one of his wines a month ago--and I'm still thinking about it!
Yvon Métras is a small--and highly regarded--producer in Beaujolais. Few in America--even among wine geeks--have tasted his wines. That is not only because he only produces a small amount of wine. It's also because he became frustrated with the red tape and paperwork associated with exporting wines to the US and so, for a period, declined to do so. Those who wanted his wines had to stuff them in their luggage on flights from Paris. That has recently changed. Now a few top wine shops--including DC's MacArthur Beverages--have some of his wines.
Métras' wines are comparatively expensive--at least comparatively expensive for Beaujolais. The Fleurie is about $50 per bottle...the Beaujolais about $30. But in the overall context of good wine, they may be bargains. No one would exclaim "You paid how much?" about a $50 Napa cab, Bordeaux, or Chateauneuf-du-Pape. If you got a good Burgundy for $50, people would call it a steal. So perhaps we need to recalibrate our thinking. For those who want to pay more than $50, in good vintages, Métras makes a special high-end cuvée from very old vines called Ultime. It's closer to $100 (if you can find it, which is unlikely).
The wines. The first I tasted was the 2013 Fleurie. Though not specifically labeled as such, it's a Vielles Vignes--an old vines. I was struck by a couple of things. It has good intensity, but is very light on its feet. And I got a strong sense of purity with it. It had solid fruit flavors--the red and black cherry that you might expect from a good Beaujolais. But the fruit had just a touch of candied element that I found unusual. I tilted my head a bit and thought about it. I'm still tilting my head. I didn't love it. But I found it really, really interesting.
A night or two later, I opened his basic Beaujolais (which is technically a Beaujolias-Villages). Even lighter...both in color and flavor. In fact, I got just a hint of fresh grapefruit in my brain. Not sure if it was the color that reminded me of the fresh-squeezed red grapefruit juice I had recently seen or if there was a hint of that in the flavor. Again, good intensity and length. And once again, I wasn't sure that I loved it, but I definitely found it interesting.
I'm not an anti-alcohol zealot...when I'm in a wine shop I don't immediately look for the ABV percentage and eliminate everything over X%. I don't like ponderous wines but I am more concerned with balance than with specific alcohol levels. That said, once I had tasted these wines from Métras, I did go back and look at the labels. My sense was that the percentages might be a little lower than average. They were. The Fleurie was ~12% and the Beaujolais was ~11.5%. No doubt that contributed to the sense that they were light on their feet. The fact that they had good intensity is a tribute to the quality of the grapes and winemaking.
So...is there goodness in a wine you don't love? I think so. I think there's real value in a wine that you can't pigeon-hole...a wine that makes you think. I may not love these...but I look forward to opening the next bottle...to continuing the conversation with them and to getting to know them better. Maybe as we get to know each other better, I'll learn to love them!