Karim Vionnet

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Karim Vionnet knows a thing or two about the school of hard knocks.  Raised in a modest adoptive family in the village of Villié-Morgon, at the heart of the Beaujolais, Karim was 10 when he started working in local vineyards to earn a bit of extra money.  Fast forward a few decades and dive into the juicy, explosive, fruit-forward wines he makes on the domaine that he now runs with his daughter Noémie.

It was after time in the army, then as a baker, that Karim knew his calling was truly back in the vineyards and the cellar.  His childhood friend, Beaujolais producer Christophe Pacalet, happened to have a certain Marcel Lapierre as an uncle.  This opened doors to vignerons that wine writer Kermit Lynch famously dubbed ‘the gang of four,’ also including Jean Foillard, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Guy ‘P’tit Max’ Breton.  It was with Breton that Karim worked and trained for many years before striking out on his own in 2006, making wines in the free-thinking, non-interventionist, and environmentally respectful spirit of his illustrious mentors.  

Karim’s wines embody a sense of celebration in overcoming adversity.  From his lack of family connections in the wine business (making the acquisition of parcels especially difficult) to his North African heritage (which he now celebrates on his Tolmer-designed labels), Karim had to persevere as an outsider in this often-hermetic world.  From his own 5 hectares, and with grapes sourced from local producers, he has risen to the challenge, producing a range of Beaujolais Villages as well as Chrioubles, Chénas, and Fleurie Crus.  His wines are sought-after around the world and all it takes is a glass to understand why he is widely seen as being at the helm of a new generation of magicians of the Gamay.   

On Instagram: @domaine_karimvionnet

The Rawsé - 2020

Rosé is a rare treat in the Beaujolais.  This direct press Gamay draws you in with its bright pink tones.  But it's not all for show!  The floral aromas, crushed strawberry notes, and pronounced minerality give it an unpretentious sophistication.  Bone dry, this is a wine that's just as good sipping in the sunlight or matching with a broad range of foods.  

Beaujolais Villages - 2019

Light, easy-drinking, and festive.  Sure, you can look for red fruit, comment on the delicate tannins, or revel in the zingy acidity.  But really, this is a wine that lets itself be enjoyed without much fuss, and with great enjoyment.  Uncomplicated and fun, ideal for apéritif and to kick start a night of revelry!  

Beaujolais Villages Du Beur dans les Pinards - 2020

A wow wine: silky-smooth, bursts of cherries, blackberries, and cranberry.  From about one hectare of vines that formerly belonged to the legendary wine maker, scientist, and mentor Jules Chauvet.  Karim's self-affirmation is present in this wine's clever name...  Du beurre dans les épinards is an expression meaning there's a bit of cash left over for little luxuries like butter in the spinach.  Here it becomes Beur (slang for Arab) in the Pinards (slang for wine).  Treat yourself!    

Vin de Kav - 2020

Another word play!  Wine by Ka.V., wine for the cellar (cave).  Definite ageing potential, but also highly drinkable now.  Let this one breathe a bit on opening and discover the joys of the Chrioubles Cru: medium body, supple feel, explosive fruit, minerality, and a peppery finish.  A beautiful expression of Gamay!

Fleurie - 2018

The Fleurie Cru is known for its elegance and this wine rises to the occasion with its deep purple, velvety robe.  Eight months in neutral barrels give it a beautiful structure reminiscent of nearby Burgundy.  But it also maintains a youthful allure with a gorgeous floral nose, lively, fruity texture, and a delectable array of spices.  You can't go wrong with this one!  

Nouvelle Aventure - 2019

Old vines Chénas made by Karim's daughter Noémie.  Floral and fragrant on the nose, with intense minerality, appealing notes of candied fruit, and an earthiness that combines harmonioulsy with braised meats and wild mushrooms.  This wine is like a walk through an enchanted forest: beautiful and exciting, not soon to be forgotten.  Here's looking forward to more of Noémie's efforts!