The négoce has had a huge part to play in the recent history of Beaujolais, some of it not so good but some of it very positive. For all its apparent simplicity, Beaujolais is a complicated region that is often the victim of its own capricious climate with late frosts and violent hailstorms a common recurrence. Dealing with a négociant allows The Wine Society to pick and choose, often blending together from different estates in order to end up with a wine that is better than any of its parts.
The one name that stands out for us is Dépagneux, and it is through that family that the Society has bought the bulk of its Beaujolais for the last 50 years. Jean Dépagneux was the last of this illustrious merchant family who, with his partners, bought up a list of ailing names such as Aujoux, which had made its name selling Beaujolais to the once profitable Swiss market. Jean retired about a dozen years ago and his place was taken by a young and talented oenologist from Viré called Jean-Marc Darbon. One consequence of the change has been the meteoric rise in the quality of The Society's White Burgundy, which today is The Wine Society's biggest selling wine.