Category Archives: France – Beaujolais

Château des Jacques, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, France) 2017

($26, Kobrand Wine & Spirits):  Beaujolais is still trying to remind people it produces real, top-notch wine, not just “nouveau.”  Well, Jadot’s Château des Jacques is a convincing exhibit.  For over 20 years, Château des Jacques has been instrumental in showing the diversity of wines from within the crus of Beaujolais, those ten named villages, such as Moulin-à-Vent, whose wines are so distinctive that they may not even carry the name Beaujolais on the label.  Château des Jacques makes up to six single-vineyard Moulin-à-Vent depending on the vintage as well as this one, a blend from their eight vineyards.  (Two of those eight are not bottled separately.)  The 2017 Château des Jacques is a terrific example of the heights Beaujolais can reach when the producer takes the area seriously.  Though the first impression an appealing floral character, its focus is on minerals, not fruit, though dark fruit flavors are present.  Firm, yet suavely textured, it is a fresh and lively wine.  It finishes with an attractive hint of bitterness, making it perfect for current consumption with a mushroom laded roast chicken.  It’s quite the bargain.
93 Michael Apstein Dec 22, 2020

Château de La Chaize, Brouilly (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2017

($19, Taub Family Selections):  Brouilly, the largest of the ten Beaujolais cru, often disappoints. Thankfully, the 2017 from Château de La Chaize, one of the top producers of Brouilly, does not.  It has good concentration, zippy acidity that keeps it fresh and lively, and lots of juicy fruitiness.  Mild tannins mean this mid-weight wine would be just fine right now. It’s widely available, so if, at the last minute, you need something for the Thanksgiving table, this is it.
88 Michael Apstein Nov 24, 2020

Domaine de Rochegrès (Bichot), Domaine de Rochegrès (Bichot) (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2018

($28):  Bichot purchased this 12.5-acre estate in the heart of Moulin-a-Vent, arguably the top Beaujolais cru, in 2014.  The grapes come from three lieux-dits within Moulin-a-Vent, La Rochelle, Au Mont, and the young vines from Rochegrès itself.  It is ripe, spicy and suave, combining richness, minerality and bright acidity.  A triumph.
93 Michael Apstein Jun 23, 2020

P. Ferraud et Fils, Saint-Amour (Beaujolais, France) 2017

($17):  Saint-Amour is the most northern Beaujolais cru and the second smallest, after Chénas.  Clay in the granitic soil here adds an oomph to the wines, according to growers to whom I spoke.  Ferraud’s is wonderfully fragrant and immediately enticing.  After its floral allure, its power comes as a surprise, but a welcome one because it is not overdone.  Firmness balances its cherry-like ripeness.
90 Michael Apstein Jul 30, 2019

P. Ferraud et Fils, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, France) “La Dynastie des Ferraud” 2015

($30):  Though Ferraud’s wines have been in the U.S. market in the past, they currently have no importer, which is a shame because they consistently make distinctive Beaujolais.  (The prices I quote come from a world-wide averages.)   My experience with their wines comes from decades ago when they were imported and, more recently, drinking them in Paris bistros.  A tasting earlier this year in New York showed that they haven’t lost their touch.  La Dynastie des Ferraud originally was a barrel selection of their best wine, from any off the Beaujolais crus.  For the last seven years it has come from Moulin-à-Vent and has been made in conjunction with a Burgundy producer who supplies 3-year old oak barrels where the wine ages for six months on its fine lees.  Mineral-y and suave, it conveys a Syrah-like peppery quality that adds allure.  It is a powerful wine reflective of the superb and ripe 2015 vintage, yet it is not overblown or jam-y.  On the contrary, it’s refined and elegant despite its power.  Long and graceful, it shows the heights to which Beaujolais can rise.
95 Michael Apstein Jul 30, 2019

P. Ferraud & Fils, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, France) “L’Éolienne” 2016 

($25):  Ferraud has had presence on the U.S. market for decades, but currently lacks an importer.  That’s a shame because their wines are distinctive and unique.  Take this one — a classic Moulin-à-Vent with fruit-infused charm, minerality, and a lovely fleshiness.  A firm, rather than hard, profile makes it perfect for current consumption, but knowing how their wines develop, there’s certainly no rush.  Although there are lots of climats (vineyards) in Moulin-à-Vent from which growers are making single vineyard wines, L’Éolienne is not one of them.  It’s a proprietary name.  But don’t sweat the details, the wine is worth it.
92 Michael Apstein Jul 23, 2019

Domaine Ruet, Morgon (Beaujolais, France) Douby 2017

($25, Schatzi Wines):  Consumers can select anything that Domaine Ruet makes and be happy with it.  This Morgon, from the climat (or vineyard) Douby, is sensational.  It has the firmness for which Morgon is known, but with a charming fruitiness and haunting minerality.  It has a refinement and length that is not usually associated with Beaujolais.  But this is not “Beaujolais,” but rather Douby from Morgon from a top producer.  Lovely now with a summertime grilled steak, its balance suggests a lovely evolution.  Yes, the label is unfamiliar — Morgon, Douby.  Consumers, it’s time to learn more geography.  This wine shows why it’s worth it.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 23, 2019

Louis Tête, Beaujolais-Villages (France) 2017

($14):  Beaujolais-Villages is a wine that comes from any one or a combination of 38 specified villages, and the category is thought to have the potential for more interesting wines compared to those labeled Beaujolais.  This one is juicy, with good weight and concentration, yet not heavy or overly fruity.  Mild tannins provide needed structure, but are not so prevalent as to be intrusive even after chilling.  This is a great alternative to any of the thousands of insipid rosés on the market for summer enjoyment.  An hour in the fridge before you pull the cork does the trick.  It would be perfect for salad Niçoise with rare tuna.
88 Michael Apstein Jul 23, 2019

Beaujolais: A Versatile Wine

One of the many things I love about Beaujolais is its variety and versatility.  There’s Beaujolais Nouveau, a beverage that’s almost closer to alcoholic grape juice than to wine, and which many in the American wine press deride regularly.  Released on the third Thursday of November, it can be a refreshing, all-purpose wine for the Thanksgiving table.  In France, its arrival is celebrated in cafes and bars all over Paris and Beaune with signs and banners reading, “Beaujolais est arrivé!”  (Beaujolais has arrived.) Each establishment proudly offers one of two from their favorite producers.  I’ve often overheard animated discussions among customers regarding the quality of one over the other.

Then there’s juicy Beaujolais that are fresh and fruity wines perfect for chilling and drinking at this time of the year.  A step up is Beaujolais-Villages, wines coming from any of the 38 villages in this area just north of Lyon that have the potential for better wine.  They, too, provide mid-weight wines that are perfect for drinking chilled in the summer.  However, Beaujolais-Villages from top producers–Château du Basty springs to mind–can have a depth and complexity that makes you realize that this category, often relegated to lower shelves in the supermarket, can provide amazing value. Look out, in particular, for old vine–“vieilles vignes”–bottlings of Beaujolais-Villages.  Some of these plantings date back to pre-World War II and even pre-Great War.

Finally, there’s the serious side of Beaujolais.  The Gamay grape can reflect its origins or, in modern terminology, be transparent, just as the Pinot Noir in the Côte d’Or.  Locals have known this for decades, bottling special cuvées from prized sites separately.  But it has taken six centuries after Philippe the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, exiled the “vile and noxious” Gamay grape from Burgundy in favor of the “elegant” Pinot Noir for the rest of the world to notice.

This transparency is most apparent in the crus of Beaujolais, the ten villages in the northern part of the appellation whose soils are rich in granite and that are capable of producing such distinctive wines that only the name of the village in required on the label.  From north to south they are St. Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnié, Côte de Brouilly, and Brouilly.  Reference to Beaujolais on the label is optional.

Jeanne-Marie Deschamps, one of Burgundy’s smartest brokers and a woman who knows the area well, describes the region as a series of several “volcanic eggs” jutting from the countryside, with vines on all sides of these outcroppings.  The topography differs from that of the Côte d’Or, which primarily faces southeast, and is more like Italy’s Chianti Classico where vineyards seemingly spread in every direction, leading to very different exposures.

Audrey Charton, whose family owns Domaine du Clos des Garands, a superb estate in Fleurie, told me that one reason Beaujolais’ soil is unique is that the region was never hit by an ice age that brought soil and debris from elsewhere.  The topography and variation in soil explains why the wines from these villages are very different one from another.  Moulin-à-Vent and Morgon are considered the sturdiest, followed by Côte de Brouilly, while Chiroubles is the least structured.

One thing that is particularly exciting is how producers are focusing on the vineyards (what the Burgundians call climats) within these crus.  Though Maison Louis Jadot, one of Burgundy’s top producers, was not the first to bottle a Beaujolais cru with a vineyard name, I nonetheless credit them with popularizing the concept when they purchased the Château des Jacques estate in Moulin-à-Vent in 1996.  Depending on the vintage, Château des Jacques produces up to five distinct wines from individual climats within Moulin-à-Vent (Clos de Rochegrès, Clos du Grand Carquelin, Clos de Champ de Cour, Clos de la Roche and Clos des Thorins) in addition to their Moulin-à-Vent cru.

Jadot is not the only major Beaune-based négociant to expand the Burgundian philosophy to Beaujolais, meaning, each vineyard is intended to portray a unique terroir.  Bouchard Père et Fils owns Château de Poncié in Fleurie and makes wines from two individual climats, while Albert Bichot at Domaine de Rochegrès prominently labels their wine from their 5-acre plot in the Rochegrès climat as Rochegrès, subordinating even Moulin-à-Vent to small letters.

Maison Louis Latour, another top producer, acting as a négociant, has bottlings from the climats in five of the 10 crus.  And, of course, Beaujolais producers who concentrate solely on the crus, such as the excellent Chateau Moulin-à-Vent in Moulin-à-Vent and Mee Goddard’s superb domaine in Morgon bottle climat by climat.  With some of these vineyard bottlings, the name Beaujolais does not appear on the label.

Vineyard by vineyard bottling in Beaujolais is, to me, an exciting concept.  Here’s another area where wines using the same winemaking technique and made from the same grape grown in adjacent vineyards taste different.  It’s another marvel of Nature.  And fortunately, unlike in Côte d’Or, the epicenter of terroir, the wines from the climats of Beaujolais are affordable.

Tasting Jean Foillard’s 2017s wines from three different climats in Morgon–Corcelette, Côte de Py and Charmes–is instructive.  Since Foillard is emphatic that the winemaking and élévage (aging) are identical, tasting his wines side by side show that dramatic differences among the terroirs.  The same is true with Château Thivin’s wines from the Côte de Brouilly. Wines from three different parcels (Godefoy, which faces east, La Chapelle, a south facing site on a 55-degree slope near the top, and Les Griottes de Brulhié, south facing at mid-slope) are all gorgeous and suave but delightfully different. Claude Geoffroy, whose family owns Château Thivin, told me that it’s the terroir speaking because the winemaking is the same for each parcel.

Despite the point this approach makes, there is enormous potential for confusion.  The number of proposed climats is impressive and for non-wine geeks who might not even be familiar with the names of the 10 crus, adding scores of more seemingly obscure names is daunting.  In addition to the many–officials are still identifying sites–in Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie has 13 climats, and Morgon six, perhaps the best known of which is Côte de Py, basically a hill of schist. (For completeness, the other five are Grand Cras, Les Charmes, Corcelette, Les Micouds and Douby.)

But as Cyril Chirouze, the very talented winemaker at Château des Jacques, commented, “not all of the Côte de Py is not the same.”  Much like the famed Clos Vougeot in the Côte d’Or, where location in that vast vineyard is key, the location of the vines on the Côte de Py also matters.  Indeed, some producers are already identifying a subplot there, Jarvenières, towards its base, that produces slightly less firm wines and labeling them with that name.

To make matters worse, some producers use proprietary names in addition to, or instead of, place names.

Still, it’s an exciting time for Beaujolais.  Changes in grape-growing, winemaking, and site specificity are on the way.  Guillaume Striffling, another talented Beaujolais producer, says that he has specific plots in Regnié, which produce distinctive wine but cannot use their names because they are not recognized officially.  To be recognized, the climat must be approved by the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine), the French governing agency that regulates wine, which he notes is a long bureaucratic process. His Gallic philosophic streak is apparent when he remarked, “often in the wine business when you are planting a vine, you think to yourself ‘this is not for me, this is for my children because everything in the French (wine) industry takes a long time.’”

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Email me your thoughts about Beaujolais at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein

July 17, 2019

Domaine Bel Avenir, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, France) En Mortperay 2017

($25):  Growers in Moulin-à-Vent, the most robust of the 10 crus of Beaujolais, have embraced the concept of making wines from specific sites, just as in the Côte d’Or, their more famous neighbor in Burgundy to the north.  En Mortperay is one such site, situated on the edge of the appellation, bordering Fleurie.  More floral and elegant than you might expect for a Moulin-à-Vent at this youthful stage, it still conveys plenty of power.  Its impeccable balance, interplay of flavors, and lingering finish make it a very serious wine and hard to resist now.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2019

Dominique Piron, Morgon (Beaujolais, France) Côte du Py 2017

($30):  The Côte du Py is arguably the most famous climat or vineyard in Morgon and possibly all of Beaujolais.  Composed of back stone, it can be home to power and dense wines that need considerable age before revealing their charms.  But, as is always the case, the producer plays an enormous role in the style of the wine.  With Piron’s 2017 Côte de Py there’s an engaging floral component to the wine that complements its firmness.  Less powerful than many, this mineral-y infused wine is fine to open now.
91 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2019

P. Ferraud & Fils, Morgon (Beaujolais, France) Les Charmes 2018

($20):  Ferraud, though lacking a U.S. importer now, had been in this market for decades and is a well-established name with a proven track record.  Yves-Dominique Ferraud told me he thought the 2018 vintage in Beaujolais was a combination of the ripeness of 2015 and the raciness of 2016. Judging from the few I tasted so far, including this one, I agree with that assessment.  Les Charmes, another climat in Morgan, is home to less forceful wines — dare I say, charming — than those from Côte du Py. Ferraud’s 2018 certainly is.  Bursting with fruit, paradoxically, it is not “fruity,” because of its structure and energy.  Long and elegant, this is a fabulous Morgon.  For us consumers, I hope he finds an importer, soon.
94 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2019

Domaine Ruet, Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, France) 2017

($23, Schatzi Wines):  I recently tasted six Beaujolais from this producer, one made without added sulfur, from three different vintages, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  They were stunning across the board and demonstrated the enormous talent at the domaine. They have just under 3 acres on the slopes of Côte de Brouilly, one of the 10 crus of Beaujolais.  The soil of this small mountain that emerges from the surrounding Brouilly is a distinctive blue stone, which growers there insist imparts a firmness to the wines.  Ruet’s 2017 Côte de Brouilly is stunning, with a firm, but not hard, backbone.  Luscious black fruit flavors balance the seeming austerity lending an exciting ying-yang to the wine.  It will change your image of Beaujolais.
94 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2019

Piron & Lameloise, Chénas (Beaujolais, France) “Quartz” 2016

($23):  The Lameloise family, whose name is synonymous with fine dining because of their Michelin 3-star restaurant in nearby Chagny, owns the vineyard in Chénas, the smallest of the 10 crus of Beaujolais, while Dominique Piron makes the wines.  Floral and elegant, it’s a graceful wine that dances on the palate.  Its charming juiciness reminds you it’s Beaujolais, but it has the Burgundian sensibility of flavor without weight.  Beautiful now.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2019

Louis Tête, Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, France) Chante-Loup 2018

($15):  Côte de Brouilly, one of the 10 crus, or named villages of Beaujolais, is really a small mountain that emerges from Brouilly, another of the named villages.  It has many lieux-dits (place names) on its slope.  More and more, Beaujolais producers are identifying specific sites within the cru because they believe the wines are distinctive and reflect the site, just as in the rest of Burgundy.  In Louis Tête’s version, lovely ripeness, emblematic of the 2018 vintage, balances the firmness that characterizes the wines from the Côte de Brouilly.  Firm, without being hard, it delivers the energy and upbeat personality of the top wines from Beaujolais. It’s another good choice for summer grilling.
88 Michael Apstein Jul 9, 2019

Domaine Mee Godard, Morgon (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) Grand Cras 2017

($32):  Realizing the diversity of soils within Morgon, the wine producers there divided that appellation into six fairly large (averaging about 450 acres) climats, one of which is Grand Cras.  This one, from Mee Godard, one of the rising stars in Morgon, comes from a single 1-acre plot of 20-year-old vines.  The darker soil in Grand Cras compared to that in Corcelette, another of the Morgon climats, tells the story.  A bigger and bolder wine, it has a paradoxical austerity and charm.  Less accessible with firmer tannins than her Morgon Corcelette at this stage, it has a lovely firmness without a trace of hardness.  Give it a few years in the cellar or open and decant it several hours before you serve it with a hearty stew this winter.  
93 Michael Apstein Dec 18, 2018

Domaine Mee Godard, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) Michelons 2017

($27):  Godard just acquired a vineyard in Moulin-à-Vent, expanding her holdings to about 16 acres in total.  Au Michelon, located in the northern part of Moulin-à-Vent, has dark stones and dark sandy soil, according to Godard, which she says gives the wine a combination of power and elegance.  No doubt about its character.  The wine is more floral and suppler than her wines from Morgon with a suave tannic structure, imparting a velvet-like texture.  Long and graceful, the dark fruit and mineral aspect shine.  People who look down their noses at Beaujolais will get an education from Mee Godard’s wines. 
95 Michael Apstein Dec 4, 2018

Domaine Mee Godard, Morgon (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) Corcelette 2017

 ($29):  Mee Godard, a young woman originally from Korea, is one of the rising shining stars of Beaujolais.  Her wines are not to be missed because of their precision and distinctiveness, not to mention their sheer deliciousness.  Located in Morgan, she bottled three different wines in 2017 from various climats (vineyards) in that cru, Corcelette, Côte de Py and Grand Cras.  The one from Corcelette has a charming roundness that she says comes from the sandy soil. Although lighter than you’d imagine for a Morgon, it still has supporting tannins that lend necessary structure.  For me, it’s the “Fleurie” of Morgon.  Lovely now with coq au vin. 
93 Michael Apstein Dec 4, 2018

Domaine Mee Godard, Morgon (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) Côte de Py 2017

($37):  The union of Morgon producers divided Morgon into six climats according to soil type about 50 years ago, according to Godard.  Now, more and more producers there — and in Moulin-à-Vent as well — are putting these sites on labels.  Consumers, be prepared to become familiar with names like Corcelette, Côte de Py, Grand Cras, Douby, Charmes, and Micouds on wines from Morgon. The soils and vineyards’ exposure differ from one climat to another, so it’s not a surprise that the wines are different. Take Godard’s Côte de Py, from Morgon’s most well-known climat.  This Morgan, though powerful, has considerable elegance and great length.  Its tannins are apparent, but supple and balanced by dark fruitiness and minerality.  Give it a few years in the cellar or drink it now with a robust lamb stew. 
94 Michael Apstein Dec 4, 2018

Château Thivin, Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2017

($28, Kermit Lynch):  Château Thivin is THE producer Côte de Brouilly, one of the ten crus of Beaujolais, which sits on a small ancient volcanic cone.  The Geoffray family purchased the estate, which had been in existence since the 12th century, in 1877.   Leaders in the appellation, they were the first to bottle the wines of Côte de Brouilly rather than sell them in bulk to négociants as was the practice in the 1930s.  The wines from the Côte de Brouilly are very different — firmer and far less fruity — from those of the larger surrounding cru, Brouilly.  This wine comes from seven plots spread over the hillside.  The soil — blue stone rich with iron and copper — explains the wine’s firmness and mineral-like quality.  The focus here is not on fruitiness, but rather on minerality.  Not opulent, it conveys an austerity without really being austere.  The tannins are firm, not hard or aggressive.  A hint of bitterness in the finish reminds you this is serious wine, best enjoyed at the table.  In my experience, the Thivin wines develop marvelously with a decade of age, so it’s worth keeping some in the cellar.
93 Michael Apstein Nov 27, 2018

Château Thivin, Brouilly (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) “Reverdon” 2017

($24, Kermit Lynch):  Château Thivin owns about 18 acres of this 65-acre east-facing vineyard in Brouilly, the largest and most southern of Beaujolais’ ten cru.  Lighter and fruitier than their Côte de Brouilly, it still conveys underlying minerality because of the rose-granite soil in the vineyard.  Bright and filled with red fruit flavors, it has none of the firmness of their Côte de Brouilly.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 27, 2018

Pierre-Marie Chermette, Fleurie (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) Les Garants 2016

($26, Weygandt-Metzler):  Pierre-Marie Chermette’s Fleurie Garants, though on the same pink granite soil as their Fleurie Poncié, comes from a southwest facing slope, which exposes it to warmer afternoon sun.  Still highlighting the mineral component, it’s a slightly firmer, more muscular wine that maintains the incredible suaveness, which is always present in Chermette’s wines. These are both marvelously energetic mid-weight wines that will enliven grilled chicken or skirt steak this summer.
92 Michael Apstein Aug 7, 2018

Pierre-Marie Chermette, Fleurie (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) Poncié 2016

($26, Weygandt-Metzler):  Pierre-Marie Chermette, a well-regarded producer in Fleurie, one of the cru of Beaujolais, focuses on terroir — site specificity — in keeping with the tradition in the rest of Burgundy.  Chermette produces two excellent, but very different Fleurie, this one from Poncié and one from a slope called Garants. What’s fascinating is that the soil is similar — pink granite — but the orientation of the slopes is different.  This Fleurie Poncié comes from a southeast facing slope, which, as a result of cooler morning sun, is floral and elegant with glossy tannins.   Unlike wines labeled Beaujolais or even Beaujolais-Villages, this Poncié, while still delivering bright red fruity flavors, highlights its mineral-y component.
92 Michael Apstein Aug 7, 2018

Domaine Labruyère, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) “Coeur de Terroirs” 2016

($27, Frederick Wildman and Sons):  Domaine Labruyère, a serious producer based in Moulin-à-Vent, has a variety of bottlings from that Beaujolais cru.  This one, a blend of grapes from older vines and aged in older oak barrels, reminds us of just how good and exciting wines from Moulin-à-Vent can be.  Structured without being austere or hard, it delivers a gorgeous array of dark fruit and gaminess.  For those who think Beaujolais is a frivolous wine, open a bottle of this one with whatever meat you’re grilling this summer and smile at its seriousness.
91 Michael Apstein Jul 17, 2018

Domaine Labruyère, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) “Le Clos” 2016

($36, Frederick Wildman and Sons):  I hear it already, “How can you give Beaujolais 95 points?”  First, this is not Beaujolais really; it’s from Moulin-à-Vent, arguable the best of the 10 cru of Beaujolais, which taken together, are in a class by themselves.  Secondly, it’s an outstanding wine, showing the complexity that the Gamay grape planted on granite soil can achieve.  It helps that the winemaker, Nadine Gublin, is a star who also is responsible for the wines at the Domaine Jacques Prieur, a leading Burgundy house.  As is becoming the practice in Moulin-à-Vent and other cru of Beaujolais, producers are bottling individual vineyard wines separately, such as this one, just as is done in the rest of Burgundy.  Le Clos, a single small (2.4-acre) plot with vines that average 50 years of age, is a monopole, that is, owned exclusively by Domaine Labruyère.  The focus of Le Clos is on the mineral aspect that the granite soil imparts, rather than the fruitiness of Gamay.  The hint of bitterness in the finish reinforces that focus.  It’s a long, refined and graceful wine that makes you stop and say, “Wow, that’s not Beaujolais.”  The tannins are fine, which allows for enjoyment now, but it has the presence and balance to evolve beautifully over the next decade.  I’ll stick by my 95-point assessment.
95 Michael Apstein Jul 17, 2018

Château Thivin, Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2015

($28):  The wines from Côte de Brouilly, one of top-tier of the ten cru of Beaujolais, are not to be confused with those from Brouilly, another cru, but whose wines have less consistent quality.  Although Château Thivin, one of the region’s best producers, makes a range of wines from Côte de Brouilly depending on the position of the vines on the slope, this one is a blend from several sites.  In a word, it’s marvelous.  Stoney and firm, without being hard, it delivers bright red fruit flavors and has beautiful balance without a trace of over-ripeness.  Great acidity keeps it fresh and lively.
92 Michael Apstein Jul 3, 2018

Château de Fleurie, Fleurie (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2015

($21, David Bowler Wine):  Sensational is the word that comes to mind when describing the 2015 vintage in Beaujolais.  Of course, we are talking about the cru of Beaujolais, the ten villages within that region whose wines stand apart from the remainder of the region, which explains why the name of the cru alone — without the word Beaujolais — appears on the label.  Fleurie is one of the top cru of Beaujolais.  The 2015 from Château de Fleurie is pure charm.  It conveys a wonderful mixture of red fruit flavors and minerality.  Unlike Beaujolais Nouveau, fruitiness or sweetness is not the focus.  It’s a perfect choice now with a roast chicken, hamburgers, or even pasta. 90 Michael Apstein Jan 9, 2018

Georges Duboeuf, Fleurie (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) Domaine des Quatre Vents 2015

($18, Quintessential):  The reputation of Beaujolais is that of an easy-drinking fruity wine to be consumed soon after release.  That description may be accurate for most Beaujolais, but not those from ten villages, known as the cru of Beaujolais, whose wines are far more distinctive.  There is even variability with wines from a cru.  Take, for example, this Fleurie from Duboeuf.  (To be fair, the wine comes from the Domaine des Quatre Vents and is commercialized by Duboeuf.) It’s a substantial wine, exhibiting a marvelous stony character and amazing depth.  A pleasant tannic structure imparts a welcome firmness.  It needs time — a year or two, at least — unlike the Fleurie from Château de Fleurie, which is delectable to drink now.  Indeed, the Domaine des Quatre Vents was better the second night after I opened the bottle.  This is a bargain price for a serious wine from a super vintage. 93 Michael Apstein Jan 9, 2018

Château du Basty, Régnié (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2015

($16, Jeanne Marie de Champs Selection):  The wines from Régnié, the last of the 10 villages in Beaujolais to achieve cru status, have a tendency to be hard and rustic.  Not this one.  This Régnié from the Château du Basty shows great refinement.  A charming rusticity and earthiness perfectly balances and complements its clean bright fruitiness.  Fresh and lively, there’s no over ripeness or sweetness.  This Régnié demonstrates the talents of the producer and the grandeur of the vintage.  And it’s a bargain.  Don’t miss it. 92 Michael Apstein Nov 14, 2017

The New Beaujolais, but Definitely Not Beaujolais Nouveau

A recent tasting of Beaujolais reminded me of tasting wines from the Côte d’Or.  Yes, you read that correctly–I am comparing Beaujolais and the Côte d’Or.  To be sure, I’m not speaking about just anywhere in Beaujolais, only the crus, the 10 villages in the northern part of the region whose bedrock is either pink granite or a blue-black volcanic stone and whose wines are so distinctive that only the name of the village, without a mention of Beaujolais, appears on the label. Despite different grapes (Gamay versus Pinot Noir), different soil (granite versus limestone) and different exposure (undulating hills versus a constant southeast facing slope), both the northern part of Beaujolais and the Côte d’Or are magical winemaking areas where the particular site is paramount in determining the character of the wine.

Anyone who doubts that Beaujolais can excite needs to taste Château des Jacques’ 2015 trio of Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent, three of the 10 Beaujolais crus.  And then in case you think the differences among the trio was a one-off, you should taste Château des Jacques’ vineyard-designated wines from Moulin-à-Vent and Morgon.  You’ll come away, as I did, amazed with the revelation that Beaujolais is not just a fresh and fruity wine.

The conclusion is inescapable: Beaujolais can be serious stuff and the Gamay grape is capable of extraordinary complexity. The wines reflect their sites, just as in the Côte d’Or, the more up-market part of Burgundy. At Château des Jacques, as well as at many other fine producers who focus on the uniqueness of specific sites, the wines are wonderfully different even though they are all made from the same grape–Gamay, in this case–by a winemaking team that uses similar techniques with each wine.  And this being Beaujolais, and not the Côte d’Or, you can actually afford to buy them.

Maison Louis Jadot, one of Burgundy’s best producers, purchased Château des Jacques and its vineyards in Moulin-à-Vent in 1996 and subsequently has expanded its presence in Beaujolais by purchasing estates and vineyards in Morgon and Fleurie.  With their emphasis on specific vineyard sites, Jadot and other producers are showing the world that Beaujolais can offer the same thrilling diversity using Gamay, as the rest of Burgundy does with Pinot Noir.  Though Jadot’s goal is to show the distinctiveness of individual vineyards in Beaujolais, their flagship wines are the ones from the villages themselves, according to Cyril Chirouze, Château des Jacques’ talented and energetic winemaker.  It’s an analogous philosophy to that seen in Champagne where producers make distinctive vintage Champagne, but consider their non-vintage bottlings the standard bearer.

The 2015 vintage in Beaujolais, like the rest of Burgundy, is outstanding.  The growing season was hot and dry overall with the harvest starting in August.

(Climate-change deniers should note that August harvest occurred only twice during the entirety of the 20th century, 1947 and 1976, while 2015 was already the fourth time Beaujolais has seen such an early start in this new century.)

Yields were low in 2015, further concentrating flavors.  The allowable yield for the crus is 52 hectoliters/hectare (hl/ha), while the average at Château des Jacques in 2015 was 28 hl/ha.  The high acidity inherent to the Gamay grape is what makes the 2015 Beaujolais wines so stunning.  It balances the ripe flavors the sun delivered, preventing the wines from being jammy or overdone.  Chirouze notes with a smile, “The vintage is a gift.  It will put the spotlight on Beaujolais.”

The spotlight was on Beaujolais at the turn of the last century.  Moulin-à-Vent was made by traditional methods–not carbonic maceration–with long maceration and barrel aged, as evidenced by an old de-stemming machine Jadot found at Château des Jacques when they bought the property and from photographs from that era.  Chirouze reported that they discovered restaurant menus from the early 20th century indicating that Moulin-à-Vent sold at a comparable price to Volnay and Beaune.  He explains that Gamay stands up to (and benefits from) barrel aging as long as the grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and undergo prolonged, three to four weeks of maceration and fermentation, as is done with Pinot Noir in the rest of Burgundy.  Any wine, Beaujolais or Bordeaux for that matter, which undergoes protracted barrel aging requires time in the bottle before it is ready to drink.

After World War II, says Chirouze, fashions changed in Beaujolais.  Neither producers nor consumers wanted to wait for wines to age.  Producers wanted to sell their wines as soon as possible rather than tie up their money aging them.  Consumers wanted wines for immediate consumption rather than cellaring.  Enter Beaujolais Nouveau.  The formula here is simple: Whole bunches of grapes are thrown into the vat without destemming or crushing.  Fermentation begins within the berries and vinification is rapid, seven to ten days, rather than a month, which brings out the fruitiness but not the tannins.  The result is a light, fruity and fresh wine ready for immediate consumption–but has little character and transmits nothing of its origins.  During the past 20 years (from 1996 to 2016) Beaujolais Nouveau production has fallen by 60 percent (from 472,000 hl to 193,000 hl), but it still accounts for 27 percent of the region’s production, according to data from Inter Beaujolais, the trade group that represents the entire region.

Despite the longstanding prominence of Nouveau and the impatience that explains its advent, the pendulum in Beaujolais is swinging back toward seriousness.

In addition to the original eight separate parcels in Moulin-à-Vent, Château des Jacques has acquired three in Morgon and two in Fleurie, giving them a total of roughly 200 acres.  (Jadot also has an entirely separate winemaking facility and team in the region for their less terroir-driven Beaujolais Villages, which, by the way, delivers more than you’d expect for the price, especially the 2015 vintage.)

Chirouze is adamant that they will bottle single vineyard wines only when doing so does not “impair the quality and integrity of village wines.”  He continues, “The village wines–Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent–are not ‘second’ wines.  We bottle the single vineyard wines only if the vintage allows bottling of both.”  Hence, the number of single-vineyard bottlings Château des Jacques does depends on the year.  The grandeur of the 2015 vintage allowed Château des Jacques to bottle all six of their single vineyard Moulin-à-Vent, La Roche, Clos du Grand Carquelin, Clos de Rochegrès, Champ de Cour, Clos des Thorins, and La Rochelle, without diminishing the quality of the village wine.  Only the first three, however, will be available in the U.S.  (They own two additional parcels, Les Vérillats and Les Caves, that they never bottle separately, reserving those grapes entirely for the village wine.)

Comparing the three 2015 single vineyard wines from Moulin-à-Vent is an epiphany-inducing experience.  You’re left with the same amazement as when you taste wines from Volnay, or any Côte d’Or village–wines made from same grapes grown in adjacent vineyards that somehow taste remarkably different.

The 2015 La Roche ($43, 94 points) lives up to its name–the rock.  The vineyard lies at the foot of the village’s icon windmill and has shallow poor soil atop volcanic bedrock.  Even the ripeness of the 2015 vintage does not soften this massive young wine.  Despite its concentration and perhaps because of its structure, it comes across as austere.  But it’s really not.  It has splendid freshness, which adds to its allure.  I suspect it will turn out beautifully with time.  (I just finished the last bottle of a case of the 2000 Château des Jacques La Roche–at 16 years of age, it was still fresh and marvelously mineral-y.)

The 2015 Clos du Grand Carquelin ($43, 95 points), from a vineyard across the road–not 10 feet away from La Roche–was entirely different:  Floral and elegant, long and graceful, almost delicate by comparison.

The 2015 Grand Clos de Rochegrès ($43, 95) 500 feet away as the crow flies, combined elements of both of the others, with gorgeous power but less refinement compared to Clos du Grand Carquelin.

Although Château des Jacques is adamant about the importance of site-specific bottlings, this is not a new idea.  Indeed, the previous owner of the property bottled a wine from Clos de Rochegrès for decades.  Nor is Château des Jacques the only producer in Beaujolais to have that focus.  The single vineyard wines from Château du Moulin-à-Vent (which sits adjacent to the windmill) are stylish and reinforce the importance of site specificity.  Their Moulin-à-Vent from the Croix des Vérillats vineyard is consistently firm, reflecting the poor soil, with an uncanny elegance, while the one from La Rochelle, a south-facing plot with more soil atop the granite–and not more than 50 meters away–is richer and more opulent.

Moreover, site-specific bottlings are not unique to Moulin-à-Vent.  Other quality-oriented producers in other villages, such as Domaine Mee Godard and Château de Raousset, to name just two, have adopted the practice.  Godard bottles three distinctive–and different–wines from Morgon, from the lieux-dits Courcelette, Grand Cras and Côte du Py.  Château de Raousset has been bottling by parcel for about 15 years after they realized the wines from Grille-Midi, a parcel in Fleurie, had unique character.  They’ve added a Morgon from the Douby lieu-dit and even one from Chiroubles, Bel-Air, because they recently acquired sufficient acreage there to make a separate bottling practical.

Let me venture to make a prediction. The time will come–and soon–when the vineyard names in Moulin-à-Vent and the other cru will be as familiar to us as those in Chambolle-Musigny or Beaune.

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Email me your thoughts about Beaujolais at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein

Jun 20, 2017

Domaine J. Chamonard, Morgon (Beaujolais, France) “Le Clos de Lys” 2014

($32, Savio Soares Selections): It’s hard to determine from the importer’s website whether Le Clos de Lys is actually a single vineyard or a proprietary name for a wine that comes from several parcels in Morgon.  No matter, the wine is excellent and reinforces my opinion that the cru of Beaujolais will be the next hot area for French wine.  This Morgon has a firm earthiness — a sign of serious wine — not the grapey signature all too often associated with Beaujolais.  As though to emphasize that distinction, the word Beaujolais does not appear on either the front or back label.   It’s an ideal choice for a long simmered chicken and mushroom dish this winter.
92 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2017

Frédéric Berne, Morgon (Beaujolais, France) Corcelette 2014

($20): I only became acquainted with Frédéric Berne’s Beaujolais during my annual trip to Burgundy last November.  Based on my tasting of his 2014s, I would try anything he makes.  He, like many of the top producers in Beaujolais, is raising the bar in that region by identifying vineyards within the cru (the 10 towns that produce the most distinctive wines) that have unique terroir and are capable of making superior wines.  Corcellette is one such site in Morgon.  The 2014 vintage in Beaujolais, while not receiving the hype of the 2015, is excellent and many consumers will prefer it to the more flamboyant 2015s.  Berne’s Morgon Corcelette is firm without being austere and focuses on that elusive mineral quality rather than over fruitiness.  This is great Beaujolais and shows that the region is capable of producing real wine, not just grapey Nouveau.  Try it with a hearty stew this winter.
92 Michael Apstein Dec 27, 2016

Maison Joseph Drouhin, Fleurie (Beaujolais, France) Domaine des Hospices de Belleville 2015

($25, Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.): Beaujolais is clearly a hot area.  Major Beaune-based Burgundy négociants are investing there, either by buying properties, such as Jadot with Château des Jacques, or, as with Drouhin, collaborating with the Domaine des Hospices de Belleville to produce and market their wines.  One sure sign of quality and reliability is Drouhin’s name on a label, so it’s no surprise that they’ve succeeded with this Fleurie.  Floral and ripe, without falling into the trap of over ripeness, it’s racy and vivacious.  With Beaujolais like this one, consumers will start to finally realize it’s an area that is capable of producing real wine. Another “roast chicken” wine for this winter.
91 Michael Apstein Dec 27, 2016

Frédéric Berne, Chiroubles (Beaujolais, France) Les Terrasses 2015

($20): Wines from Chiroubles, another one of the ten cru of Beaujolais, are typically fruitier and less firm than those from Morgon. Berne’s 2015 Chiroubles from Les Terrasses, one of the top spots in that village, is exuberant without being over the top.  Bright lip smacking acidity imparts energy and keeps it balanced. Long and graceful, this is my quintessential “roast chicken” wine. Frédéric Berne is a name to remember.
92 Michael Apstein Dec 27, 2016

A Game-Changing Development in Beaujolais

Everyone knows THE grape in Beaujolais is Gamay.  Ok, a little Chardonnay, which finds its way into Beaujolais Blanc or even Bourgogne Blanc, is planted in the region as well.  But now, a game-changer could transform and revitalize the region–a major Burgundian producer has started planting and making wine from Pinot Noir in Beaujolais.  And the first vintage of it is very appealing.

Maison Louis Latour, one of Burgundy’s top producers, took the plunge in 2012 and planted about 45 acres of Pinot Noir in southern Beaujolais, in an area known as the Pierres Dorées because of the golden color of the limestone rocks there.  Emeric Teyssou, who oversees the viticulture for Latour, notes that the soil in the Pierres Dorées is different from the remainder of Beaujolais where volcanic granite prevails.  Here, it’s more a marl limestone mixture similar to that found in the Côte d’Or.  It is abundantly clear that in prehistoric times the land in this area was under a vast sea because everywhere you look there are shell-like fossils in the stones.

There was one small, less than 2-acre parcel, that had been planted with Pinot Noir in the 1970s, which Latour kept, but the remaining parcels were replanted in a Burgundian fashion, more suitable for Pinot Noir than Gamay.  Most importantly, the new vines were trained on wires instead of the traditional gobelet system used for Gamay.

Immediately after harvest, the Pinot Noir grapes are kept cold and delivered by truck to the Latour winery in Beaune, a trip that takes only about one and a quarter hours.  Vinification is similar to Latour’s other red Burgundies.  Latour made only a few thousand bottles of the 2015, not enough to be imported into the U.S.  Although exact quantities of the 2016 have not been determined because the wine is still aging, Latour estimates they will produce about 30,000 bottles, which means that some will come to our shores.

The wine is bottled under a relatively new appellation, Côteaux Bourguignons, which allows any blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, along with some other minor grapes, grown throughout Burgundy, including Beaujolais.  (Côteaux Bourguignons will replace the terrible sounding appellation, Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire, and Bourgogne Passetoutgrains, which currently allows the blending the Pinot Noir and Gamay.)

The 2015 Maison Louis Latour Pinot Noir “Les Pierres Dorées” is a smashing success, delivering juicy fruity notes buttressed by round mild tannins and a hint of savory, earthy notes.  It’s a perfect “roast chicken” kind of wine.  I can’t wait for the 2016 version to hit our shores….

 

November 27, 2016

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Beauty in Beaujolais: the 2015 Vintage

When I was in Côte d’Or and Beaujolais last November, all the producers with whom I spoke were absolutely raving about the 2015 vintage. The exuberance in Beaujolais–perhaps because the wines were closer to being finished than in the Côte d’Or–was even more palpable and universal.  Pierre Savoye, a top grower based in Morgon, was effusive in his praise for the vintage.  Showing a broad smile, he could barely contain himself while saying, “This year, the weather made the grapes and the grapes made the wine. The winemaker did nothing.”

Romain Teyteau, the U.S. export director for Georges Dubœuf, the region’s largest and most prominent producer, recounted how the 83-year old Georges Dubœuf, who has seen more than 50 harvests, declared 2015 to be “the greatest vintage he’s ever had” and added, “it is magnum vintage” because the wines have the potential to age and evolve beautifully.

Cyril Chirouze, the winemaker at Château des Jacques, a leading producer in Moulin-à-Vent, was equally effusive about the 2015 vintage.  He noted that the hot summer guaranteed ripe grapes.  The only potential downside was that the summer was too hot, the weather too perfect, and that some growers elected to wait–and wait–to harvest, resulting in super-ripe grapes that translated into wines that could turn out to be over the top.  Addressing the potential for over ripeness, Romain Teyteau of Dubœuf revealed that he was aware of some cuvees (not theirs, he was quick to add) that came it at 17 percent alcohol.  He did note, however, that Dubœuf needed to reprint some labels to reflect the higher alcohols.  So, though Savoye asserts that the winemaker “did nothing” in this vintage, it was in fact winemakers who needed to make the most critical decision–when to harvest.

Savoye explained that the vineyards have adapted to what he euphemistically calls, “The new weather pattern,” which he thinks helps explain why the warmth of 2015 did not affect the vines the way the heat of 2003 did.  In 2003, the Gamay berries were small with thick skins and the resulting wines were unbalanced.  Not so in 2015.  Chirouze agrees that the 2015s are fresher than the 2003s ever were, because 2015 never saw the heat spikes that wreaked havoc with the 2003 vintage and because the harvest occurred under cooler conditions.  Importantly, the natural high acidity of the Gamay grape is an insurance policy that the wines from Beaujolais retain verve and energy despite extra ripeness.

Underscoring the potential of the 2015s was the surprising stature of a sampling of the Beaujolais Nouveau, a category that usually deserves little attention. Château du Basty, an excellent producer, turned out a 2015 Beaujolais Lantignié Nouveau that had structure to support its ripe, juicy fruit.  (If all of the grapes come from a single commune, such as Lantignié, its name can appear along with Beaujolais on the label.  By contrast, the ten crus of Beaujolais label the wines with solely by the name of the village.)

Similarly, Domaine des Nugues, another top grower, made a 2015 Beaujolais Villages Nouveau with just enough tannin to balance the lush dark fruit notes characteristic of the vintage.  It was real wine, not some candied drink.

Teyteau was in Boston recently to show a stunning array of single estate Beaujolais cru that Dubœuf markets on behalf of growers.  He explained that Dubœuf has two major parts to its wine business.  The wines bottled under the iconic “Flower Label” are wines that Dubœuf made from wines or grapes purchased from a number of sources.  He bottles hundreds of thousands of cases of these wines.  Although we tasted a few Flower Label wines in Boston, the focus of the tasting was to showcase wines from the crus–the ten villages in the northern part of the region whose wines are distinctive enough that they can be labeled solely with the name of the village–such as Fleurie, St. Amour or Morgon, to name just three.  The growers themselves, not Dubœuf, make these wines.  Dubœuf buys either a portion–as little as a few hundred cases–or all of their production and markets them, each with a unique label highlighting the name of the domaine.  Dubœuf’s name appears only in small print at the bottom.

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The grandeur of the 2015 vintage is apparent even in a Beaujolais-Villages from one of Dubœuf’s growers.   The wine from the Domaine des Côtes du Berchoux, previously incorporated into Dubœuf ‘s Flower label Beaujolais-Villages, showed such distinctiveness that the Dubœuf team felt confident to release it under the domaine name.  Less overt fruitiness makes it more serious and puts it a cut above the typical Beaujolais-Villages.  Its fine tannins should make it a good choice for drinking this fall. (88 Points, $20).

With a lean minerality, you can almost taste the granitic soil of the 2015 Domaine Pontheux, located in Chiroubles. Though its engaging floral aspect suggests it’s great for immediate enjoyment, its tannic structure means a year or so in the cellar is more appropriate. (88, $21).

Two wines from Beaujolais’ southern-most and largest cru, Brouilly, demonstrate the diversity and difficulty generalizing about the character of the individual wines from these individual villages.  The 2015 Château de Nervers, ripe, round and fleshy, has firm tannins more associated with the wines from the Côte de Brouilly (91, $23).  In contrast, the 2015 Domaine de Combiaty is far more approachable–fruitier rather than firm.  Fresh and lively, it is the quintessential “bistro” wine (90, $23).

Speaking of the Côte de Brouilly, the 2015 Domaine du Riaz was one of the stars of the tasting.  Filled with fleshy dark fruit, it has substantial structure, yet is not hard or unyielding. The minerality expected from a wine from the Côte de Brouilly comes through because there are no overripe flavors to hide it.  Freshness in the finish amplifies the enjoyment.  A couple of years in the cellar would be a good idea. (93, $23).

For those looking for a ready-to-drink 2015 Beaujolais cru, reach for the Château de Saint Amour.  The 2015 from this estate is the first vintage of it that Dubœuf opted to bottle separately.  Softer, rounder and less tannic, it’s far “friendlier” than the Côte de Brouilly at this stage.  A hint of spice adds to its immediate appeal. (90, $25).

Dubœuf purchased the entirety of the production of Fleurie’s Clos des Quatre Vents, certainly a wise decision in 2015.  Both floral and firm, the wine expands in the glass.  There’s far more than dark berry-like flavors going on in this remarkably stylish Fleurie.  Refined earthiness appears in the unexpectedly long finish. (93, $25).  Though hard to resist now, more complexity will emerge with a couple of years in the cellar.

One of the first growers with whom Dubœuf worked was Jean-Ernest Descombes in Morgon. The wine has always been one of my favorites from the Dubœuf portfolio. Dubœuf’s 2015 Jean Descombes Morgon is stunning.  Weighing in at a modest 13 percent stated alcohol, it is firm–more mineral in character–and decidedly less floral than the Clos des Quatre Vents Fleurie.  Structured and elegant simultaneously, this balanced treasure needs a few years in the cellar to reveal its charms. (93, $25).

The Côte du Py, arguably the most famous site in Morgon, is a hill of schist that produces sturdy wines.  The 2015 Morgon Côte du Py from Domaine Javernière is a textbook example, showing power, firmness and elegance while delivering black cherry-like fruitiness.  Even with its density, an invigorating acidity keeps it fresh and lively. There are only 400 cases so you may need to search for it.  It will be worth it. (93, $23).

What’s exciting about of all of these wines is their fabulous concentration and balance.  All are fresh and lively.  None are cooked, raisin-y or over ripe.  The highest praise I can give them is that many are going into my cellar–maybe even some magnums.

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July 20, 2016

Email me your thoughts about Beaujolais at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein

 

Beaujolais Rising

A transformation is occurring in Beaujolais, and within a few years the world will see the wines from that region in a whole new light. For most consumers today, Beaujolais is synonymous with Beaujolais Nouveau, which all too often is a grapey, gooey wine. But, in my mind, the future of Beaujolais surely lies with its crus, which are prohibited from making Nouveau. These ten villages, located in the hilly northern reaches of the region, have unique granitic soil and produce wine that is distinctive enough to be labeled solely with the name of the village, often omitting the name Beaujolais entirely. It’s what’s happening within the crus–a Côte d’Or-like parcelization–that explains why Beaujolais will reclaim its reputation as a top wine region. Continue reading Beaujolais Rising

Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2012

($30, Wilson Daniels): Moulin-à-Vent, with its iconic windmill perched at the top of the hill, is the most revered of the ten crus of Beaujolais.  The cru are small areas in the north of Beaujolais with granitic soil which produce wines that couldn’t be further from the tutti-frutti character of Beaujolais Nouveau, which, sadly, remains the image of the region to far too many consumers.  The Château du Moulin-à-Vent, one of the area’s top producers, sits virtually adjacent to the windmill.  Its wines are as iconic as the windmill.  This one, a blend from a variety of vineyards scattered around the hillside, is a good place to start.  You can practically feel the granite through the wine’s firmness.  Despite its firmness, this is not an aggressive or tannic wine, but rather a well-balanced young wine.  Not at all grapey, it’s a mineraly wine that reveals its sturdy stuff slowly.  Drink it now with hearty winter fare or put it into the cellar to see for yourself how “Beaujolais” can develop.
93 Michael Apstein Jan 5, 2016

Château de Lavernette, Beaujolais Blanc (Burgundy, France) “Les Vignes de la Roche” 2013

($20, T. Edward Wines):  Yes, you read that correctly — white Beaujolais.  Though 95 percent of Beaujolais is red, a small amount of white wine made from Chardonnay is produced in the appellation.  And it shouldn’t be surprising since Beaujolais borders the appellation of Pouilly-Fuissé, a well-known white Burgundy. Château de Lavernette’s 2013 is crisp, clean and refreshing with a distinct stony component that makes it very easy to recommend for current drinking. 90 Michael Apstein Nov 10, 2015

Stéphane Aviron, Fleurie (Beaujolais, France) Domaine de la Madrière Vieilles Vignes 2013

($24, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd.): There’s no better way to learn about the differences between the cru of Beaujolais than by tasting the wines of Stéphane Aviron, one of the appellation’s top producers.  The house characteristics — precision and harmony — are apparent in all of them, but each reflects the specific terroir of the region.  Take this Fleurie for example.  The Domaine de la Madrière, his wife’s family’s property, delivers a floral elegance and long succulent red fruit flavors that dance across your palette.  Plan on drinking it this fall with a roast chicken.  You’ll be happy.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 13, 2015

Stéphane Aviron, Côte de Brouilly (Beaujolais, France) Vieilles Vignes 2013

($18, Frederick Wildman and Sons, Ltd.): If your tastes run to firmer rather than floral Beaujolais, turn to Aviron’s 2013 Côte de Brouilly.  Also made from old vine fruit, it’s stonier — you can almost taste the granite soil — than his Fleurie, but equally attractive.   He makes attractive Beaujolais…serious stuff.  Don’t miss them.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 13, 2015

Villa Ponciago, Fleurie (Beaujolais, France) La Réserve 2009

($20, Henriot, Inc): Fleurie, similar to the other nine named villages or cru of the Beaujolais region, carries its own appellation.  Indeed, there’s no reference to Beaujolais on Villa Ponciago’s label.  And that’s probably just as well because this wine is as far away from the typical, slightly pejorative, image of Beaujolais.  Characteristic of the appellation, the 2009 Villa Ponciago has an immediately alluring floral aspect, followed by richness and depth characteristic of the vintage.  Its glossy texture and vinous, not grapey, signature makes it an extremely engaging wine.
91 Michael Apstein Dec 30, 2014

Jean-Paul Brun, Beaujolais Blanc (Burgundy, France) 2013

($16, Louis Dressner Selections): Yes, it’s the Beaujolais Nouveau time of the year, and yes, 95% of Beaujolais is red, but that’s all the more reason to draw peoples’ attention to this wonderful Chardonnay-based wine. Jean-Paul Brun under the label of Terres Dorées redefines (red) Beaujolais.  He also makes a masterful white version, entirely from Chardonnay, which actually does well in the granitic soil of the appellation.  This one has an appealing creamy stoniness and uplifting vibrancy.  It’s another fine choice for Thanksgiving for you last minute shoppers.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 25, 2014

Villa Ponciago, Fleurie (Beaujolais, France) La Reserve 2011

($21, Henriot, Inc): Beaujolais gets a bad rap.  It’s partially deserved because of all of the slightly sweet and vapid swill labeled Beaujolais on the market.  But there are a few producers who are trying desperately — they must sometimes feel it’s like pushing a rock up a hill — to change the image with their wines from the cru, or named villages, such as Fleurie, of the region.  If more Beaujolais tasted like Villa Ponciago’s Fleurie, Beaujolais’ image would change rapidly.  It’s flowery and bright, not sweet and cloying.  It dances on the palate and refreshes it.  Chilling it for 30 minutes enhances it even more.  A good choice for Thanksgiving.
89 Michael Apstein Nov 4, 2014

Château du Moulin-À-Vent, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2009

($38, Wilson Daniels): Technically from Beaujolais, the wines from Moulin-à-Vent stand apart and have more in common with the rest of Burgundy because of the granitic soil of the appellation.  This is a broad shouldered robust Moulin-à-Vent, reflective of the warmth and ideal growing conditions of the vintage.   It’s a firm–almost chewy–wine with moderate, but polished, tannins that make it a terrific choice for a hearty fall meal as opposed to use as an aperitif.  Given its harmony, it will develop nicely in the cellar for five to ten years, like other fine Burgundies.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 7, 2014

Château du Moulin-À-Vent, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2010

($38, Wilson Daniels): Similar to their 2009, Château du Moulin-À-Vent’s 2010 Moulin-à-Vent reflects the vintage’s cooler growing season.   Fresher and more lively than their 2009, the 2010 has an uplifting sour cherry-like finish that begs for another sip.  Still with the granitic edge and firm — not hard — tannins expected from top-notch Moulin-à-Vent, it’s more linear and less opulent compared to the 2009.  Those who preferences run to a riper style wine will embrace the 2009.  Wonderfully long and refined, the 2010 is easy to recommend to those who tastes run toward racier wines.  Like the 2009, drink the 2010 with a hearty meal this fall or leave it alone in the cellar and watch magic unfold over the next five years.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 7, 2014

Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, Burgundy) “Couvent des Thorins” 2012

($28, Wilson Daniels): Ever since the Parinet family purchased this iconic property in 2009, they have been making marvelous wine.  They focus solely on wine from Moulin-à-Vent, one of the top crus of Beaujolais.  Moulin-à-Vent is home to well-structured rich wines that often need years of bottle age — these wines are as far away from insipidly fruity Beaujolais-Nouveau as you can get.  Their Couvent des Thorins is the most accessible and approachable of their wines.  Still, it is not the grapey, easy-to-gulp type of Beaujolais.  Rather, it has a firmness that implies a serious wine — which it is.  You can almost taste the granitic soil.  It would be an excellent choice for coq au vin this fall.
88 Michael Apstein Sep 2, 2014

Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Moulin-à-Vent (Beaujolais, Burgundy) Clos des Londres 2009

($100, Wilson Daniels): Yes, you read the price correctly — $100 for a bottle of Beaujolais.  But to associate this wine with conventional image of Beaujolais — a fruity easy-to-drink wine — would be a terrible mistake.  The wines from Moulin-à-Vent, though a village in the Beaujolais region, rightly stand apart from that region and carry their own appellation.  I’ve have bottles of Moulin-à-Vent from this property when it was known (under a previous owner) as Château des Thorins that had developed gloriously with two decades of bottle age.   Within the village of Moulin-à-Vent there are zones with distinct growing conditions, such as Le Champ de Cour, or this one, Clos des Londres, which produce distinctive and unique wines.  By focusing on these individual sites, Château du Moulin-à-Vent shows the mosaic of the area — a parcelization reminiscent of the Côte d’Or.  The 2009 Clos des Londres has impeccable balance, combining the density and concentration of the vintage with the minerality of the site.  Befitting a young wine with a great future, it has a marvelous firmness without being hard and a subtle black cherry-like bitterness in the finish.  The tannins are glossy, not astringent.  Clearly a wine for the cellar, it only slowly reveals its charms over a couple of hours in the glass.  Is it a great wine?  Yes.  Is it worth $100?  Only you and your banker can answer that.
95 Michael Apstein Sep 2, 2014

Jean Paul Brun, Beaujolais (Burgundy, France) Vieilles Vignes 2012

($18, Louis Dressner Selections): Brun’s Beaujolais, bottled under the Terres Dorées label, redefine that appellation.  The vast majority of Beaujolais — I’m not speaking of Beaujolais-Village and certainly not the cru — are nothing more than alcoholic grape juice.  But Brun’s is real wine filled with satisfying mix of fruitiness and herbal/spicy elements.  Good concentration and weight allows it to hold up to a grilled hanger steak while barely perceptible tannins mean it’s a delight to drink now.
90 Michael Apstein Apr 1, 2014

Stéphane Aviron, Beaujolais Villages (Burgundy, France) 2012

($15, Frederick Wildman & Sons): The yields in Beaujolais in 2012, were, like everywhere else in Burgundy, down dramatically.  Stéphane estimates that the average yield in 2012 for Beaujolais in general was about 27 hl/ha, or half normal, which is both good and bad.  Good, because the wines are wonderfully concentrated.  Bad, because there’s less of them and they are more difficult to find.  His Beaujolais-Villages is lively with good concentration and fruitiness, without being candied or sweet.  In contrast to much of the Beaujolais on today’s market, Aviron’s is real wine.  This easy to drink mid-weight red is perfect for roast chicken tonight.
88 Michael Apstein Feb 18, 2014