This year I noticed a distinct absence. The crowds are still here. Wine still flows everywhere. But wait. There are few posters for Beaujolais Nouveau and few of the local bistros are offering it. To my mind, that’s just as well. No doubt, Beaujolais Nouveau is a cash cow. The 2022, like past years, was sold within two months of the harvest and best consumed within months to capture its freshness. Producers get their money right away. Consumers enjoy it because it’s fruity and grapey—basically alcoholic grape juice—and sells for less than $15 a bottle. But for me, the real value and excitement of Beaujolais lies with the Beaujolais Cru wines, which are drawn from 10 villages in the north of Beaujolais that have the potential to make distinctive wine. Moving from north to south the Crus are St. Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnie, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly.
There are many producers who have contributed to the resurrection of Beaujolais. John Anderson, my friend, and colleague here at WRO, recommends them on a regular basis. (I refer you to his articles.) Kermit Lynch, a notable U.S. wine importer, dubbed Jean Foillard, Thevenet, Guy Breton and Marcel Lapierre as the Gang of Four because of their revolutionary approach to making high quality Beaujolais. Already some of their wines sell for well over $60 a bottle and can be difficult to locate. Other producers whose wines from the Beaujolais Crus that I recommend highly, are more affordable, and rest in my cellar include Château des Jacques, Marc Burgaud, Château Thivin, Clos de la Roilette, Domaine Pierre Savoye, Château de Raousset, Château du Basty, and, yes, Georges Duboeuf.
Duboeuf, in addition to flooding the market with Beaujolais Nouveau and his successful Beaujolais Flower Bottles, commercializes wine from growers in the Beaujolais Crus. Growers make the wines. Duboeuf bottles them and sells them at, I might add, very good prices, which is why I purchased several cases of the 2015s. Don’t confuse them with Duboeuf’s Flower bottlings of the various Beaujolais crus, which have just the name of the Cru on the label but do not indicate a particular grower or estate.
I’ve been enjoying my 2015s over the past several years—and still have a few bottles left. They are versatile wines which have the charm of the Gamay grape but with far more complexity and interest, certainly than either the Beaujolais Nouveau or even Duboeuf’s Flower bottlings of the Crus. Yet, with a few exceptions, they also possess the same easy drinkability thanks to their soft tannins. Moreover, thanks to these same soft tannins, they can be chilled, making them ideal in summer for chicken, sausage, or meat from the grill. Wine novices and aficionados alike embrace them—a distinct advantage when you have a diverse group at the table, say at Thanksgiving or at a non-wine-focused gathering of friends—precisely because they deliver such alluring mineral-like aspects along with engaging mixed berry fruitiness without astringency. In short, they provide something for everyone. And they’re not expensive.
From what I’ve tasted so far, Duboeuf’s 2020 single estate Beaujolais Cru wines are very successful. The 2020 Château de Saint-Amour, owned and produced by the Siraudin family, conveys the fresh lively charm for which St. Amour is known. Its smooth and seductive texture adds to its appeal. (90 pts, $18).
Duboeuf owns Château des Capitans, a 30-acre estate located in Juliénas. The cru takes its name from—who else? —Julius Cesar. Aurelien Duboeuf, who is Georges’ grandson and has recently taken a role along with his father, Franck, in the winemaking, explains, “To be the owner, you understand what is happening to the vines during the vintage.” He adds, “you can really understand the grower,” which must be important given their multiple collaborations. Duboeuf is transforming the estate to organic viticulture, which should be certified as such in 2026. The fresh and lively 2020 Château des Capitans has wonderful spice intermingled with crunchy red fruit flavors. The lower stated-alcohol, 13 percent, reflects less-ripe grapes and likely explains the happy absence of potentially off-putting jammy flavors. This is wine I would put in my cellar ($23, 92 pts).
The wines from the Côte du Py, a slope of blue granite and one of the best sites in Morgan, usually have more of a tannic firmness compared to wines from the other Crus. (Wines from Moulin-à-Vent and Côte de Brouilly share that character as well.) Duboeuf’s 2020 Morgon Côte du Py from Jean-Ernest Descombes sings. Fresh and lively, it conveys an enchanting dark fruitiness anchored to a firm, but not hard, mineral component. This is another candidate for my cellar ($35, 93 pts).
With its tarry firmness, the 2020 Duboeuf Domaine de Javernière, Morgon Côte du Py is the polar-opposite of the plush and round Château de Saint-Amour. It’s firmer and more tannic than the Georges Descombes bottling, but like that wine, has a harmonious combination of minerals and dark fruits. Since it is a more typically structured Côte du Py, it would benefit from a few years in the cellar. ($23, 92).
My 2015s Beaujolais crus from Duboeuf’s collection of estates have developed nicely over the years. I suspect their 2020s with do the same, so they’re no rush to drink them. There is, in other words, no rush at all to drink these Beaujolais!
E-mail me your thoughts about Beaujolais at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MichaelApstein.
November 23, 2022