Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This ain't your grandma's Beaujolais!

 Wine from Beaujolais has a bad rap and I’m certainly not the first one to notice it. As a region its wines have been simultaneously promoted ardently, and screwed inadvertently, by one Mr. Georges Duboeuf and the Beaujolais Nouveau campaign.

The third Thursday of every November is the official release, and celebration, of the fresh harvested and fermented gamay grape. Airplanes loaded with the juice are rushed around the world to make the date, restaurants and hotels in France are stuffed to the seams with cases of this funnel worthy wine, and hangover remedies are prepared a day in advance for the coming pain.

What once started as a quick fermented juice for the pickers to celebrate the end of the harvest has become the symbol for a region; and as a symbol, it has locked the region into role of “Lesser Burgundy.” The result is that many of the customers I talk with believe that gamay could never compete with pinot noir as a noble Burgundian grape and that Beaujolais is a sweet headache inducing drink that should be approached with great caution.

A number of the customers I speak with about Beaujolais don’t have a lot of experience with the region (and I can’t blame them) and have yet to really experience something of memorable quality. Why does this come to mind late summer as opposed to the end of November? On a regular mid-August delivery day we received Domaine Diochon’s Moulin-a-Vent and Domaine Desvignes Morgon Cote du Py, two new Cru Beaujolais ( or, any of the wine from villages of noteworthy vineyard sites within the larger Beaujolais appellation.)

2 years ago we had fewer than 12 beaujolais on the shelf, and probably fewer than 9 worth drinking. Now we have almost 20 and they’re encroaching heavily into the Burgundy racks. We do well with the Beaujolais, but we could do better. The crossover from pinot noir, Burgundian or otherwise, to gamay from Beaujolais is not huge. In fact I would say since the best Beaujolais barely break $30, it’s a steal compared to what you get in Bourgogne Rouge or pinot noir from the U.S.

Especially since the number of pinot noir I’ve had from the states that I would actually like to drink I could count on one hand and they often cost $10 - $15 dollars or more than a good Beaujolais!

The good folks at La Revue du Vin de France point out the ageability and quality of these wines when they did a tasting of wines from Moulin-a-Vent anywhere from 10 - 15+ years old.

For a few options one could go with:

  • Dominique Piron (Morgon, Chenas, Moulin -a-Vent, and Beaujolais Village) Accessible in youth, but worth aging if you have the space and patience.

  • Daniel Bouland makes wines that are surprisingly powerful and tight in youth, so much so that an aging might be more ideal.
  • Avoiding producers, but focusing on regions, Cote de Brouilly encompasses vineyards on the hillsides of a dormant volcano - loads of minerality and medium to full weight wines. Julienas and Fleurie tend to be very floral and approachable in youth. No matter what you try, these are some seriously interesting wines... hell, put a chill on them while it’s still hot out and they’re delicious!

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