Georges Duboeuf Chénas 2003
Chénas is one of the “Crus” of Beaujolais, those ten granite-mounted northernmost villages
of the region whose names are usually as evocative as their wines. Two theories circulate as
to the origin of the name Chénas. The prevailing view is that the vineyards replaced a forest
of oak; the French term for oak is chêne. Another theory is that the name derives
from a Roman named Canus. What is certain is that French King Louis XIII (reigned
1610-1643) favored wine from Chénas over all others for his table. The Chénas area has
grown wine grapes since at least the 14th century. With all that history, you can still get this
wine for an accessible $12. The success and down-market image of Beaujolais
Nouveau (this wine's maker Georges Duboeuf being a major player in that market) brings
prices for all ten of the excellent Crus within budgetary striking distance. The market may not
consider them as “sexy” as their Burgundian cousins to the north, but if you open one of
these to share with that special someone, well, let's just say you have been advised. This is a
You find this wine has personality first off, with a nose that is hardly shy. Black cherry, dried cherry, and even notes of candied cherry, plum and prune come first, but right behind them are aromas of chocolate, baking spice, and violets. It is all tied together with a sensation of earth (the French call it terroir, but I am on a campaign to use that good old English word “dirt”). The nose isn't the entire wine in this case, but it leads the kind of aromatic experience that makes you enjoy a few unhurried swirls and sniffs before you tilt the glass back. The nose perceives extraction, and it is not wrong.
The Chénas is a touch over medium in body, bringing considerable mouthfeel without
abandoning that Beaujolais lightness. The triple-cherry theme continues in the mouth, with
plum and cranberry, the violet again, and dried smoked leaves mixed with earth. An initial
sensation of cocoa becomes a richer chocolate on the mid-palate. Both the acidity, which
approaches racy, and the confident tannins combine nicely with the fullness of flavor in the
wine's strong finish.
Verdict: Merci Monsieur Duboeuf
It is fortunate that these Beaujolais Cru wines seem to travel rather well.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman