I have strong feelings about Beaujolais. Enjoy your Beaujolais Nouveau every year if you
must. That wine appears the third Thursday of November. By nature it must be consumed
immediately. It won't keep. I believe a week is about the maximum tolerable holding period
for this. The end of that week is, of course, the fourth Thursday of November, our
“Turkey Day.” In addition to giving thanks for the bounty we commemorate
that day, we may well give thanks that the tank cars of Nouveau they send us do not tell the
entire Beaujolais story. Much Beaujolais can be average to be sure, but when Beaujolais
delights, it does so in its own inimitable way.
I review eight current Beaujolais wines here, all 100% Gamay. I begin with a wine produced
as Beaujolais AOC, the broadest category, a large area covering some 60 wine-producing
villages. The second wine is Beaujolais-Villages, a reference to some 39 higher quality
villages in the northern part of the region. The remaining wines are from among the ten
highest-quality cru Beaujolais sections, in our case two from Juliénas, two from
Morgon, a Chénas, and a Moulin-à-Vent. Wines from these four crus are
considered to be the fullest-bodied, most age-worthy from among the “special
ten.” Sometimes these wines are likened to good red Pinot Noir Burgundy, but I say
let them stand proudly as Beaujolais.
The 2007 Pierre-Marie Chermette Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Vielles Vignes,
$15, represents the dedication of Pierre-Marie and his wife Martine, pioneering sustainable
growers in the region. Pruning is severe, harvest is manual, yeasts are natural, the wine
unfiltered. What we get is a brilliant blue-tinged purple, bringing honest aromas of ripe
cherry, strawberry, red raspberry and a touch of earth. The palate is similar, with some
additional pomegranate tang and a hint of ripe red apple. Extremely well balanced and
surprisingly layered given the price.
The 2006 Earl Gelin Domaines des Nugues Beaujolais-Villages, $19, is the work
product of dedicated winemaker Gérard Gelin. Domaine des Nugues is situated between
the Beaujolais crus of Morgon and Fleurie. Gerlin, in fact, also produces a Fleurie.
Though the wine is not labeled “Vielles Vignes,” vines are nevertheless of a
senior nature, 40-years-old at the least. The wine is deep ruby, with aromas of red plum, sour
cherry and some baking spice. Medium bodied with mid-level acidity, the wine brings palate
notes of cherry, raspberry, a touch of somewhat deeper blackberry and a nice tinge of ripe red
strawberry. Nutmeg and a touch of clove round the flavors out. The finish is fruity, clean and
The 2006 Michel Tête Domaine de Clos du Fief Juliénas, $22, is the
product of steep hillsides, a deep ruby in color, with excellent clarity. Aromatically this wine
brings across some fairly thick layers: red apple, raspberry, bacon, black pepper, violet, and
rose. Medium-plus in body, the wine has some perky acidity, dense red fruit with peppery
spice, a level of meatiness, some tannins at work, and a multi-layered finish. Real personality
The 2006 Clos De Haute Combe Juliénas, $23, shows the influence of oak
aging. The wine is a clear, medium-hued ruby with pale brownish edges. Primary aromas
include Bing cherry, strawberry, raspberry, violet and nutmeg. First impression on the palate
is spice, carried by black pepper, nutmeg, and vanilla. Milk chocolate rounds this out with
plenty of red fruit to accompany. This wine moves in a nice arc from initial attack, to
mid-palate, to a proper finish. Acidity at all stages is up to the task. While the spice and the
tasty sweet oak notes are fun, the wine has a sophisticated, classy edge to it.
The 2008 Bouland “Vieilles Vignes” Organic Morgon, $17, is wild
yeast fermented, aged in large wooden foudres, unfiltered, and traditionally produced
in all respects from vines that may be up to 90 years old. The shimmer of violet brilliance in
the glass is worth an extended look. The nose is a mix of red and black fruit, black licorice,
roasted walnut, coffee, chocolate and vanilla. I found good grip and structure in the mouth,
with well-matched and hard-working acidity and tannin. Ripe raspberry leads the red and
black fruit on the palate, with a mineral edge. The elements of the wine, tannin included,
come together well, but they will integrate even further with some bottle age.
The 2007 Guy Breton “Vielles Vignes” Morgon, $19, is yet another
“purist” wine: very old vines, minuscule yields, wild yeasts, no fining or
filtering, no chemicals, and in general minimal human intervention. The wine is a bright, deep
ruby. The nose is a pronounced mixture of cherry, raspberry, and violet. Medium bodied, the
wine has some lively acidic tang, with appropriate notes of pomegranate, a touch of
cranberry, red cherry, a slice of mocha, and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Soft in the mouth, the wine
after some experience reveals rather more tannin than I initially wrote down. For all the
seriousness put into its conception and production, I find this wine downright fun. That's no
contradiction, really, when fun means un-doctored. The fruit extends nicely into the finish.
The 2006 Domaine Piron & Lafont “Quartz” Chénas, $20, is
deep ruby in color. My first aromatic impressions were floral, rose and violet, with some
prickly nutmeg, strawberry, black cherry and raspberry. The palate brings similar fruit with
less of the floral, firm acidity, and a clean fruity finish. Although not particularly tannic, the
wine has corners, structure and good grip. The “Quartz” in the title refers to
the crystals of quartz common in the vineyard's granitic soil.
The 2005 Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent, $46, is brought to us by
venerable producer Maison Louis Jadot, who purchased the estate in 1996. The estate has
five separate vineyards, none of them contiguous. Grapes from each of these parcels are
fermented separately, following the standard Burgundy methods used for Pinot Noir rather
than the typical Beaujolais process of semi-carbonic maceration. Batches are blended
immediately before bottling. What results is undoubtedly a contemplative wine. In color, the
wine is an inky purple with lighter violet edges. My nose first encountered earth, a little
smoke, then deep black fruit, black cherry, prune, and pie crust. In the mouth, the acidity is
surprisingly forward, tannins fairly soft and ripe, yet both constituents weave together well,
impelling flavors of blueberry, blackberry, rosemary, licorice, cocoa, and some black pepper.
The finish has a ripe, almost sweet edge, with echoes of the tannins. The fruit is consistently
pure, and it lasts.
Floral, fruity and fabulously fragrant