Georges Duboeuf Chenas 2003 Tasting Notes
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Georges Duboeuf Chénas 2003 Tasting Notes

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 happy wine.

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
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It is fortunate that these Beaujolais Cru wines seem to travel rather well.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award


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