Beaujolais: Wines of Character.Gamay and Granite good for each other!
|Liam Campbell (standing)|
Did you know that the Gamay grape is an exile? In 1395, it was outlawed by Royal decree as being “a very bad and disloyal plant”. Sixty years later another edict was issued against it. And so it was pushed out of Burgundy and south into neighbouring Beaujolais where it has thrived on the granite based soils. Wonder what those royals, Philippe the Bold and Philippe the Good, would have made of last week’s Beaujolais masterclass in Cork’s L'Atitude 51.
Indeed, I was wondering a bit myself in advance, not knowing very much about the region other than the famous Nouveau and the Villages and a few crus. But I needn't have worried. Liam Campbell, who took us through the masterclass, had no less than 14 examples of the Beaujolais wines and very impressive they were.
Given the Beaujolais bias toward Gamay, it is not surprising that Beaujolais Blanc is little-known. Just two per cent of the crop is Chardonnay. Liam had just one example and the Domaine du Vissoux was a fresh and unoaked beauty, an immediate favourite with me. “Very versatile,” he said. “Good fruit and acidity and moderate alcohol, a great house wine in a restaurant”.
Best drunk young. And best young too applied to the Chateau de Grandmont Rosé 2014, crisp and refreshing, but not available in Ireland, seeking distribution. Liam emphasised the acidity of both these openers. Acidity is good - “it makes your mouth water.” Tannins, on the other hand, “dry the mouth” but “they are great with meat”!
|Seven down, seven to go!|
Onto to the reds now and a “basic” Beaujolais: Domaine Dominique Piron, Les Cadoles de la Chanaise 2014 (a good year!). Pale ruby with a nose of summery red fruit and a palate that was dry, with gentle tannins and that essential acidity again!
Moved on up then to a Beaujolais Villages, Domaine Moillard 2013. This was a very agreeable wine, again with lightweight tannins and excellent acidity and Liam reckons there is better value to be had at this level as against the general Beaujolais.
Ten Crus, the “flagship wines”, remained and here, for me, it was the finish of the wines that now began to take the attention. The Crus come from the granite hills of the northern part of Beaujolais.
Before I go into a little detail, it might be no harm here to quote from Grapes & Wine (2015 edition): “Good Beaujolais is delicious: mineral, focussed, with fruit of raspberries, black pepper, cherries; it's never overstated or blockbusting, but it has character, balanced acidity, lightness and freshness”. Reckon Oz Clarke and Margaret Rand got it more or less correct there
|Jean Bourjade, MD Inter Beaujolais, speaks at the event. Nouveau? They don't|
promote it anymore in Ireland....But do in some of their larger customers, such as Japan.
Chiroubles, Domaine Patrick Bouland, Vieilles Vignes 2015, seeking distribution
Liam remarked that this might need another six months. Will be worth waiting for - “2015 was a gift from the gods; 2010 and 2005 were also very good”.
Saint Amour, Maison Jean Loron, Domaine Des Billards 2011, €23.99 Classic Drinks.
The Saint of Love is the most northerly Cru. Colour is a youthful ruby - “..plenty of fuel in the tank”.
Fleurie, Maison Louis Jadot, Poncereau 2014, €19.99, Findlaters
One of the most recognizable of the Crus, grown on pink granite. It has spent 8 to 10 months in oak and “is a little bit young yet”. “This is more of a marathon runner than a sprinter. Keep for a year.”
Régnié, Domaine Rochette 2012, €17.50 James Nicholson
On the other hand, this one, which has seen no wood, “is much more concentrated, great balance and very lovely now.” Régnié is the most recently created cru.
Brouilly, Chateau du Chatelard 2014, €19.25 Karwig Wines
Brouilly is the largest Cru and this bottle has concentrated aromas and flavours. Liam found a little sediment so advised to decant it. Got a bottle of this the other day myself so looking forward to a longer acquaintance!
As the Macon overlaps Beaujolais,
many white wines made in northern Beaujolais
are sold under the better-known Macon appellation.
Côte de Brouilly, Domaine de Terres Dorées, €21.15 Wines Direct
“Very savoury aromas..not typical,” said Liam. But it is rich, great balance and a great finish. One of my favourites of the class.
Juliénas, Domaine de la Conseillère 2012, €20.95, O’Brien’s
This is pretty much faultless: expressive fruity aromas, well rounded, ripe fruit, long finish.
Chénas, Paul-Henri Thillardon, Les Carrières 2012, seeking distribution
This was a “challenging vintage”, according to Liam. Jean Smullen, the event organiser, emphasised that Beaujolaise has ageing potential. “And this is an example.”
Morgon, Domaine Jean Foillard, Côte Du Py 2012, €36.95 Mitchell & Son
Côte Du Py comes from a single vineyard in the 2nd largest cru area. It is a natural wine, a risky operation, which partly accounts for the high price. Liam noted that the wine was “slightly cloudy, it is a natural wine but, on the palate, you're in for a treat folks.” And we were. This was a higher level, great red fruit flavours, an outstanding wine. Five star. Maybe six!
Moulin-a-Vent, Didier Desvignes, Close les Charmes 2010, €23.95, Le Caveau
“This is the most regal of all the crus,” declared Liam. From crumbly pink granite soil, come some of the most intensely flavoured and multi-layered wines of the entire region, according to the Le Caveau listing. And this organic beauty was a terrific example. “Look at the colour,” said Liam. “Totally ruby, not a hint of aging. On the palate, it is very rich, dry, great flavors, long finish, a great food wine.” It was one my stars here. A great finalé.