The Beaujolais wine growing region may be separated into two large sub zones, the haut Beaujolais to the north, featuring rolling hills and granite soils, and the bas Beaujolais to the south, offering flatter vineyard sites composed of clay subsoils. What both zones share in common is the Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc varietal, which comprises 98% of the plantings in the area. In terms of written history, Gamay’s association with the Beaujolais region came in the late 1300’s when Philip the Bold (Duke of Burgundy) declared the variety unfit for the vineyards of the Cote d’Or and much more suitable for the granite soils to the south in Beaujolais. While the wines of the region have experienced varying degrees in popularity and, at times, dubious marketing turns (see Nouveau), the potential for the production of complex and ageworthy bottlings is currently greater than ever. Today the ten crus, separate appellations within Beaujolais, along with the thirty-eight communes which are afforded Beaujolais-Villages status produce a plethora of high quality wines from bistro-styled, juicy renditions to barrel matured, ageworthy Gamay.
This month we explore Beaujolais through six examples from three noteworthy producers.
Domaine de Terre Dorees (Jean Paul Brun)
Jean Paul Brun owns and manages roughly 150 acres throughout Beaujolais, his winery located in the town of Charnay in bas Beaujolais. Brun favors a minimal interventionist approach, working with indigenous yeasts and never adding sugar to his must to increase his wine’s finished alcohols. He works with entirely destemmed fruit as opposed to the prevailing whole cluster, carbonic maceration techniques so often employed in Beaujolais. The resulting wines offer a greater depth of flavor and fuller texture than many of his fellow producers.
2018 JP Brun Beaujolais Blanc
100% Chardonnay from 30-40 year old vines located in and around the winery in Charnay, this freshly styled white is created from fruit pressed directly after harvest and then fermented and aged on it’s lees in concrete tank. While certainly packed with abundant orchard fruit aromas and flavors, the charm of this bottling is it’s texture – a rare balance of delicacy and sappiness.
2018 JP Brun Morgon Cote du Py “Javernieres”
Sourced from a single vineyard parcel (Javernieres) in the Cote du Py sector of the Morgon cru, Brun’s Morgon macerates on it’s skins for four weeks prior to refinement in concrete tank. The combination of this relatively long maceration and the employment of destemmed fruit yields a concentrated, layered Gamay possessing crunchy red fruit character. Drinkable today, this bottling will evolve positively with several years of keeping.
2018 JP Brun Cote de Brouilly
Cote de Brouilly is a cru within a cru, representing the highest elevation hillside sites of the larger Brouilly appellation. The wines from the Cote de Brouilly tend to be denser and more powerful than their lower lying brethren in Brouilly and typically more ageworthy as well. Brun’s example is sourced from 50 year-old vines planted in granite and offers a warm, sunny disposition along with ample acidity. Compared to his Morgon, Brun’s Cote de Brouilly features a more exuberant personality.
Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair
In 2009 the famous Nuit-St-Georges domaine of Thibault Liger-Belair expanded it’s holdings to Beaujolais beginning with the acquisition of several very old vineyards in Moulin-a-Vent. While negociant houses such as Jadot, Bouchard and Drouhin have long had either vineyard holdings or long term contracts with growers in Beaujolais, Liger-Belair was one of the first small growers of the Cote d’Or to invest heavily in these southerly Gamay based sites. Thibault fashions his Beaujolais bottlings in much the same way as his sought-after Burgundy wines, opting for partial destemming and ageing in barrel for a year or more prior to bottling. The wines are sturdy, deeply flavored, and smoothly textured.
2016 Thibault Liger-Belair Beaujolais-Villages “Jeunes Pousses”
Sourced from 40-100 year-old Gamay vines planted in sandy soils with a granite base, the Jeunes Pousses bottling is fermented with 50% whole clusters and aged in large, neutral oak for 12 months. The wine is ripe and generous with gentle spice notes intertwined with red raspberry fruit.
2016 Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-a-Vent “Rouchaux”
Along with Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent has long been considered the cru with the greatest potential for expressing the character of Gamay. Liger-Belair’s first foray into Beaujolais began in Moulin-a-Vent with the production of several single vineyard bottlings including “Les Rouchaux”. The Rouchaux site is located on the lower slopes of the zone with a deep clay/sand topsoil atop granite. Aged in small oak (mostly used), this is a firm wine with dark fruit characters. The moderate bottle age present in the 2016 has allowed for bright, floral aromas to emerge and a softening of the wines dense texture. A mere 200 cases were produced of this unique Moulin-a-Vent.
Clos de la Roilette
Owned by the Coudert family since the 1960’s, this small, family run domaine produces some of the finest Fleurie one can find. This is partially due to the fact that the property’s vineyards are located just to the west of Moulin-a-Vent and are composed of heavy clay soils which impart a certain additional power and weight to the wines. As the name Fleurie suggests, the appellation is prized for its floral aromas and delicacy, however, Clos de la Roilette also possesses a distinct hearty character as well.
2019 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie
Sourced from 25 acres of estate Gamay, the classic Fleurie bottling from Clos de la Roilette illustrates the warm, precocious nature of the 2019 Beaujolais growing season. This elegant, silky red offers fruit, acid and spice in perfect proportion. Produced by 100% whole cluster fermentation, this is a sprightly, expressive Beaujolais which emphasizes joyous, welcoming red berry character.
At $150 per six-pack, Explorer Pack #3 is a terrific introduction to the cheerful, satisfying nature of Beaujolais. Each of the six wines selected combine to showcase the diversity and quality of the Beaujolais zone.
Please let us know of your interest, we eagerly await your impressions of our latest explorer pack.
French Paradox Wines
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