Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beaujolais: Perception is Not Reality

Washington, DC is an international wine haven. Wines from across the globe—French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chilean, Argentine, German, Israeli, Ukrainian, South African, Australian, New Zealand, to mention a few, are in abundance for your exploration and enjoyment.  If there’s an embassy here and wine to import, there will be opportunities to taste.  Plus, the French Wine Society and the Washington Wine Academy, often jointly, present a vast calendar of quality events to enhance one’s learning.  The big bonus, however, is meeting and chatting with the folks who produce the wines.  No representative can fully substitute for the one toiling among the vines every day, every year. 

These events can often surprise you and open the door to a whole new world of drinking pleasure.  The Expressions D’Origine: Domaines et Chateaux en Beaujolais held here recently offered an enlightening experience.   For most Americans, red Beaujolais conjures images of simple, candied and gummy wines.  The reality can be much different.  The misconceptions largely stems from the mass marketed annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau the third Thursday in November. These simple, fruity wines are for drinking immediately.  Gamay, the primary grape variety grown in Beaujolais, is much more. 

Following Beaujolais, the next level is Beaujolais-Villages, which is spread over 38 communes. If the fruit is produced from one village or commune, it can be stated on the label. These fruity, cherry colored wines are versatile easy drinking alternatives for those summertime backyard barbecues.  It's best to cool, but not chill the bottle.

The real class is with the Beaujolais Crus, which offer pleasant drinking now and capable of achieving greater complexity with maturity.  The ten Beaujolais crus are:

Brouilly: Most southern of the Crus is elegant and medium-bodied.

Chenas:  Rarest of the Crus is smooth and subtle and ages well.

Chiroubles: Refined, elegant and fruity.

Cote de Brouilly: A little cellaring will produce elegance.

Fleurie:  Feminine style with violets and roses.

Julienas: Always popular and an excellent match for coq au vin

Morgan:  Fleshy and fuller wines needing a few years in the cellar.

Moulin a Vent:  Most regal of the Crus is well structured and age-worthy.

Regnie: Youngest of the Crus is a supple display of red and black fruits.

Saint-Amour: Have to love the name, refined and well balanced.

Now, the folks behind these labels are a welcoming and cheerful group who are respectful of the land and are passionate about their wines.  The youthful Cedric Chignard of Domaine Michel Cignard (Fleurie) commented, “Americans, who like lots of fruit, should like Beaujolais.” The 2007 and 2005 Fleurie Morier are excellent examples of the characteristics of Fleurie.  Don’t be fooled by the femininity.  These are wines with complexity and a long finish.  In the Cedric’s words, “The fruit stays to the end.”  

The supple elegance of Julienas was superbly shown by the thoughtful and personal Vincent Audras’ Clos de Haute Combe.  When speaking about Beaujolais, Vincent stated, “There are so many places where there’s nothing to see and crowds of people.  And then there’s Beaujolais, where there’s so much to see and hardly anybody.  Some things are hard to understand!”  I’m with you on that one, Vincent.

Next, Domaine Louis-Claude Desvignes poured two Morgons from 2007, Cote-de Py and Javerniere.  These fleshy wines are long and straight and are worthy additions to any cellar.   Domaine Marcel Lapierre offers a vibrant expression of the fleshy Morgon.  Towards the end of the evening, several of the Beaujolais vignerons congregated around Mathieu Lapierre’s table drinking his wine—a mere observation.   

Other respected estates to explore include the popular Pierre-Marie and Martine Chermette’s Domaine du Vissoux, Claude Geoffray’s Chateau Thivin (Brouilly), Domaines Piron (Dominque and Kristine--Morgon),  Domaine Jean Foillard (Morgon), Chateau des Jacques, Domaine Paul Janin & Fils, and Jean-Marc Depres’ Domaine de la Madone (Fleurie).  You'll be glad you did.

Are you in a red wine rut? Break out by picking up a couple bottles or cases of Beaujolais for your backyard barbeque this weekend—remember to cool the bottle slightly.

As for this wine pilgrim, the next time I’m driving between Burgundy and the Rhone, I plan to do something I’ve regretfully never done, exit the Autoroute and visit Beaujolais. 



Alexandre said...

Morgon from M. Lapierre is a perfection of Beaujolais wine : fresh fruit flavour, crispy, fresh.
Excellent with a salade with small tomateos, lard fumé, little piece ot mozarella and olive oil.
Great wine for the spring season. Serve chilled.

And le Domaine de la Madone at Fleurie, is wonderful too.

2 great domains. :)

Bill Sanders said...

Thank you for your comments confirming the quality of these two domaines. These are good wines to have with summer garden produce.

Hardy / Dirty said...

Foillard and Lapierre are my tops--
Pure, depth, wow juice. Both need some air to get started.

I put them in blind tastings all the time.

The Boo-Juice needs to be recognized!

Bill Sanders said...

I had the Lapierre Chenas 06 at Daniel Johnnes' Bar Bouloud in NY last night. Good juice. Interesting wine list dedicated to Burgundy, including Beaujolais and the Rhone.

Vicky Wine said...

My father is making Fleurie and Moulin à Vent aux Moriers, my favorite wines! You are more than welcome to visit or contact me when in Paris for a night out with Beaujolais wines!

On the topic you can also read my blog post http://missvickywine.blogspot.com/2009/07/beaujolais-vs-burgundy-example-of-why.html

Bill Sanders said...

Thank you for your kind invitation, Vicky. I will take you up on that offer the next time in Paris, which hopefully sooner than later. I love Paris.

Vicky Wine said...

Oh and! Do exit the autoroute and visit the Beaujolais. This is just beautiful, with amazing sights specially in the hills of Chiroubles and Julienas.