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Totally devoted to Beaujolais?

February 17, 2014

It takes a fair bit of devotion to keep toiling year in year out to make a highly unfashionable wine. A wine that’s right next door to a revered appellation. A wine that was once on everyone’s lips for all the wrong reasons and then was dropped like a hot stone into partial obscurity tinged with derision. Perhaps it’s a bit harsh to talk about Beaujolais in these terms, but the Nouveau craze of the 80s, a marketing ploy, became more about racing and hot air balloons than the taste of the wine. A clever idea to take a traditional drink of the harvesters – the just pressed wine of the new vintage – to a wider audience to generate a bit of cash-flow, eventually back-fired; a wine became craze, became yesterday’s news and the mass market moved on leaving a whole region in shadow.

So is it possible for Beaujolais to make a come back, slipping out from under the invisibility cloak of Nouveau? This week it was listed as one of six exciting wine regions to explore, in a Forbes article and The Guardian reports that “a new movement of young, enthusiastic winemakers throughout the region is producing exceptional wines, often using organically grown grapes.”

At the Foodies Festival last summer in the UK, I joined a Beaujolais tasting session led by Susy Atkins. It was my first opportunity to taste a wide range of wines from the region, from Beaujolais Villages (a group of 38 villages allowed to use this designation of higher quality differentiating them from plain Beaujolais AOC) to some of the Cru Beaujolais – 10 areas allowed to use the highest classification on the label. The ten Crus are Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié and Saint Amour.

Susy took us through six wines, urging the audience to think differently about Beaujolais. All grapes are picked by hand and the main grape variety of the region is Gamay; wines are juicy, with fresh acidity when young but, despite its reputation, is capable of producing serious wine and some age.

Beaujolais Tasting

1. Arnaud Aucoeur, Beaujolais-Villages Blanc 2012 – Yapp Brothers

Susy couldn’t have started with a more unusual wine – a white Beaujolais in a region that almost exclusively makes red. This was made of Chardonnay, from 25 year old vines, not surprising as the region has often been considered as part of adjacent Burgundy. Pale lemon in colour, with citrus and almost floral notes on the nose with a restrained, buttery hint (from old oak), rounded body and good acidity.

2. Château de la Terrière, Beaujolais-Villages 2010 – Majestic Wine

Ripe, fresh strawberries on the nose, soft-tannins, bright red berry fruits with a cherry drop twist on the palate and mouth-watering acidity made this deliciously refreshing on such a hot summers day. The fresh lift of acidity was reminiscent of Sangiovese and would be great with charcuterie.

3. Domain de la Madone, Fleurie Vieilles Vignes 2011 – Corks of Cotham and Davis Bell McCraith

This had elusive aromas of cherries and raspberries, an elegant wine with some green notes and fine tannins that lingered on the finish. Fleurie is one of the most Northern areas in Burgundy and this Cru produces restrained and more mineral wines. It’s not as light and delicate as the name suggests and will take a bit of aging.

4. Juliénas, Château de la Bottière, 2011 Laurent Perrachon – Christopher Piper Wines and Averys

Made from Gamay grapes from 40 year old vines, this had a slightly vegetal nose, a spicy, rich, deep black cherry palate lifted by a hint of raspberry leaf. Not quite as high acidity as the previous wines but still juicy, with more forward soft tannins and a slightly herbaceous finish.

5. Château Thivin, Cote de Brouilly, Les 7 Vignes 2007 – Nick Dobson Wines

This ‘Cuvee Zaccharie’ is from some of the oldest planting of the Chateau and grown on well-drained soil of volcanic blue stone (diorite porphyrite). Soft, savoury aromas on the nose with a hint of tar which is repeated on the palate. A rounded, spicy finish with a hint of cherry syrup.

6. Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Moulin-à-Vent 2010 – Berry Bros & Rudd

Moulin-a-Vent make some of the biggest wines Beaujolais following a more Burgundian style of wine making. With this wine there is no carbonic maceration and the wine is aged in French barriques. This one was big and broad with more structure that the other wines. There was a spicy pepperiness, with forward tannins and although still juicy there were blackcurrant characters within the cherry and strawberry fruit flavours.  It’s a style I loved and my favourite of the day.

This tasting took place inside a marquee on a very hot summers day in England and it made me wonder if Beaujolais isn’t the perfect red wine to drink in Dubai. On days when you long for something more complex but the thought of a fruit bomb or heavy tannins is just too exhausting, the fleshy mouthfeel and bright, fruit of a slightly chilled glass of Gamay could be just the thing. In fact one I could be totally devoted to when the warmer weather arrives.

Submitting this (by the skin of my teeth) for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (MWWC7). The theme was ‘Devotion’ and set by SAHMmelier. Do pop over to MWWC to read the other entries and vote.

P.S. A generous friend let me taste some Domaine de La Chapelle des Bois, Fleurie 2006 Paul Beaudet – Le Clos – last weekend and it added further evidence to my case (of Beaujolais being the perfect red wine to drink in Dubai).

If you’d like to know more about Beaujolais there’s a great explanation here and Jancis Robinson casts her cool gaze towards the region and explains why unfashionable wines can deliver great value.

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  1. February 18, 2014 12:37 am

    A lovely event! The Château Moulin-à-Vent is a good wine…



    • February 18, 2014 8:23 am

      I agree Rosa – vowing to drink more of it. Thanks for comment.

  2. February 18, 2014 12:40 am

    Great job! Glad you made it into the challenge again this month!

    • February 18, 2014 8:24 am

      Just! The theme was a good one. Had actually partially written a different piece altogether but was missing some information/time to get it finished so wrote this instead.

  3. February 18, 2014 12:45 am

    A good Beaujolais is a lovely wine but still hard to come by I think. Nice to know it’s making a comeback and we should be able to find some fine ones.

    • February 18, 2014 8:27 am

      I hope it is resurrecting itself to the mass market so it’s not just available at specialist wine merchants. Obviously some people have been quietly appreciating Beaujolais all this time – saw quite a few nice bottles in one of our wine merchants here recently.

  4. February 18, 2014 1:52 am

    I know it is deeply unfashionable to say this but I have always had a soft spot for a slightly chilled beaujolais! Thank you for another great post.

    • February 18, 2014 8:29 am

      Slightly chilled is good. Because of the low tannins the lower temperature is fine. In fact ‘room temperature’ for red wine is based on how our houses used to be in the past – pretty chilly! Some red wines are served a bit too warm these days due to environment.

  5. February 18, 2014 2:56 am

    The MWWC got me to re-evaluate Beaujolais! Gamay will never be at the top of my list but its certainly always considered these days!

    • February 18, 2014 8:31 am

      Yes forget the bubblegum and pear drop past…. 🙂

  6. February 18, 2014 5:52 am

    I love Cru Beaujolais and the Cote de Brouilly from Château Thivin is a favorite.

    • February 18, 2014 8:32 am

      Thanks Jameson – I’d love to taste it again.

  7. February 18, 2014 2:33 pm

    I think I got tired of the jammy Gamay a long time ago, and I blame it on Duboeuf, who was amongst the worst practitioners of the make believe quality of le Nouveau. On the other hand, chilled Brouilly is a wonderful thing and I would never turn my nose up at a good bottle of Moulin a Vent. Your post has made me want to have a new look at Beaujoiais. Nice one:)

    • February 18, 2014 5:23 pm

      Jammy Gamay – what a great description. This tasting was a revelation for me.

  8. February 18, 2014 6:27 pm

    You’ve also encouraged me to look for Beaujolais, next time we go to the good bottle shop. Thanks for an informative post!

  9. February 19, 2014 8:05 pm

    Thanks for joining! I think there is a time/place/food for everyone and have no problem saying I like a good Gamay.

  10. February 21, 2014 7:40 pm

    I don’t just like a good Beaujolais; I love it. Summer red for the patio with some nibbles. Great piece and I too hope that the market for good Beaujolais continues to develop.

    • February 23, 2014 11:25 am

      Me too. We’re not blessed with the greatest selection ever here in the Emirates but hopefully a resurgence of interest might change that.

  11. February 22, 2014 6:25 am

    The region has been covered quite extensively in food, wine and travel rags recently. I have stumbled on several articles that caught my interest.

    • February 23, 2014 11:26 am

      Interested to read more – do pass on any that you recommend. Thanks

  12. February 22, 2014 10:23 pm

    Dear Sally,

    I find the red Beaujolais to be generally lighter with softer tannins and prefer it slightly chilled and drink it like a “heavier white” on a nice summer day.

    • February 23, 2014 11:23 am

      I do agree – and given that most days are like a hot summers day where I live…

  13. February 23, 2014 4:01 pm

    Sounds like Beaujolais is the new black! I would love to learn more about wine, so really enjoyed reading your post as well as Jancis’ Beaujolais intro:)

    • February 24, 2014 7:31 am

      Jancis is always my guide. Thanks for the comment Mitzie.

  14. February 23, 2014 4:02 pm



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