Beaujolais Wine: The Comeback Tour.


I was honoured to be part of a group of top shelf Quebec based wine writers invited on an in-depth wine tasting tour of the Beaujolais wine region of France. They are at the southern tip of the Burgundy wine region – and for many wine drinkers, off the radar. The region saw a boom in the 1980′s with their annual early release Primeur wines, those infamous Beaujolais nouveau. Victims of their own success, the wine public still associates all Beaujolais products solely as being those simple, one dimensional products.

 

A cursory glance at the challenges facing the Beaujolais reveal a number of vines and vineyards that are abandoned for lack of buyers and a cohort of sons and daughters less than enthusiastic about following in the footsteps their predeceasing generations. All that, and costs of production rising faster than the prices they can fetch for their wines.

 

But once you set your feet on the golden clay and limestone of the Beaujolais you get a sense that a number of producers have turned the corner and cut a trail for all those willing to follow. A positive movement has taken hold which started back in the 1990s and has picked up steam into the first decade and a bit of this new millennium. Quality has become the focus, not quantity. A number of the 10 classified “Crus” are producing Gamay wines with body, aciditiy and tannins worthy of cellaring. A quiet confidence can be tasted in the products of many of these winemakers who are now making wines that are completely unrelated to the mostly inaccurate vapid caricaturisation cast on them from the casual wine buyer.

 

I was treated to wonderful food, fantastic people, some blue skies cutting through a rainy early-autumn week touring the Beaujolais. The beauty of the region is undeniable. The rolling, hilled landscape is dominated by vineyards as far as the eye can see and dotted with centuries old hamlets of charming, stone masonry homes. Châteaus reveal themselves adjacent to manicured gardens; and if you travel there towards the end of the harvest like I did, the smell off fermenting grapes perfumes the air.
Beaujolais is France in all it’s romantic glory, Europe in it’s frustrating dichotomy of keeping up appearances and painful discomfort addressing necessary changes. It is satisfying meals and meaningful conversations over pot roasted sausages and boiled potatoes. It is fierce pride in local traditions, it is fretting over innovation and renewal. It is about the daunting task of convincing the entire wine drinking world surrounding it to change, so it can remain the same.

 

On a personal level, Beaujolais was an odyssey into a virtually mono-varietal region. Discerning the individual eonological expressions of about two hundred and fifty or so different Beaujolais Gamay-Noirs was at times difficult. It was also revealing to see how the hands of one winemaker could imprint his indelible signature on the wine.  And some wines did manage to grab onto my heart – I have presented some of those special ones here. I hope my swishing, spitting and #wineandmusic matching will give you a sense of what is going on in Beaujolais right now, and perhaps inspire you to pick up a bottle from one of the ten desgnated Crus, or a refreshing bottle labelled Beaujolais-Villages or Beaujolais AOC.

 

 

Brouilly

Château de La Chaize Brouilly 2011

Chénas

Domaine des Brureaux Chénas Cuvée Tradition 2010

 

Chiroubles

Domaine des Marrans Chiroubles 2011,2010, 2007

 

Côte de Brouilly

Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly Cuvée les Griottes 2011

 

Fleurie

Manoir du Carra Fleurie Vers le Mont 2010

Domaine Coudert, Clos de la Roilette Fleurie Cuvée Tardive 2011

Domaine de la Madone, Fleurie Tradition 2011

 

Juliénas

Clos de Haute-Combe Juliénas Prestige 2009

Georges Duboeuf Château de Capitans Juliénas

Domaine David-Beaupère La Croix de la Bottiere Juliénas 2011

 

Morgon

Château Pizay Morgon 2011

Louis-Claude Desvignes – Côte du Py Les Impénitents 2010

Domaine de la Bonne Tonne Morgon Les Charmes 2011, 2010

 

Moulin à Vent

Loron & Fils Xavier et Nicolas Barbet Moulin à Vent 2011

Domaine Richard Rottiers Moulin à Vent Climat Champ de Cour 2010

Domaine du Vissoux Martine et Pierre-Marie Chermette Moulin à Vent Les Trois Roches 2011

 

Régnié

Jean-Michel Dupré Régnié 2011 

 

Saint-Amour

Domaine Lassagne Saint-Amour 2007

 

Beaujolais Villages

Château de Lavernette Beaujolais-Leynes Le Clos 2011

 

Domaine du Penlois Beaujolais Villages Cuvée Prestige 2009

 

 

Beaujolais

Maison Coquard Beaujolais Rosé

 

Château de Vaurenard Beaujolais Superieur 2007, 2006

 

Special thanks to Inter Beaujolais for providing all transportation, hotels, meals and access to the wonderful wine and winemakers of the Beaujolais wine region of France during a four day tour. The wine discussed in this blog entry was tasted during that promotional tour.

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