This was another fascinating look at this much ballyhooed vintage for Beaujolas–this time a dozen bottlings, in a blindtasting format–mainly cru Beaujolais, and one villages. The cru Beaujolais came from five of Beaujolais’s 10 crus–from the lighter, often floral, Fleuries and Côte de Brouillys, to some of the biggest and most powerful Morgons. There was much to like in this lineup, although a few of them really didn’t taste at all like Beaujolais, as noted below. It’s interesting to see where very ripe and concentrated Gamay goes on the taste spectrum in a year with perfect growing conditions like ’09 from some of these more idiosyncratic makers: i.e., to something more like ripe Grenache, or a big Gigondas, or even Cali Pinot, in one case.
I previously reported on 2009 Beaujolais and 20 samples I had tasted to that point in my post here: http://www.rjonwine.com/beaujolais/2009-vintage/. As background, Beaujolais producers and critics are hailing the ’09 Beaujolais vintage as the best since 1991, and right up there with such all time great Beaujolais vintages as 1947, 1949 and 1976. The reason is largely fine weather: sufficient rain in June and July, a dry and sunny August, and perfect conditions throughout September, which allowed earlier picking than usual, and which resulted in fruit quality much higher than normal. Some producers reported that 98 to 100% of their grapes were good, with little to no need to sort fruit, as opposed to 2008, a difficult vintage, when 40-50% of the grapes needed to be sorted out.
As further background, Beaujolais is the southernmost corner of Burgundy, although people tend to think of it as a separate region. Unlike the rest of Burgundy, where the principal grapes are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the principal varietal of Beaujolais is Gamay. In fact Gamay covers 98% of the vine acreage in Beaujolais, making it the most one-grape dominated region of France. The lower part of this region, “Bas” Beaujolais, is largely flat with clay soil, producing grapes primarily for Beaujolais Nouveau and generic bistro wine, the perfect thing to order in the bouchons of Lyon. At best, however, these wines are a simple, light and refreshing accompaniment for food, and not meant for aging. The northern part of the region, the “Haut,” is granite based, with sandy soils. This is the ideal combination for producing minerally Gamay with the proper drainage and ripening conditions. In this portion of the region, 38 communes have Beaujolais-Villages status, and their wines are superior to the generic Beaujolais to the south. Ten areas within this northern sector have the prime hillside sites and geology for growing Gamay, and wines from these 10 areas, all clustered in the middle of this sector, are entitled to identify their name on labels and expected to show distinct characteristics of those areas. These 10, known as the “crus” of Beaujolais, are in order, proceeding upward from south to north: Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly, Régnié, Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Moulin à Vent, Chénas, Juliénas and Saint-Amour. For a map showing these crus, see: http://basicjuice.blogs.com/photos/uncategorized/beaujolais_map.jpg Of these 10 crus, Morgon and Moulin à Vent are said to be the most structured and ageworthy of all, which is why we tasted the other other crus represented in our first flight, reserving the five Morgons (and one Chiroubles) to the second flight.
There has been increasing interest, amongst wine geeks and critics, in Beaujolais in the last several years, with ’03 and ’05 both being strong vintages that led to good press and wider distribution for lesser known producers than before. More and more Burgundy producers have also moved into Beaujolais in recent years, which has helped generate interest in Beaujolais amongst those of us who follow Burgundy. The most recent entries have been Vincent Girardin, with his purchase last fall of Domaine de La Tour du Bief, and its great vineyards in Moulin à Vent, and the Henriot family, owners of Bouchard Père & Fils, which acquired Château de Poncié in Fleurie, renaming it Villa Ponciago. Louis Jadot led the way by acquiring Chateau des Jacques in 1996, with its 70 hectares of Moulin à Vent, Morgon and Chénas. Other prominent Burgundian names now in Beaujolais include Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, which acquired a 15-hectare domaine in Fleurie (I look forward to sampling a couple of their ’09 Beaujolais later this week), and Nicolas Potel through his Beaujolais joint venture Potel-Aviron.
All of the dozen ’09s we sampled in this tasting were from longtime Beaujolais producers, however, not Burgundians. Two of the producers represented were members of Kermit Lynch’s famous “gang of four,” that group of winemaking friends based in the town of Villie-Morgon who embraced the ideas of Jules Chauvet, father of “natural” winemaking in France. Those two are Marcel Lapierre, who passed away last year, and Jean Foillard. (The other two, not represented in this tasting, are Guy Breton and Jean-Paul Thevenet.) For more details on the producers represented and tasting notes, see below:
Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly and Fleurie Flight
My favorite of this tasting, which was also number one for the group in our first flight, was the Coudert Fleurie Clos de la Roilette, which showed even better than it did when I tried it last year at the tasting summarized in my prior post. This is the cuvee they make–one of three–that’s capable of being enjoyed young, but also ageworthy. Alain Coudert is the current winemaker/owner, and the 9 hectare estate borders on Moulin à Vent. The vines range from 25 to 33 years old. My second and fourth ranked wines in the first flight were from Château Thivin. Winemaking here is in the hands of the sixth generation. The Brouilly bottling, which showed the best at this tasting, is from a seven hectare plot, with pink granitic sandy soil, facing Mont Brouilly. It is aged in stainless steel tanks. The Côte de Brouilly bottling comes from an 8.3 hectare vineyard on the steep slopes of Mont Brouilly, a volcanic formation, with a complex soil of blue stone (andesite). It’s aged in old oak foudres for six months before bottling, and had a flavor profile, in this vintage, more like a ripe California Pinot than a typical Beaujolais. The group’s second favorite in this flight, and my third, was the one Beaujolais Villages in our lineup, from Cédric Vincent. This is an old vine bottling, and therefore a little pricey for a Villages ($16-18), but admirably complex and ageworthy. The Chanrion Côte de Brouilly was my least favorite of the first flight, but is still a good Beaujolais. Another old vine bottling, this is a blend of six different plots, with alcohol near 14%, made by Nicole Chanrion, who took over a small family owned operation from her father.
- 2009 Coudert Fleurie Clos de la Roilette – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Fleurie
Group’s #1 (my #1) – 26 pts; 7 firsts, 2 seconds, 3 thirds, 1 last place – medium dark magenta color; charcoal, herbal, raspberry, smoke nose with a sense of pepper; rather dense, complex, charcoal, tart currant palate, needs 3-5 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
- 2009 Cédric Vincent Beaujolais Pouilly Le Monial Vieilles Vignes – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais
Group’s #2 (my #3) – 44 pts.; 0, 3, 5, 2 – dark magenta color; wintergreen, herbal, green tea, raspberry, charcoal nose; tight, nice green herb, tart currant, raspberry, powdered herb, mineral palate, needs 5-plus years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
- 2009 Chanrion Côte de Brouilly Domaine de la Voute des Crozes – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Côte de Brouilly
Group’s #3 (my #6) – 47 pts.; 2, 1, 3, 2 – dark maroon color; herbal, green herb, tart currant nose; tight, dense, mineral, tart red currant palate with puckery acidity and tannin, needs 3-5 years; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
- 2009 Château de Raousset Fleurie Grille-Midi – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Fleurie
Group’s #4 (my #5) – 50 pts.; 0, 3, 1, 0 – dark maroon color; tart currant, sour cherry, charcoal nose; tight, tart currant, mineral, smoke, mouthwatering palate, needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
- 2009 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Côte de Brouilly
Group’s #5 (my #4) – 50 pts.; 2, 2, 0, 2 – dark magenta color; very tart currant nose with a light sense of pepper; round, tight, tart plum, mineral, red currant, tart berry palate, reminiscent of a ripe California Pinot Noir, needs 1-2 years; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
- 2009 Château Thivin Brouilly – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Brouilly
Group’s #6 (my #2) – 56 pts.; 2, 1, 1, 5 – dark maroon color; nice tart plum, charcoal, ripe red berry, carbonic maceration nose; poised, tart plum, currant, minerally, juicy palate, needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
Chiroubles and Morgon Flight
In this second flight, dominated by bigger wines from Morgon, my favorite was the Château de Raousset Chiroubles. Raousset was represented by three wines in this tasting, including a very good Fleurie in our first flight. This producer owns 35 hectares of vines in Chiroubles, Fleurie and Morgon. Chiroubles is the highest altitude cru, with a rugged, hilly terrain and very steep south and east facing slopes. The Raousset Morgon is from a single named vineyard, Douby. It undergoes longer whole bunch maceration than the Chiroubles–10 to 12 days instead of eight. The Raousset Fleurie in our first flight was mainly from the Grille-Midi vineyard, and the whole bunch maceration lasts eight to 10 days. All three of their wines are aged in old oak tuns. My second and third favorite wines from our second flight were from Gang of Four member Jean Foillard. I slightly preferred the Cuvée Corcelette but the Côte du Py was the group’s favorite wine in the second flight. For me, it was tasty wine, but very Grenache-like–i.e., ripe, red fruited and hedonistic–without the high acidity and strong minerality I look for in a good Beaujolais. The Corcelette, likewise, was ripe and rich, more like a ripe Gigondas or Vacqueyras, with that same kind of garrigue and herbal character, than a typical Beaujolais. These are pricey Beaujolais, selling for over $30, in a fancy looking package topped with red wax. Foillard macerates the grapes for two to three weeks at low temperatures before fermentation, using only ambient yeast, and no pumping. He ages the wine in used barrels purchased from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. These are rich, flavorful wines, but highly idiosyncratic, and not at all typical of traditional cru Beaujolais. The wine of the other Gang of Four member in our lineup, Marcel Lapierre, was similarly rich and ripe–tasting more like a ripe Italian Merlot than a typical Bojo. It ranked at the bottom for the group, but was the highest priced bottle of the night, selling for about $45 locally. Finally, my last placed wine of the flight (and evening), was the Daniel Bouland Morgon Delys. Bouland is known for producing very traditional style cru Beaujolais, and this one had higher acidity and minerality than the rest of the flight, but also serious reduction, that made for a very off-putting nose.
- 2009 Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Morgon
Group’s #1 (my #3) – 37 pts; 2 firsts, 3 seconds, 2 thirds, 0 last places – medium dark magenta color; lavender, baked berry, ripe plum, Grenache-like nose; tight, ripe berry, red berry, vanilla oak, Grenache-like palate, open now but could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
- 2009 Château de Raousset Chiroubles – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Chiroubles
Group’s #2 (my #1) – 39 pts; 4 firsts, 2 seconds, 2 thirds, 1 last place – medium dark maroon color; focused, raspberry, liquid pepper, mineral, chive nose; tasty, tight, tart currant, mineral palate with a sense of pepper; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
- 2009 Château de Raousset Morgon Douby – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Morgon
Group’s #3 (my #4) – 41 pts.; 3, 2, 2, 1 – dark maroon color; oak, green herb, green peppercorn nose; tight, herbal, mineral, tart currant palate, needs 3-5 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
- 2009 Jean Foillard Morgon Cuvée Corcelette – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Morgon
Group’s #4 (my #2) – 46 pts.; 2, 3, 2, 3 – medium dark maroon color; VA, oak, ripe blue plum, ripe currant, lavender, garrigue nose; rich, ripe plum, garrigue, mineral, charcoal, clove palate, like a big Gigondas or Vacqueyras, needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
- 2009 Daniel Bouland Morgon Delys – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Morgon
Group’s #5 (my #6) – 53 pts.; 1, 1, 3, 4 – dark maroon color; stinky, reduction nose, that gradually opens to green pepper, tart currant, iron and sweet smoke; tight, tart currant, mineral, green pepper, stony palate, needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)
- 2009 Marcel Lapierre Morgon Cuvée Marcel Lapierre – France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Morgon
Group’s #6 (my #5) – 57 pts.; 1, 1, 2, 4 – medium dark magenta color; oak, ripe and roasted plum, menthol, raspberry nose; oak, ripe plum, black raspberry, berry palate with juice and depth, but very un-Bojo-like, reminiscent more of an Italian Merlot; long finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)