Showing posts with label Beaujolais. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beaujolais. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Beaujolais Rosé

In the U.S folks may know very little about Beaujolais wines except that they see them stacked in their grocery store's wine aisle every Thanksgiving.  It is true that for many, Beaujolais Nouveau is a holiday tradition, but the Gamay grape is not just a one-trick pony.  They also go pink.

Beaujolais vineyards account for more than half of the world's Gamay grapevines, and most of them go into red wines, the youthful Nouveau as well as the more respected Beaujolais Cru wines.  Some of them, however, are used to make rosé wines, giving Beaujolais a usefulness in the spring and summer as well as the fall and winter.  Of course, good rosé goes great with leftover turkey and ham, too.  I was given the opportunity to sample a handful of Beaujolais rosé wines.

Château Cambon Beaujolais Rosé 2018

Château Cambon is a small parcel of Beaujolais vineyard land between Morgon and Brouilly.  They make their pink wine from whole cluster Gamay grapes, stems and all, keeping the skins in contact for two days.  The wine is aged for five months and bottled with minimal SO2.  Alcohol hits 12% abv and the retails price is around $20.

This pink Gamay wine has a fairly rich color, rather like salmon meets orange.  There is a bit of a Jolly Rancher note to the strawberry nose, and an herbal angle.  Strawberry plays big in the flavor profile, too, with a distinctive earthy tone to it.  It has great heft - it drinks like a red - and a very refreshing acidity.  

Château Thivin Beaujolais Villages Rosé 2018

Château Thivin dates back to the 14th century and is now under the guidance of the fifth and sixth generations of the Geoffray family, who bought the property in the 18th century.  The Château Thivin Beaujolais Villages Rosé is imported by Kermit Lynch, which is as good a recommendation as you are likely to get.  The wine’s alcohol level sits at 13% abv and the retail price is somewhere around $18.

This wine is delicately tinted light salmon.  Its nose is quite fruity - cherries, strawberries, orange - but also graced with a minerality that serves as a bedrock base for all that beauty.  The palate brings ripe red fruit, a hefty mouthfeel and a zippy acidity into play.  It’s great for salads, and even better just for sipping. 

Le Rosé d’Folie Beaujolais Rosé 2019

The owner and winemaker of Domaine des Terres Dorées is Jean Paul Brun.  The 40-acre family estate is in the village of Charnay, in the southern part of Beaujolais, just north of Lyons.  The area is beautifully nicknamed "the Region of Golden Stones."  The wine is imported by the well-respected Louis/Dressner Selections.  

Le Rosé d’Folie is made from 100% organic Gamay grapes, aged in concrete tanks, on its lees with malolactic fermentation.  The contact with the spent yeast cells and the allowance of malolactic fermentation give the wine a hefty mouthfeel.  Alcohol tips a mere 12.5% and the retail price is around $15.

This wine glows salmon pink in the glass, and smells of fresh, ripe strawberries and cherries.  On the palate the strawberry takes the lead, while a note of stone fruit slips into the arena.  There is a fairly zippy acidity to go along with the flavors.  It's Beaujolais, but bears a striking resemblance to Provençe.  

Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Rosé 2019

This pink wine comes from the southern Beaujolais hamlet of Le Breuil, where Domaine Dupeuble has been turning out wine for about five centuries.  Importer Kermit Lynch says the estate has only changed hands three times over that span, most recently in 1919.  Lynch began his involvement with the brand in the 1980s, by importing the estate's Beaujolais Nouveau.

The vineyards are tended through the practice of lutte raisonnée, which literally means "reasoned fight" but is translated in English as "supervised control."  The practice shuns synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides in favor of a more natural approach.  It is seen by many as a first step towards organic farming, but is also a happy medium for some growers.  Alcohol comes in at only 13% abv and the retail price is $17.  

The Lynch website describes the 2019 Gamay rosé from Domaine Dupeuble as the gold standard of Beaujolais rosé.  Promised are aromas of white flowers, rhubarb, and wild berries, leading to a palate which is smooth and rounded yet full of those Beaujolais minerals and a hint of citrus on the finish.  A subtle herbal quality and vibrant acidity make it a perfect match for light summer fare.

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Saint-Amour Beaujolais

By now, you've no doubt been through the fall supply of Beaujolais Nouveau.  If not, get to work - it's a wine that's meant to be consumed while young.  To be blunt, it's not getting any better in the bottle.

I greatly prefer the wines from the crus of Beaujolais, the ten villages that all offer their own separate and distinct terroirs.  They don’t cost much more than BN, but the difference is like night and day.

The Gamay grapes for Duboeuf's 2016 Château de Saint-Amour Beaujolais were grown in the granite and clay soils in the northernmost cru of Beaujolais.  The Siraudin family owns the estate and has worked with Georges Duboeuf for many years.  The wine was vinified in steel, and is never influenced by oak, so it's all about the grapes. Malolactic fermentation happened in full, which gives the wine a fullness, but the freshness is preserved.  Alcohol hits 13% abv.  It's imported to the U.S. by the fine folks at Quintessential Wines, who provided the sample.

This 100% Gamay wine is from the Saint-Amour cru of Beaujolais.  It smells earthy and grapey with a note of smoke and tastes bold and full.  The dark fruit is almost jammy and there's a splash of tartness that fills the gap.  The wine has a delightful acidity and a firm set of tannins. 

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Monday, November 19, 2018

The Beaujolais Nouveau Is Here, And It's Good

It's time again for the seasonal experience known as Beaujolais Nouveau.  The young wine that is produced and hurried to market each fall by France's Beaujolais region is here.  I'm not a fan of it, so I was quite surprised to find that it's pretty good this year.

Beaujolais Nouveau is released on the third Thursday of November at 12:01 a.m., a practice that was originated as a publicity stunt.  I've read accounts of the wine being rushed by any conveyance imaginable to the bistros across the land, each trying to get it there before their competitors.  The wine is generally touted as a great addition to both the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.  Its pairability with the wide variety of flavors available over the holidays is, for some, legendary.  I have never been able figure why, since the wine has none of the qualities we usually look for in a mature wine.

The leading producer of Beaujolais Nouveau is Les Vins Georges Duboeuf.  You've no doubt seen his name on those bottles with the fruity labels which appear each holiday season.  The company always puts out press releases extolling the virtues of the harvest.  The copy was pretty much the same this year, "nearly perfect summer," "exceptional harvest," "grapes of highest quality," "among the greatest vintages" they've ever had.  But this year the words rang true.

Duboeuf this year has a Beaujolais Nouveau, a Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau and a Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé, which is making its American debut, all imported by Quintessential.

All three wines are made only from Gamay grapes, whole bunch harvested from the southern part of the region.  Duboeuf and his team reportedly tried some five-thousand samples over two weeks to settle on the cuvées found here.  Tough job, but someone's gotta do it.  The wines have a scale on the back label, much like Rieslings do, showing that they are somewhere between dry and medium-dry.  They hit 12.5% abv for alcohol and sells for less than $15.  The label art is quite nice this season, and is called "Foolish Pleasure" by Chloé Meyer.

The 2018 Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau is pretty good.  The nose - Gamay grapey - is nearly all dark fruit with a smattering of spice, and that profile holds true on the palate, too.  It's a clean, brisk drink that doesn't seem to fall prey to the usual complaint of being too young.  The spicy angle lends it maturity beyond its years, er, weeks.  Happy Thanksgiving.

The 2018 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé is, not surprisingly, alive with vibrant fruit aromas and flavors.  The nose has herbs and strawberries in an earthier-than-Provence framework while the palate displays cherry, strawberry and a hint of the mayhaw jelly I enjoyed as a youngster in southeast Texas.  No kidding.  The acidity is gentle but tingly.  The pink wine will be great as an aperitif or with the turkey or the ham, and especially with those Black Friday leftovers.

The 2018 Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau  is 100% Gamay wine is considered a fuller-bodied beverage than the typical Beaujolais Nouveau.  There's more complexity in it due to the granite-and-schist-laden soils of the 38 villages.  They made 85,000 cases with an alcohol number of 13% abv.  It sells for $14.  The wine is medium-dark and smells earthy, full of minerals, almost like dirt with a rusty nail stuck in it.  Good earth, though.  The palate shows plums and dark berries with a hefty dose of those fabulous minerals.  Acidity is fresh but not overpowering, while the tannins are firm enough to handle a pork chop, if you like.  The finish stays awhile and is somewhat flinty.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

First Wine Of The Harvest

Holiday time always brings on the Beaujolais. If you follow such things, you get that little pre-Thanksgiving kick of the Beaujolais Nouveau release. It happens on the third Thursday of November, every year, giving a small window of opportunity before tastes move on to other delights, like cru Beaujolais.

The Nouveau is a young wine, made from Gamay grapes and meant to be consumed while young. To be blunt, it’s not getting any better in the bottle.  I have always found BN to be a dull, drinkable wine that is often quite grapey, but others seem to revel in its simplicity. Personally, I don’t see the need to rush the wine out the door immediately after harvest, but I understand it started as a marketing ploy, and lives on as that today. "The First Wine of the Harvest."

‘Tis the season, anyway. So I tried the Georges Duboeuf 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau with no anticipation at all. Never having enjoyed a vintage of the style, I was fully prepared to be nonchalant about it. The 12% abv wine shows a Rieslingesque "dryness scale" on the back label that indicates this one comes in as "medium dry."

The wine looks very dark and smells it, too. Blackberry aromas dominate the nose and palate, with a fair amount of complexity in the forms of minerality. A grapey taste stands front and center with shades of earth showing nicely. The finish is plain and unfettered by nuance. It's good this year, but it's still not a wine to think too much about, it's a wine to absent-mindedly swirl and sip over good conversation.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cru Beajolais: Fleurie

Domaine de la Madone is in the Beaujolais cru called Fleurie, a pastoral area - aren’t they all? - in France’s Gamay grape region. It is squeezed in between Moulin-à-vent and Morgon.

The name of the domaine comes from a little chapel on the highest hill in Fleurie. The vineyards are composed of granitic earth on the region’s hillsides, and the vines are between 70 and 100 years old.

The wine is aged for a year in oak, then another six months in vats. Alcohol hits 13% abv and the retail price is around $20.

Nice and dark, the Fleurie looks like the serious wine that it is. Aromas of violet's and strawberries are joined by pepper and cardamom. The palate offers a zesty acidity and a fruity flavor profile, with enough minerality to justify that dark color. It has a hint of bitterness on the finish, probably due to the granite in the soil. The wine is perfect for meat dishes, tomato sauces or grilled vegetables.

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Beaujolais: Duboeuf Morgon

You’ve heard Georges Duboeuf's name before, I know it, even if you know very little about French wine. The Duboeuf name is synonymous with Beaujolais, especially the Nouveau that is released just in time for Thanksgiving each year.  Duboeuf also dabbles in the higher end Beaujolais wines, from the various crus of the region. Here, we explore his Morgon bottling from the vineyards of the late Jean-Ernest Descombes, whose daughter runs the business now.

Nicole Descombes says the Morgon produced from the Gamay grapes of the Descombes vineyard shows "the fruit of Beaujolais, the charm of Burgundy." The family has been at it in Morgon since the French Revolution.

The wine is all Gamay grapes from the Descombes domain.  Alcohol is typically Burgundian, at 13.0% abv.  The grapes are fermented whole cluster, unstemmed, and the wine spends less than two weeks in contact with the grape skins.

Aromas of blackberry and black cherry dominate the nose, with an earthy veil that is the hallmark of the vineyard.  The palate is beautiful, with a cheery acidity and firm tannic structure - but not too firm.  The dark fruit flavors are tinged with a hint of peppery orange peel, with minerals in plain sight.  You can put this on the holiday table without a worry, but it will pair just as nicely with a baguette and some cheese.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Beaujolais Nouveau

Holiday time always makes me turn a little more toward Beaujolais. If you follow such things, you get that little pre-Thanksgiving kick of the Beaujolais Nouveau release. It happens on the third Thursday of November, giving a one-week window before tastes move on to other delights.

The wine ends up on millions of Thanksgiving tables each year in the U.S., not to mention being the drink of choice in French cafés toward the end of each year.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a young wine, made from Gamay grapes and meant to be consumed while young. To be blunt, it’s not getting any better in the bottle.  BN is usually a dull but drinkable wine that I often find quite grapey, but others seem to revel in its simplicity. Personally, I don’t see the need to rush the wine out the door immediately after harvest, but I understand. It started as a marketing ploy, and lives on as that today.

The better choices are the wines from the crus of Beaujolais, the ten villages that all offer their own separate and distinct terroirs. They don’t cost much more than BN, but the difference is like night and day. There was a Brandlive online tasting event recently which featured Franck Duboeuf and Steve Kreps Sr. of Quintessential Wines, the exclusive US importer of Les Vins Georges Duboeuf. Charles Communications founder Kimberly Charles moderated.

@WineHarlots summed up the difference between BN and cru Beaujolais nicely during the Twitter tasting: "Beaujolais Nouveau for a day. Cru Beaujolais for a lifetime."

The wines tasted will be written up here in future posts. The record of the live stream may still be here, if you’d like to watch and listen.

2016 Beaujolais Nouveau (SRP $11.99)
2015 Beaujolais-Villages (SRP $12.99)
2015 Domaine La Madone Fleurie (SRP $19.99)
2015 Morgon Jean-Ernest Descombes (SRP $21.99)

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Monday, December 21, 2015

A Jug Of Wine From Beaujolais

The simple things in life are always underrated. No matter how often people talk about “the simple things” or “the simple life” it always ends costing more and delivering less. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

Beaujolais is one of those things that seems to go under-appreciated. The simple wine, the easy-going wine. It’s not flashy or fancy - but it is worthy of poetry.

At a friend’s impromptu early Thanksgiving party we cracked open a Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2013 that pleased without overwhelming. It paired beautifully with the Trivial Pursuit game - 1981 edition, much to the detriment of the younger folks who were born in 1985. I took the advantage and ran with it. The only question we were left scratching our heads about was, “Who just up and decides to cook a turkey four days before Thanksgiving?”

The granitic soil of the southern part of Beaujolais has a lot of manganese in it, said to be responsible for the great minerality. This wine is a blend of Beaujolais-Villages and wine from some of the other crus. Alcohol in this wine is a typically reasonable 12.5% abv and it sells for about $12 - also a reasonable number.

The nose is big and juicy, with red fruit and minerals. There is a pretty good level of acidity, and the Gamay palate hits nicely, with that light, grapey sensation that make the wine so great with a holiday turkey. It also does very well as the jug of wine to go with “a loaf of bread” and “thou.”

Friday, June 12, 2015

Beaujolais Wine: Two From Moulin-à-Vent

Picturesque Beaujolais is sometimes called "the Tuscany of France," with vineyards covering nearly every hillside.  Beaujolais produces the most single-variety wines in France, and 99% of their production is made from the Gamay grape variety.

Moulin-à-Vent is one of the ten crus of Beaujolais, the French wine region lying between Burgundy and the Rhône valley, claimed by both. The wines of Moulin-à-Vent are robust and some of the most age-worthy wines in Beaujolais.  The soil in Moulin-à-Vent is said to have a rather high manganese content.  This mineral is actually toxic to grapevines in high concentrations.  In Moulin-à-Vent, the manganese level is just high enough to cause the vines to produce limited yields.  This makes the wine’s aromas and flavors quite intense.

The 15th-century windmill in the image overlooks the appellation and gives the region its name.  It has not been used functionally for years, but it serves as one of the most striking visuals in Beaujolais.

Wine importer Kermit Lynch brings this gem to the U.S. It is a widely-held belief that when you see Lynch’s name on the label, you can feel safe that the wine will be good. I've never found a wine that shook that belief. He only imports wines that he feels worthy of being imported. Domaine Diochon Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2012 is one of those wines.

Domaine Diochon is situated literally across the road from the namesake windmill in the photo. What is described on Lynch’s website as the :old-fashioned way" of Beaujolais production has been the story at Diochon since 1935.  Bernard Diochon took the responsibility from his father in 1967. Now, Thomas Patenôtre is the man in charge since Diochon’s retirement eight years ago.

Diochon likes wines with guts, but not too much weight. "I like tannic wines without heaviness; with fruit and floral aromas," he said. "Every vigneron naturally chooses to make wines in the style they prefer." Lynch pulls no punches on how much he appreciates Diochon’s "ancestral methods that distinguish real Beaujolais from the mass-produced and highly over-commercialized juice that floods the market today."

The wine embodies whole-cluster fermentation in cement tanks, oak aging over half a year and unfiltered bottling. Plenty of minerals are given to the wine through the loose, granitic soil in which the Gamay grapes grow on sustainably-farmed vines that range from 40 to 100 years old.

This great example of Beaujolais cru has a beautiful, deep, rich color. Minerals decorate the nuances of the nose, with cherry and black currant taking on earthy notes. True to Diochon's words, the wine feels light in the mouth with a firm tannic structure. Acidity is radiant and it finishes long and luscious.

Pierre-Marie Chermette is described as a pioneer of sustainable wine growing in the Beaujolais. His laissez-faire technique means little or no filtration of the wine and no chaptalization, allowing the grapes to speak of the terroir in their own voice.

Les Trois Roches 2012 brings the terroir of Moulin-à-Vent to the forefront in a lovely wine, purple at its core with a little brick color around the edge of the glass. The nose is explosive with cassis and blueberry, in a perfumed earth framework. The palate has dark fruit and pomegranate flavors, deep and luxurious. Great mineral notes and a bracing acidity again display the region’s strong suits, and firm tannins allow for the wine to take a seat at any dinner table. It finishes with a slight tartness of black raspberry.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Wine Country Wisconsin: Wollersheim Winery

When a young man leaves Beaujolais after wine school to travel to America and take an entry-level job at a winery, you might expect him to go to California. After all, the Golden State - as far as wine is concerned - is the France of the U.S. Second choice? New York, maybe. Or Oregon, or Washington. Possibly Virginia.

When Wollersheim Winery's winemaker, Philippe Coquard, came to the United States as an exchange student he chose Wisconsin. Over thirty years later he still considers it the best move of his life, and not just because he loves the Marechal Foch grape.

Coquard grew up in Beaujolais with twelve generations of winemakers preceding him in the family tree. Immediately after graduating from wine school, he traveled to Wisconsin as an exchange student. There, he hired on with Wollersheim, fell in love with the vintner’s daughter and got married. The rest, he says - without a hint of irony - is history.

The Wisconsin winemaker tells me, "Wisconsin is a bit colder than Beaujolais {!} but I use the same grape growing and cellar methods that I learned in France. It's the same approach I would use in Beaujolais with Gamay or Chardonnay grapes. Looking at wine globally, rather than regionally, he says "I could make wine anywhere using these techniques."

Marechal Foch - Coquard calls the grape “one of the most noble hybrids of all” - is “closer to a Côtes du Rhone than a Pinot Noir,” he says.  In fact, it has been around Europe a few times and thrives now in America’s cold Midwest.

In addition to Coquard's pet grape, the Wollersheim vineyards are full of French-American hybrids like Marquette, La Crosse, La Crescent and Frontenac. The winery was founded in 1847 by Agoston Haraszthy, a Hungarian who later founded one of California's first commercial wineries.  Wollersheim closed its doors for Prohibition and did not reopen until 1972.

Wollersheim does source some grapes from gentler climates - their Carignane comes from Lodi and they also buy grapes buy from Washington and New York. Aside from these outside grapes, everything they use comes from within a mile of the winery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. The lion's share of the winery's production is distributed in-state, with about five percent ending up in the Chicago area.  Very little goes to the twelve states to which they ship.

The fine folks at Wollersheim kindly provided a sample of two of their home-grown wines for the Now And Zin Wine Country series.

Wollersheim Domaine Reserve 2013

This wine is a perfect example of why the winemaker has a favorite grape. Estate-grown - 95% Marechal Foch and 5% Millot - the Domaine Reserve shows the terroir of the Lake Wisconsin American Viticultural Area. The grapes are destemmed before crushing and the juice undergoes a long, warm fermentation. After twelve months of barrel aging in half American and half French oak, the wine has aging potential of five to ten years, according to the winery. Alcohol stands at 13.5% and it retails for $25. They have made this wine since 1976.

The winery says Domaine Reserve is "among the rare single-field wines, using only grapes from our oldest vines located on our steepest slopes."

Dark garnet color, the nose displays blackberry, plum, spices and herbs with an amazing, mouthwatering mocha angle. On the palate, there is dark berry, herbs, coffee, and a tart acidity to make this a great wine to have with dinner. The tannic structure gives the green light to beef, but its spicy side says pork.

Wollersheim Prairie Blush 2014

This deep pink semi-dry, dubbed "white Marechal Foch," is made completely of Wisconsin-grown Marechal Foch grapes. It gets a cold fermentation, with a natural residual sweetness achieved by stopping the fermentation. The winery advises we enjoy it young, within two years of bottling. It sells for $10 and carries an 11% alcohol content..

This blush - the Midwestern word for "rosé" - has a beautiful, ruby-red glow and a fresh-as-spring nose full of strawberry, raspberry and cherry aromas. The Wisconsin earth comes through as well, but does not overwhelm the fruit. The flavor is rather like a fruit salad, too, with good acidity on a palate that hits a step drier than the "off-dry" meter reading suggests. It goes great with cheese - in Wisconsin, it had better go great with cheese - and it is perfect for picnics.

You can hear my three-part interview with Coquard on the Now And Zin Wine Report: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cru Beaujolais - Two From Morgon

Morgon is a Beaujolais cru, one of 12 smaller subdivisions of the Beaujolais region.  The main grape of the land in Beaujolais is Gamay, and if all you know of Beaujolais are the Nouveau wines that are released very young in late November each year, do yourself a favor and explore the crus a bit.  Morgon is a great place to start.

I have noted before that in the 14th century, the Dukes of Burgundy invited the Gamay grape out of Burgundy while welcoming Pinot Noir as the new tenant.  Gamay then took root in Beaujolais to the south.  Morgon has a long history with grapes - it was home to the vineyards of the Romans.  The volcanic and granitic rock found in the crumbling soil of the Morgon region supplies the terroir for which the region is known.

These two examples of Morgon were provided to me as samples for the purpose of this article.

Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py 2012

Jean and Agnès Foillard took over his father's vineyard in 1980.  Mainly planted on the Côte du Py, "the famed slope outside of Villié-Morgon, the granite and schist soil are on the highest point above the town," according to importer Kermit Lynch.

Foillard follows the teachings of Jules Chauvet, a traditional winemaker who went against the more popular commercial trends. Three other local vignerons, Marcel Lapierre, Jean-Paul Thévenet and Guy Breton joined him and were dubbed the Gang of Four by Lynch.  Minimalists, they eschew young vines, synthetic herbicides and pesticides, late harvesting, chaptalization and filtration.  So Foillard's Morgon wines express the true terroir of the region. Lush when young, his wines are also age worthy.

All Gamay, the wine is made from organically farmed fruit borne of vines as much as 90 years old.  Whole cluster fermentation - stems and all - leads to six to nine months aging in used oak barrels from Burgundy.  The wine is delivered as natural as it gets, unfiltered, with no sulfur dioxide used for preservation.

The wine shows extreme earth on the nose, with some smoke wafting out of the glass.  The palate is very fruity, with cherry, blackberry and plum flavors coming forward.  It also has a pretty floral texture, yet it’s dark and earthy, too.  There is acidity to burn.  Foillard makes a wine that is big, especially considering the lighthearted froth by which many people define Beaujolais.

Georges Duboeuf Morgon 2011

Georges Duboeuf is the most recognizable name in Beaujolais wine.  He represents over 400 winegrowers in the region and his name is a mainstay in the French section of supermarket shelves worldwide.  His name is virtually synonymous with Beaujolais Nouveau, but his hand is in the crus as well.  Here we explore his Morgon bottling from the vineyards of the late Jean-Ernest Descombes, whose daughter Nicole runs the business now.

Duboeuf says this wine's terroir "intensifies with age."  "It doesn't age," says Duboeuf, "it 'morgonates.'"  He goes on to say that this Morgon shows "the fruit of Beaujolais, the charm of Burgundy."

The wine is all Gamay grapes from the Descombes domain.  Alcohol is typically Burgundian, at 13.0% abv.  The grapes are fermented whole cluster, unstemmed, and the wine spends less than two weeks in contact with the grape skins.

Aromas of blackberry and black cherry meet with a mix of sweet and tart.  The palate is beautiful, with a refreshing acidity and firm tannins that do not overwhelm.  The dark fruit flavors are tinged with a hint of orange peel and pepper, while minerals play through it all.  This wine is not as dark or earthy as the Foillard, but delights in a different way.  A "jug" of this would be perfect with "a loaf of bread and thou," but slip some salami into the loaf and it gets darn near unbeatable.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Exploring Beaujolais: Beaujolais Blanc

Representatives of the Beaujolais region were kind enough to send some samples to me a while ago, most of which were - as expected - red wines made from Gamay grapes.  The 2010 Jean-Paul Brun Domaine des Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc Chardonnay caught my eye, as it is a white wine of Beaujolais.

Imported by Louis Dressner Selections,  this is an interesting Beaujolais wine, if owing only to the fact that it is white.  Only one percent of the wine produced in Beaujolais is white, and when it is, it's Chardonnay.  The Jean-Paul Brun domaine is located in southern Beaujolais, north of Lyons.  The wine has a low alcohol content of 12% abv, and it retails for $16.

Probably not a Chardonnay for "Chardonnay lovers" in the California sense of the phrase, the wine possesses strong minerals on the nose, with an underlay of pear, tangerine and tropicals.  The nose is predominantly earthy, as is the palate.  It's not a fruity, frilly Chardonnay at all - nor a buttery, oaky one - but a powerfully earthy and mineral-driven wine.  There's not a boatload of acidity here, which would make me like it a lot more.  It does, however, appeal to me with its sense of terroir in the flavors.  It strikes me as the kind of white wine a red wine lover might really enjoy.  Not a leisurely back porch sipper, this wine requires a bit of thought.  Which is always nice when enjoying wine.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Exploring Beaujolais: Saint-Amour

Saint-Amour is one of the Beaujolais Crus, in the northern part of the Beaujolais region.  Its wines are made from Gamay grapes and are said to be of medium weight, offering spicy peach flavors.

Domaine des Billards is in the middle of the Saint-Amour cru, owned by the Barber and Teissier families.  The domaine was selling wine in the time of Louis XVI - to the King’s finance minister.  Presumably, he knew where to find the best bang for his franc.  The winery has an old, dusty record book that actually shows his purchases.

The vineyards of Domaine des Billards are composed of sandstone pebbles underneath granite outcroppings, with veins of clay below that.  The land is farmed naturally, with no herbicides used.  The wine gets 12 days of vinification and has an alcohol number at a very Beaujolais-esque 13.5%.  This wine is imported by David Bowler Wine.

This 2009 Beaujolais from Saint-Amour is quite dark - not inky, but almost.  Black plums, dark berries and spice dance over the nose, and I find those notes on the palate, too.  The bouquet reminds me of Christmas baking. Try it for the holidays instead of the lightweight Beaujolais Nouveau.  It’s a fairly weighty wine, one of the heavier Beaujolais I’ve encountered.  That, with a peppery finish and a nice acidity, might put you in mind of a Syrah.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Exploring Beaujolais: Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages

We visit Beaujolais once again, and this time we go not with a Cru, but with Beaujolais-Villages. There are 38 villages in the northern part of the Beaujolais region entitled to use the name on their labels.  These wines could carry the name of the individual village from which the grapes came, but most of the winemakers feel the Beaujolais-Villages name has a bigger recognition factor.

The soil in the Villages is composed of more schist and granite than the soils of other areas in the region.  The vineyards are also located in more mountainous terrain.  As a result of these factors, there is the potential for some very high quality wine to come from the region’s Gamay grapes.

The Georges Duboeuf 2009 Beaujolais-Villages carries a 13% abv number, about the norm in Beaujolais.  This wine is an easy drinker, with a nose that displays dark cherry and grapey notes and a nice touch of spiciness.  On the palate there is some very nice acidity, while the tannins are somewhat restrained, but noticeable.  There is a medium-full mouth with notes of cherry cola and clove.  The wine is much more complex than most of the Cru wines from Beaujolais I have tasted - mostly from the 2010 vintage.  This effort is good and juicy, and works well with a bit of a chill.  Pair it with lean meat, seafood or even a salad, especially one with some light meat involved. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveaux 2011

Picnics are fun, even if you go solo - and even if it's just out on the deck.  Faced with a little yard work and armed with a salad and a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau by Georges Duboeuf, I made a picnic that turned out very nice.

One important consideration is this: get the yard work done first, then relax.  It's a lot easier to do hard labor before the wine, rather than after it.  And, the task/reward scenario has always loomed large in my life.

Duboeuf's BN had been sitting in the wine cellar/office/junk room since its natural season, around the end of last year.  A perfect springtime L.A. sunny day - barely warm with a cool breeze - provided an opportune backdrop for the work and the picnic.

The wine has only 12.5% abv, so it's a great lunchtime accompaniment, when you probably want to go a little easier on the alcohol.  Its fruity, youthful nose is abundant with fresh cherries and strawberries.  The palate is also young and fruity with a nice acidity, so it goes great with food.

This "Red Beaujolais Wine" paired well with my favorite grab'n'go lunch - a mélange of tasty treats from the Whole Foods salad bar.  As usual, I packed some grain, hummus, black olives, Parmesan cheese, eggless tofu salad and corn into the small box, along with a couple of corn fritters.  I was feeling rather giddy on the first day of my unemployment in which I had been able to just relax - job hunting is harder than having a job - so I threw in the fritters as a treat.

That's a big piece of banana cake in the photo, by the way, and the BeauJo went quite well with that, too.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012


Chenas Pascal Granger

Lately, Now And Zin has explored France’s Beaujolais region, and the crus that lie within it.  This time, we sample a bit of the Chénas cru.

Chénas is the smallest of the ten Beaujolais Cru regions.  Saint-Amour is to the north, while its neighbor to the south, Moulin-A-Vent, now possesses many of the vineyards once claimed by Chénas.  Oak trees were once predominant in the Chénas countryside, hence the name.  A chéne is an oak forest, perhaps one that became French oak barrels for wine.

Wines from Chénas are prized and said to contain aromas of roses.  The wines from good vintages are thought to age well for up to 15 years.  As with the other red wines of Beaujolais, Chénas wines are made from 100% Gamay grapes.

The wine I tasted was a 2009 Chénas by Pascal Granger, a vigneron whose estate is located in the Juliénas Cru, but extends into Chénas.  His wines are imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant of New York, a company which likes to deal in artisanal wines "produced in as natural a manner as possible," according to the importer information on the back label.

Here's a little about Granger from the Rosenthal website:

"The Domaine Pascal Granger is located in the hamlet of Les Poupets within the village of Juliénas in the heart of the finest sector of the Beaujolais district.  This estate has been in the Granger family for over two hundred years, dating to Napoleonic times, and has passed from father to son continually.  The domaine encompasses 14 hectares with vineyard holdings in the home village of Juliénas and extending through the neighboring villages of Jullié, Chénas, La Chapelle de Guinchay and Leynes.  All harvesting is done manually and treatments in the vineyards are minimal with weed-growth tolerated between the vines."

Chénas constitutes the "smallest holdings of the estate.  The vineyards are spread between the villages of Chénas and La Chapelle-de-Guinchay in the northern sector of the Beaujolais district.  After a period of eight to ten days of fermentation, the wine is racked into vats until the following spring when it is bottled."

The Granger Chénas is very dark.  Light does get through, but just barely.  The floral notes come across distinctly on the nose.  There is an earthy element, too, but it resides beneath the flowers.  This wine has a wonderfully refreshing acidity and a nice tannic structure, too.  The palate shows a restrained blackberry flavor with an earthiness riding over it.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Duboeuf Moulin-A-Vent

We have already visited several of the crus of Beaujolais - through tasting the wine, at least -  in this little series, and this time we are again tasting a Georges Duboeuf wine.  It's one of a number of Duboeuf wines received as samples for review.

The Moulin-à-Vent cru features some of the “most robust of the Beaujolais wines,” according to the Duboeuf label.  They are also said to be the most age-worthy wines in the Beaujolais region.  As I understand it, the soil in Moulin-à-Vent has a rather high manganese content.  This is actually toxic to grapevines in high enough concentrations.  Here, the manganese level is just high enough to cause the vines to produce limited yields.  This makes the wine’s aromas and flavors quite intense.  

windmill, Moulin-A-VentA 15th-century windmill overlooks the appellation and gives the region its name.  It has not been used functionally for years, but it serves as one of the most striking visuals in Beaujolais.

Duboeuf’s Moulin-à-Vent is produced from 100% hand-harvested Gamay grapes.  It has a very reasonable 13% alcohol content and sells for $16.

The wine's bouquet is quite full of fruit and spice. It's a rich and heavy nose, bursting with intensity.  The flavors are just as impressive, showing cherries and plums with a nice floral texture.  Spices grace the palate as they do the nose, and a note of cedar shows through.  The acidity is bracing and the tannic structure is forceful, to a point of distraction, compared with other wines from Beaujolais.  I can see the Duboeuf Moulin-à-Vent pairing quite well with meat of any kind. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Beaujolais Fleurie Clos de la Roilette

This taste of the Beaujolais region concerns a wine by Alain Coudert, Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie 2010.  The label indicates it's a red Beaujolais wine - 99% of the wine from Beaujolais is red, produced from the Gamay grape.

Fleurie wines are often indicated as having a fruity and floral bouquet.  That would be underselling the case, here, as we will find in a bit.

Louis Dressner Selections imports this wine, and their website describes the evolution of Clos de la Roilette:

"In the '20s, when the Fleurie appellation was first created, the former landowner was infuriated with losing the Moulin-à-Vent appellation under which the clos had previously been classified.  He created a label, using a photograph of his racehorse Roilette, and used the name Clos de la Roilette, without mentioning Fleurie.  The owner vowed not to sell a drop of his wine on the French market and the production went to Switzerland, Germany and England.

"By the mid-1960s, the owner’s heirs had lost interest in the clos and a large portion of the land had gone wild and untended.  In 1967, Fernand Coudert bought this poorly maintained estate, and replanted the vineyards.  His son Alain joined him in 1984, and has been the winemaker since."

The racehorse remains on the label to this day, although the Couderts apparently have no ill will at this point about the appellation.  The wine is labeled as Fleurie.

This is a complex Beaujolais Cru which retails for $20 and is a little stronger than a typical Beaujolais at 13% abv.  The average age of the Coudert's vines are 25-33 years and I am told it should age well for 5-10 years.

An initial cork sniff had me thinking I'd opened a bottle of sherry by mistake.  There's a huge nuttiness and something akin to caramel on the cork.  Once in the glass, the nose of the medium dark wine displays leathery cherry fruit, allspice and a hint of something burnt.

The palate is equally serious.  A very dark expression of cherries and roast come forward right away, and an almost muddy taste plays with the fruit as it shows black cherry, then blackberry, then a campfire flavor.  There is a fantastic acidity and a lingering tartness which begs for another sip to be taken.

In my sedentary travel through the Beaujolais crus, this is the darkest and most impressive wine I have tasted.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Beaujolais Chiroubles Damien Coquelet 2010

The French wine region of Beaujolais has been the topic of a number of Now And Zin  posts this year.  During the holidays, I received a number of different Beaujolais wines to sample, and the experience has been illuminating.  I sample hundreds of California wines - and wine from all over the US - each year, but Beaujolais was one of the areas I had failed to explore properly until now.

After trying several wines from a few of the Beaujolais crus, I'm happy I've had the chance to delve into the region.  Today's wine comes from Chiroubles, a cru with some of the highest altitude vineyards in Beaujolais.  The climate is a bit cooler and the growing season somewhat longer as a result.  Wines from this region are said to be distinguished by their delicate, softly perfumed bouquets. 

This wine is the D. Coquelet 2010, imported by Louis Dressner.  Damien Coquelet is the winemaker.  A (very) little detective work shows him to be the stepson of George Descombes, one of the top growers in Beaujolais. This wine appears to come from his vineyard n Chiroubles, although Damien has plans to purchase vineyards of his own at some point.  One big distinction between the wines of Descombes and Coquelet is that the elder ages his wines a year, while the younger releases his early. 

The wine has an alcohol content of the more-or-less standard number for Beaujolais, 12.5% abv.  It shows a medium tint in the glass.  The nose is marked by raspberry and a bit of candy.  As advertised, very delicate floral notes surround the fruit.  Flavors of cherry, cranberry and a trace of cassis join a very nice acidity to make a wine that drinks like a light, slightly tart Pinot Noir.  It's really a beautiful effort. 

I see this wine selling online for $17 to $25 - worth it at the high end and a definite bargain at the low price.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Duboeuf Morgon 2010

Georges Duboeuf is known for his eloquent and verbose vintage reports in which he yearly extolls the virtues of the Beaujolais crop.  "Divine! Dazzling! Voluptuous! Generous!" is just part of his report on the 2011 vintage.  The 2009 Beaujolais Crus are "truly the vintage of my lifetime," according to Duboeuf, while the Beaujolais Crus of 2010 prompted him to exclaim, "The Beaujolais region is on a winning streak."

Duboeuf has every right to use as many exclamation points as he likes.  Jean Bourjade is the Managing Director of Inter Beaujolais, the wine council representing the Producers of Beaujolais, and he echoes Duboeuf's praise of the last three vintages in Beaujolais.  He claims Beaujolais is the only French region in his memory to have three consecutive vintages of such high quality.

Salesmanship aside, Georges Duboeuf is the most recognizable name in Beaujolais wine.  He represents over 400 winegrowers in the region and his name is a mainstay in the French section of supermarket shelves worldwide.  In this post we'll explore Morgon, one of the twelve Crus of Beaujolais. 

Both of these bottles are produced from Duboeuf's Morgon vineyards, both are marketed as "red Burgundy wine," both have a 13% abv number and both sell for about $16.  The wine with the more serious looking label is a grower-specific wine from the vineyards of the late Jean-Ernest Descombes.  His daughter Nicole now tends the wine business.  The wine with the flower on the label is made from Duboeuf vineyards, but is not grower-specific.  These bottles were provided to me for sampling purposes.

The Morgon Cru lies south of six Beaujolais crus and north of three.  Gamay is the main grape, as it is in all of the Beaujolais region.  In the 14th century, the Dukes of Burgundy kicked the Gamay grape out of Burgundy in favor of Pinot Noir and Gamay took root in Beaujolais to the south.  Morgon has a long history with grapes - it was home to the vineyards of the Romans.  The volcanic and granitic rock found in the crumbling soil of the Morgon region supplies the terroir. 

The Descombes bottling has a bright nose full of cherry and raspberry.  The palate is full and refreshing with a zippy acidity.  The tannins show restraint while cherry and raspberry flavors are laced with a very slight hint of citrus.   I really get a sense of the minerals in these flavors. 

The flower label bottle shows the same fruit on the nose, but has more of a mineral or vegetal overlay.  It's not quite so bright - fairly dark, in fact.  The palate is less delicate as well, with a darker aspect to the fruit and a bit more tanninic grip.

Keep an eye out for more exploration of the Beaujolais crus here on the Now And Zin Wine Blog.