More Beaujolais Pleasures – Beaujolais Pt.3
This final part 3 of the Beaujolais trilogy contains even more Beaujolais pleasures. It covers six more crus plus some food-matching ideas. The clickable Google map below shows the producer locations for all of the wines recommended in parts 2 and 3.
Even more Beaujolais pleasures await
1,227 hectares and 8.5 million bottles. Half granite, half blue-stone. This southernmost and largest cru is also the longest, stretching out from the foot of Mont Brouilly and its aptly named Chapel, the Notre Dame aux Raisins (Our Lady of the Grapes). Also contains the Pisse Vieille subzone, which always elicits a schoolboy snigger.
Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu, Vieilles Vignes, 2017. 13.5%
One of the leaders in French natural and low-intervention winegrowing, these gnarly seventy-year-old vines are farmed biodynamically by Lapalu. How many still use an ancient wooden basket press, only modified for the modern world with an electric motor? There are amphorae used here too, but not for this wine. This one gets maturation for six months on the lees in old barrels. There’s low or no sulphur. It opens with a salvo of violets and peony aromas, before a raspberry, black cherry and plum palate. Big-boned and fleshy, there is concentration and finesse, followed by some earthy notes to finish.
Not a trace of natural wine funk to spoil the pure fruit, and no oxidation either. One to savour now, and for at least another five years. A masterclass.
Wines with Attitude £24.60
According to Rabelais, Mont Brouilly was created by the giant Gargantua. In reality, it’s an extinct volcano with commanding views from the top. 314 hectares rise steeply out of the surrounding Brouilly countryside. Made of bluestone and schists, that’s said to lend the wine’s power and finesse. 2 million bottles.
Château Thivin, Les Sept Vignes, 2017. 13.5 %
Is there a more lovely place on earth than in the courtyard of Château Thivin? If there is I’ve not found it yet. Go down past the gate and the tinkling spring and sit outside to taste, up against the pink and purple wisteria. While their Cuvée Zaccherie is my all-time favourite Beaujolais, Les Sept Vignes gives away little and is spectacular value. Seven parcels at seven different aspects of Mont Brouilly combine for this expression, plus the little bit of Chardonnay added seems to be the secret weapon. Matured for seven months in old oak. Purplish edged, gentle aromas. The fresh vibrant and vivid palate has great acidity and length with silken Blueberry and cherry fruit, some spice too. It all seems effortless really, though it really isn’t.
The Wine Society £16.50
308 hectares and 2 million bottles. Pink granite, thin soil and a higher altitude make these wines more delicate and aromatic, with scents of violets and peonies.
Domaine des Marrans, Vieille Vignes, 2015. 13.5 %
Based in Fleurie, this Domaine has 2.5 ha in Chiroubles of 50+ years old vines (Vieille Vignes). Maturation was in oak barrels for 12 months. This plus the bottle maturation (this is an older 2015, a lovely vintage) has tamed the youthful drying tannins. It’s now harmonious and balanced and probably at peak. Some rose perfume. Red and black cherries, a lifted long fade with a few more years yet. A revelatory wine for Beaujolais cru newbies as after this wine you’ll definitely want to discover more.
Cellar Selected £17.30
1,101 hectares and 8 million bottles. It’s the second-largest cru, so there is stylistic variation. The Côte du Py enclave made of volcanic schist can be put on the label and is often high quality, with richness, power and cherries. Such wines can age well, becoming almost Pinot Noir like and resembling silken Burgundy – a process known as “Morgonner”.
Jean Foillard, Côte du Py, 2017. 13%
A litany of great winemaking techniques makes this classic. Old vines, canopy management, no chemicals, no sulphur, natural yeasts. Fermented in cement tanks then aged in old foudres for nine months, no fining, no filtering. Red berries and cherry, plenty of smooth tannins for the long term. Savoury hints, cinnamon and a touch of orange lurk within. Rather Burgundian in style. Will doubtless do the morgonner-thing over time, but hard to resist now.
318 hectares and 2 million bottles, the only appellation within burgundy. And with a name like that t’s not surprising that 25% of it is drunk on Valentine’s Day! It comes in two distinct styles; delicate, light and young or brooding and ageworthy.
John Paul Brun, Domaine des Terres Dorées, 2017. 12.5%
John Paul Brun started off in the Southern Beaujolais and now also has holdings (and buys fruit in) from across the region. His wines are organic and all about concentration and finesse, made in a Burgundian style. There are natural yeasts and minimal sulphur here, and he’s not a fan of adding sugar to the fermentation (an allowable practice called chaptalisation, often used in years where grapes struggle for ripeness and hence natural alcohol). All this is done to express terroir. Pure dark cherry aromas, reprised on the palate. Remarkable elegance, silky-textured mouthfeel. The long finish has a kind of crystalline mineral quality. Delicious stuff from one of the great names of Beaujolais.
With 391 hectares and 2.5 million bottles, this, the youngest of the cru is always easy to find thanks to its unusual church, which has two steeples. Lot’s of fresh red fruits should be a hallmark.
Domaine Julien Sunier, 2018. 12.5%
New Generation artisanal winemaking. From his Régnié holding, in organic conversion, of 3.68 hectares. Biodynamic sprays too. 60-year-old vines. 9 months maturation; 40% in concrete eggs, 60% in old oak. Energy and elegance. Floral aromas; violets, lilies, peony. Juicy red fruits, a savoury/smoky edge and some spicy notes on the long finish. Good now but will improve over the next couple of years and hold for longer. Needs food!
♥ Food matching
Having the flavours of red wine yet the structure of a white, Beaujolais is surprisingly versatile. It’s worth considering the style made, whether the more fruity low tannin style or the more structured Burgundian style adopted by some cru producers.
Firstly, Beaujolais is great on its own whatever the season. It’ll make a great match for charcuterie such as hams and salami and is arguably the best match for all kinds of paté. The fruitier style is ideal chilled on a summer’s day. Yet a hearty stew or casserole and a glass or two of Beaujolais will keep the winter chills at bay.
As for cheese, gooey baked brie and a baguette with Beaujolais is a memorable feast. That lack of tannin and high acidity make it one of the few reds to go with softer cheeses. It’s arguably the best red for Chinese cuisines and suitable with mild curries and some Thai dishes as well. Warm salads (salade tiède) are good for the same reason. Those that like fish with red wine will find Beaujolais to be one of the best matches, particularly if a tomato sauce is involved. Beaujolais is also there for those that enjoy French specialities like escargot, steak tartare or andouillette.
♥ Festive cheer
Beaujolais might be for life but it’s ideal for Christmas too. Not only is its personality one for informal occasions with friends and family, but it’ll also happily cope with the full Christmas Dinner. Roast Chicken or Turkey and all the trimmings will be splendid with the fruitier style. Meanwhile, those crus that have more tannin will also make a splendid match for other roasts and joints, whether goose, game, beef, lamb or pork.
My personal favourite festive time is drinking Beaujolais on Boxing Day. Think of all of those various leftover cold cuts – there’s no better match, especially with the obligatory bubble and squeak!
I reckon this trilogy provides more Beaujolais pleasures than you can shake a stick at! À Votre Santé!
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My grateful thanks go to Sopexa and Inter Beaujolais for helping me out with the preparation of this article!