Thursday, September 15, 2011

2009 Beaujolais Tasting: Non-Cru Wines

Beaujolais, and, specifically, cru Beaujolais, is an excellent option for the serious -- or the not so serious -- wine drinker, a point that was driven home to me during the course of a 2009 Beaujolais tasting which I hosted at the Capital Grille in Orlando on August 9th.  The objective of the tasting was to explore the breadth of Beaujolais for this much-heralded vintage.  The tasting panel consisted of nine people and we were fortunate to be led in this effort by Master Sommelier Andrew McNamara.  The tasting will be reported in two posts: this one covering the non-cru

Master Sommelier Andrew McNamara and John Alport (Augustan)
Adam Chilvers ( and Ron Siegel

 wines and a second covering the cru tastings.

The wine lineup is presented in the table below.  The wines were tasted lightest to heaviest with the sparkling and white comprising the first flight.

In his opening remarks Andrew reminded us that Beaujolais is really a part of Burgundy and that the two regions overlap in Beuajolais' northernmost areas.  Beaujolais wine, according to Andrew, owes its heritage to the religious orders that came into the region and made wine from the indigenous grape, Gamay.  Philip the Bold felt that Gamay was only fit to be served to pigs and livestock and ordered the vines pulled out.  The Gamay vines in Beaujolais were spared that fate and have survived and thrived in the region over the years.

While Beaujolais is a part of Burgundy, in many ways it is Rhone-like, says Andrew.  For example, the soil in many parts of Beaujolais is granitic, a Rhone characteristic.  Second, both Gamay and Syrah are descended from Gouvay Blanc, an ancient varietal originally grown in Central Europe.

With the attention being paid to Beaujolais, a number of producers from outside are beginning to make wines in the region.  Most of the very good Beaujolais wines are still, however, mede by Beaujolais specialists. As we turned our attention towards tasting the wines, Andrew stated that the 2009 vintage was the greatest Beaujolais vintage that he had ever tasted.

The first wine tasted was the Domaine Vissoux Brut Blanc de Blanc.  This winery and its practices have been summarized in a previous post.  

This sparkling wine is 100% Chardonnay from grapes grown on a 2.5 hectare, southwest-facing plot which sits on a limestone-clay soil.  This blend of 2006, 2007, and 2008 vintages has seen very little dosage liqueur and has been aged for 18 months.  The bubbles on this wine appear to be short-lived.  Initial bread aroma with a hint of apricot followed by a more distinct rubber note.  On the palate a short, tongue-coating finish.  Less minerality, alcohol, and yeastiness than a traditional champagne.  I will not be running out to buy this wine anytime soon.

The second wine tasted was the Domain des Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc.  This winery and its practices have been summarized in a previous post.  On the nose the wine was fruity,

oily with a beeswax character, herbal with a basil tint, and had grapefruit notes. On the palate grapefruit and lemon rind with good acidity.  This wine was lean and light with a residual bitterness on the palate.  This wine was not well regarded by the tasting panel.

At this juncture the tasting switched to the forte of Beaujolais, wines made from the Gamay grape.  The first red wine tasted was the Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils Beaujolais.  This producer ferments the wine using natural yeasts, uses no sulfur, and bottles unfined and unfiltered.  This wine had aromas of bubblegum, fruit, rubber, and cotton candy.  Tart cherry on the palate with a hint of bitterness on the medium finish.

The final non-cru wine tasted was the Mommessin Beaujolais-Villages Vielles Vignes.  The grapes for this wine were sourced from 40- to 80-year-old vines located on granite-schist-limestone hillside plots.  The grapes are handpicked, sorted, and vatted as whole bunches, then bled in search of greater concentration.  The grapes are fermented for 9 days in vats after which malolactic fermentation occurs.  Cherry and bubblegum on the nose.  On the palate a tartness and tannin (some wood, some grape).  A full, richer body with fine-grained tannins.  More character and greater length than any of the preceding wines.  Hopefully a harbinger of things to come.

With the tasting of the Mommessin, folks were lessening the frequency of accusatory glances cast my way.  Up to this point the looks were clearly asking "Why are you wasting our time here today?"  I started to breathe a little easier.  Cru wines up next.

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