Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2009 Beaujolais Tasting: Cru Wines

The press had spoken glowingly of the 2009 vintage in Beaujolais, as had critics and winemakers alike.  Even Andrew McNamara, the Master Sommelier who was leading us in this tasting, had referred to the vintage as the best he had ever seen coming out of Beaujolais.  Yet we were more than of a quarter of the way through the tasting and had not yet encountered any earth-shaking wines.  But maybe our fortunes would change with a shift to tasting the cru Beaujolais wines.  Our experiences in that regard is the subject of this post.

Before we get to the wines, some acknowledgements that should have been covered in my earlier post.  First, the wines were provided by Ron Siegel, John Alport, and the author.  Some of the wines had to be shipped in overnight (given the time of the year and the fact that the tasting was being held in Florida) and the cost of shipping was significantly greater than the cost of the wine.  Secondly, I would like to thank Ron for securing the tasting locale and associated excellent service personnel.

Now back to the wines.  The characteristics of the individual crus were covered in an earlier post as was the tasting order, which flowed from lightest to most robust.  The first cru tasted was the Vissoux Brouilly Pierreux.  On the nose butterscotch, carmel, and raspberry.  On the palate, tart cranberry, raspberry, dusty earth, and a certain spiciness.  Also, some evidence of tannin and texture.

The second wine tasted was the Domaine des Braves Régnie.  This estate is owned by Paul Cinquin and was initially founded by his grandfather.  It was broken up into many pieces as a result of the French inheritance laws but Paul has reconstituted 20+ acres of the original estate on soil that is a mix of sand and clay.  Paul picks his fruit seven to ten days later than his neighbors in order to ensure maximal ripeness.  The wine is unique in Beaujolais in that it is a blend of three distinct vilification methods: thermo (for color and lightness of aromas); pigeage (for extraction of tannins and aromas); and semi-carbonic (for fruit and soft tannins).  The wines are 100% tank-aged and are bottled unfined and lightly filtered.  This wine threw off aromas of bubblegum, red fruit, perfume, game, and earth.  It was fuller-bodied than any wine tasted to this time and was smooth on the palate.  Now we were beginning to cook with gas.

The next wine up was the Damien Coquelet Chiroubles Vielles Vignes.  The label on this bottle was rather unprepossessing, as French wine labels go, but this was one serious wine.  The nose launched us into a lengthy discussion on brett and its contribution to/detraction from wines.  This wine did exhibit some brett on the nose but it was not off-putting.  The wine had great body, asian spices, and a pepperiness to accompany kirsch-liqueur and black-fruit flavors.  It had a long, silky finish.  Impressive.  I have bought a case of this wine post the tasting.

Chateau Thivin Brouilly was the next scheduled wine in the lineup.  This estate has 8.3 hectares of east-, south-, and southwest-facing vineyards on the steep slopes of Mount Brouilly.  The soil is composed of blue stones of volcanic origin.  The estate's vineyard strategies promote natural regulation of pests and diseases, proper soil conditions, and sun exposure and aeration for the hanging fruit.  Grapes are hand-harvested  in whole bunches, macerated for 8-12 days, and aged in oak casks for 6 months.  Tart red fruit on the nose confirmed on the palate along with some minerality and a medium finish.

The wine from the cru of St. Amour was the Domaine des Champs-Grilles Revillon.  This wine exuded sweet, floral notes with a hint of decomposing rose petals.  It was light of body, soft, feminine, and elegant.  It was not as acidic as the crus tasted to date and was endowed with late-arriving tannins which dried out the palate on the finish.

The Pierre-Marie Chermette property that is the source of the Fleurie wine is called Poncie and is a 4.5 hectare, southeast-facing plot on the heights of the cru.  This vineyard was planted 35 years ago on pink granite soil that is rich in mica and quartz.  This wine is meaty and iron-rich on the nose; somewhat reminiscent of a charred grill.  Light on the palate.  Rustic with a non-round mouthfeel.

The contribution from the Juliénas cru was the Domaine Eve and Michel Rey Les Paquelets. The grapes for this wine were sourced from low-yielding vines with an average age of 90 years.  Slightly medicinal on the nose with lots of (good) funk and granite.  Dense on the palate with great texture and a fulsome representation of acidity and tannin.  This was the most Burgundian of the wines tasted that day and earned the designation "wine of the day."  I have since bought a case of this wine.

The next wine tasted was the Jean-Paul Thevenet Morgon.  Jean-Paul Thevenet is one of Beaujolais' most respected growers.  He practices organic cultivation, ferments with natural yeasts, and adds little or no sulfur to his wines.  This particular wine was aged for 6-8 months in aged Romanée Conti oak barrels and is bottled unfiltered.  This wine exudes perfume.  Florality and a little bit of sulfur on the nose.  Spicy and metallic on the palate.

The Jean-Paul Brun Domain des Terres Dorées Moulin-à-Vent had hints of reduction and burnt matches on the nose and was rich, big, and balanced on the palate.  Another victim of my post-tasting shopping spree.

The final wine of the tasting was the Domaine Piron-Lameloise Chenas Quartz.  This wine had lots of fruit on the nose and spice and tannins on the palate.

All in all a wonderful event.  Andrew walked us through the wines in a masterful fashion, imparting nuggets of wisdom along the way.  The cru Beaujolais stood out and have made me a believer; so much so that I have since bought three cases of the standout crus with the intent of tracking their evolution over time.  In my opinion (based on the performance of the wines in this tasting), cru Beaujolais from the 2009 vintage is deserving of your consideration.

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