A New Look at Beaujolais

Riaan Smit gets between the sheets for a lay with Beaujolais.

I have never had wine made from Gamay ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the only red wine grape allowed in Cru Beaujolais, Burgundy, where I am working a training stint at Ch?+¦???+¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¬teau du Moulin-a-Vent.

,Beaujolais is unfortunately historically associated with Le Beaujolais Nouveau (young Beaujolais), a thin, acidic, red wine, rushed after the September harvest every year to hit the market on the third Thursday of November.

,Locals quickly point out that these usually anemic wines are appellation (area) Beaujolais-Villages and definitely not from the 10, much more quality-conscious, Cru Beaujolais appelations.

,My first taste was from barrels of the 2009 vintage with Guillaume Berthier, the winemaker at Ch?+¦???+¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¬teau Moulin-a-Vent. The Moulin-a-Vent area is one,of the 10 Cru Beaujolais.

,When I saw the diluted colour of the wine for the first time, I expected the worst ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ my New World wine mind being programmed to expect just that when a red wine is thin in colour. How wrong can you be?

,I am no Robert Parker with perfect recall of every wine I have ever tasted, but I do know I have had a seriously interesting wine if I can mentally recreate the taste the next day. The wines from a couple of different terriors at the Ch?+¦???+¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¬teau had a fresh nose of violets and irises and was beautifully balanced, elegant, and downright sexy. It is the kind of wine you want to drink again and again.

,Guillaume gave me bottles of different vintages and I have so far opened a 2003 Ch?+¦???+¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¬teau Moulin-a-Vent ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ with my first piece of steak in more than three weeks. The 2003 vintage in Europe was plagued by unrelenting heat waves. The wine was even lighter in colour ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ with a slight brown tinge – than the wines from my barrel tasting, but was fresh with an appealing upfront fruity component, great balanced acidity, with a long finish. I don’t, but I suppose this is what it feels like making love under silk sheets?

,I have since then tasted six 2009 wines, in one sitting, from different terroirs in the adjacent Cru Fleurie. None of these wines were wooded and had lots of fruit and tannic structure. They drink well now, but I suspect they will be fantastic two or three years, and even much longer, from now.

,The woman behind the counter explained that “people don’t want to drink the 2008, once they have had the 2009”.

,Consumers have a point: The 2009 vintage is regarded as one of the best ever in Cru Beaujolais (no this is not Bordeaux, where every other vintage is the vintage of the ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ short ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ century).

Dan Berger, the publisher of the American weekly newsletter Vintage Experiences, wrote last week: “?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-+?-+ we are seeing the release of the 2009 Beaujolais, both regulars and Crus, from perhaps the greatest vintage of Beaujolais of all time. Despite that, the fanfare has been nearly nil.”

,Franck Duboeuf, managing director and son of one of the leading producers in Cru Beaujolais, Georges Duboeuf, is quoted by Berger as saying that his father “believes this is the vintage of a lifetime”.

,”Some people drink Moulin-a-Vent and don’t even know it is a Beaujolais,” said Franck. Indeed, in the unusually hot year of 2003, some wines got so exotic, he said, that today, seven years later, “you open a 2003 and you are in Burgundy.”

You may want to take what he says with a pinch of salt ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ he is a negociant after all ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ but I have tasted a 2003 and it was seriously good. My half bottel, left-over, was even the next day more than drinkable.

I will easily pay R150+ a bottel for quality 2009 Cru Beaujolais in South Africa ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ many wines with much less appeal sells for that money in South Africa.

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