Update: There will be no new post this Sunday, but I have some great wines lined up for Temecula Tuesday. Catch you then. – Cheers, Tyler (May 29, 2011)
Today I wanted to talk about a varietal from a place that most wine drinkers have heard of, many have tried, but few truly appreciate. That grape is Gamay and the place is Beaujolais. Unfortunately when most people hear either one of those names, they tend to think of Beaujolais Nouveau, an inexpensive, generally unimpressive wine that is released on the third Thursday of November each year and is meant to be drunk as young as possible. Although Nouveau wines can be fun and festive, there is rarely anything about them that even closely resembles the finest wines of the region.
Beaujolais is actually a fairly complex region, with a number of regional and quality designations. The wines produced here are nearly all reds made from the Gamay grape, although some scarce whites are also made from Chardonnay and/or Aligoté. Red Beaujolais may be labeled under four main classifications. Beaujolais Nouveau, as we already discussed, is one of them. Wines labeled simply as Beaujolais make up another class, and they can be produced with fruit from anywhere within the region, within this class is also Beaujolais Supérieur, which simply has slightly more alcohol. Beaujolais Villages wines come from specific villages and are generally somewhat higher in quality than wines labeled simply as Beaujolais, although there are exceptions.
The final class, which is the one that we are discussing today, is the best that Beaujolais has to offer. Cru Beaujolais is made from only ten specific growing regions, and can be seen as the apex of wine produced here. Each of the individual regions brings a slightly different personality to their wines. Moving roughly north to south, the ten Crus are: Juliénas, Saint Amour, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. Wines from these places are famous within the region and may or may not say Beaujolais on the label, and will certainly not state that the grape is Gamay. Although this might be confusing and frustrating at first, this ambiguous labeling is actually a good thing. Because so many people are unfamiliar with these wines, they are drastically underpriced, and you can often easily drink some of the finest wines of the region without having to venture out of the $20-30 price bracket, and some excellent wines may even be less.
Today we are exploring three of the ten Crus. I wanted to showcase the individual differences that the terroir brings to these wines, so I chose three wines from the same producer, vintage, price point, and alcohol level. Best of all, each of them offers awesome quality for only $20 a bottle.
Wine #1: Chateau de Raousset 2009 Chiroubles Cru Beaujolais
The palate is plush with tones of the same fruits found on the nose, as well as an interesting squeeze of blood orange. The same floral quality found in the aroma also shows on the palate, this time hinting at violets and geranium. This is a rich, silky, and fresh wine with nice complexity and nice balance.
Worth Trying. 91 points.
Wine #2: Chateau de Raousset 2009 “Grille-Midi” Fleurie Cru Beaujolais
The aroma clearly shows notes of Concord jelly, blue plum, and deep candied cherries. Rose petals, very faint notes of wood and eucalyptus, and soft tones of cinnamon appear with a spin in the glass.
Smooth and soft, this wine is tender and ripe with delicate, dusty tannins. Concord grape and plum jelly create a satiny, fruity core, while hints of cacao powder, orange slices, and rose petals play in the background, giving this wine some very pleasant definition.
Worth Trying. 90 points.
Wine #3: Chateau de Raousset 2009 “Douby” Morgon Cru Beaujolais
Very floral and grapey, this wine’s aroma shows concord notes very distinctly. There is some crushed raspberry, a unique edge of orange rind, and some interesting foresty notes that hint of pine needles and moss.
The palate is dense and fruity, although the wine is actually quite light and fresh. Bright orange rind tones, some crushed raspberry, and red cherry notes all show at first. The palate is positively mouthwatering, with rose petals, violets, and faint hints of forest moss playing around the edges. This is a very enjoyable and complex wine with serious appeal.
Worth Trying. 91 points.
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The Grapevine: What’s your experience with Beaujolais?