Go ahead and excuse yourself if just the mere thought of Beaujolais’ currently released 2011 vintage does not generate anticipation nor enthusiasm. Burgundy’s neighboring Beaujolais region developed its regional brand through decades of proliferating simple, thin, early released, confection tinged quaffing juice as Nouveau Beaujolais. While Nouveau raged with palates willing to overlook queer and immature wines, serious wine enthusiasts looked away while more than half of Beaujolais’ production came to market in this unnatural form, frequently enough relying on chaptalization (sugar added to kick alcohols following fermentation) to overcome their immature fruit foundations. But as the Nouveau initiative is dying and Cru Beaujolais steps into the regional spotlight, excuses are fading. There seems to be no better time to pay very, very serious attention to these wines made from the rapturous Gamay grape.
What some wine media are calling a Beaujolais hat-trick, nature’s gift of three glorious growing seasons between 2009 and 2011 has drawn a deep line in the sand between serious Cru Beaujolais and it’s dying weak Nouveau sister. Top growing areas, or Crus, include Morgon, Fleurie, Brouilly, Chiroubles, Julienas, Moulin á Vent, and Chénas. There’s ten in all and producers in these sub regions are making some of the most serious, enjoyable, food friendly wines in the world. With a focus on fruit and acid not witnessed since communal 1960’s hippie living (sorry for the bad humor, I just could not resist), these well made fine wines are easy to understand and enjoy. So with great excitement, I pulled together our Boston blind tasting group to explore some of the top wines in today’s market from the 2011 Beaujolais vintage, and one Gamay kicker from the Loire Valley.
- Foucher La Lunotte P’tites Vignes (Loire) -$15
- Chamonard Morgon Le Clos De Lys -$27
- Thivin Cote de Brouilly – $30
- Brun Terres Dorees Cote de Brouilly – $22
- Brun Terres Dorees Fleurie Grille Midi – $33
- Guignier La Bonne Pioche BV – $19
- Rontets Saint-Amour Cote de Besset – $22
- Coquelet Chiroubles Vielles Vignes – $34
- Breton Morgon Vielles Vignes – $34
- Lapierre Cuvee Lapierre Morgon – $50
- Chanudet La Cuvee du Chat BV – $17
- Burgaud Thulon BV – $14
One taster, my friend Rich, did an excellent job placing these wines in the triumvirate of recent Beaujolais vintages. The best of the wines exhibited richer mouthfeels, brighter color, and acidity that braced through the wines’ finishes. The less favorable wines, albeit in the small minority, were flabbier and faded quicker through the finish.
The group’s favorite wine, by a wide margin, was the Morgon Lapierre Cuvee Marcel Lapierre which sells for $40, but you can find it cheaper if you shop hard. Our tasters awarded second place to the Chamonard Le Clos De Lys; also from Morgon with its rich mouthfeel and sweet berry nose. Personally, I favored the Loire Valley Gamay from Christophe Foucher. I found it at Chambers Street Wines in New York City, and the guys there say it is one of the best Loire Valley Gamays they have ever tasted. That’s high praise from a personally trusted source. The wine’s deep purple color, soy, Szechuan peppercorn, and pronounced tobacco aromas was not a classic 2011 profile, but it combined with pure Gamay character to keep me coming back with fascination and yearning throughout the first flight of six wines. I still think about this wine as much as the Cuvee Marcel Lapierre five days later. Another personal favorite was the Burgaud Thulon, a base level Beaujolais Village offering from this legendary producer. Bright purple color with sweet berries, pine, mushroom, char, and great acidity make this wine a steal at $14. Two wines tied for third place in the group results; Thivin and Chanudet.
If the notion of Beaujolais and Gamay still stirs old and unexciting memories, then the 2009-2011 vintages will turn your head. These current 2011 wines should be considered adult candies, tantalizingly yummy with alluring fruit and mouthwatering acidity. They are serious fine wines that compel you to drink up and eat up. They will make you feel mature and happy at a fair price. But beware, they are habit forming.