I purchased a reasonable amount of mixed 2003 Cru Beaujolais by Georges Duboeuf on release since the vintage appeared to be of historic quality and the best wines could be had in the usual $15-$20 value range. They were enjoyably rich and round with the great depth of fruit that was a signpost to the vintage’s outstanding conditions. These wines were consumed with gusto by my tight circle of wine and food junkies, but I was unable to hold onto even a few to learn how Gamay of a great vintage might progress in the cellar. I was just recently blown away by the transformation and quality of the 2003 Duboeuf Moulin-a-Vent Cuvee Prestige in a recent retasting opportunity on the heels of a chance to restock at ridiculously low prices.
I have learned through experimentation and my fair share of insipidly weak wines, that the best of Beaujolais comes from the northern parts of this French winemaking region that otherwise carries an earned reputation for mass market, fruity, and acidic Gamay based wine. In almost sub-appellations of the more desireable northern appellation of Beaujolais-Villages are the Beaujolais Crus, vineyards or communes where the most delicious wines seem to emerge on a reliably consistent basis. One such Cru, Moulin-a-Vent (windmill in French and named that way due to its proximity to a local mill), has a reputation for producing Gamay grapes with longer term aging potential akin to advancing Burugundian Pinots.
A few weeks ago I was in the back room clearance section of a New Hampshire State wine outlet and found five stacked cases of the Duboeuf 2003 Moulin-a-Vent Cuvee Prestige with a mark-down price of $10. With a quickening heart rate, I looked over my shoulder in case I had to ward off anyone that might be racing in to grab the whole lot and lifted a case into my cart as great memories flashed in my head of past summers serving this red wine ever so slightly chilled with grilled lamb, duck, and boullibaise. I had no idea how good the storage was in this outlet, but figured a few years in closed cases in a decently sized warehouse created resonable odds for survival.
Last night I opened a bottle from this lot for the first time and was completely blown away, certain that I just stumbled on one of my top wine experiences of the year (read: discovery of highly desireable wine with advanced characteristics at ridiculously low price point). This Moulin-a-Vent had characteristic hues of age-rust on the edges of an overall dulling burgundy color that spoke to bottle age. I had to continually recheck the nose to convince myself that I was not imagining the exotic multidimensional aromas of clove, oregano, sandalwood incense, and my long time favorite smells of licorice rich Good & Plenty candy. All this combined with the characteristic advanced nose of earthy mushroom and slightly damp cardboard. The mouthfeel was smooth and rightfully evolved, offering a silky coating with appropriate amounts of lasting acid and a whoosh of alcoholic heat in the finish. Having tasted the wine young, I was clear on the ways it had sacrificed some of its earlier bright black fruit transforming the wine into an advanced showcase of its true character and terroir. AND, for me it was totally reminiscent of the great bottle aged US Pinots and Burgundys that I have tried; only at 1/5th-1/20th the price!
I am going back today with the suspicion that Southern New Hampshire has not all of a sudden discovered 2003 Beaujolais and at least a couple of cases are sitting in that exact same spot. I want to drink this wine regularly over the next few years and possibly longer. If you can get your hands on some, it could be the best investment in near term drinking of advanced and bottle aged wine you will ever find. For certain, find this wine in current releases of strong vintages and buy it by the case load.
I could not help pausing on the back label where it reads:
…its sumptuous palate promises a long evolution for this wine of great distinction
Now I can add Gamay and Duboeuf’s Moulin-a-Vent Cuvee Prestige to a memory bank of notably wonderful moments dotting a life of wine exploration and discovery. Go get some if you can.