Two tastings in the Beaujolais to start the year.
The Beaujolais has for many years had a special place in our hearts for the sheer drinkability of the wines so we were really looking forward to a quick visit to taste the 2017 harvest, now in bottle, and a couple of wines from the 2018 vintage.
The first tasting was at Didier Desvignes’ estate Domaine Calvaire de Roche Gres just outside of Villie Morgon. We arrived on a glorious sunny day, cool but ideal for tasting with high pressure. Didier was busy in the cellar when we got there so he suggested his wife Denise show us the wines and he would come to answer questions a little later.
She opened up with a barrel aged white Beaujolais 2017 (Chardonnay) which originates from the extreme north of the Beaujolais where the vineyards overlap with those of the Maconnais. The barrel was very well integrated into the wine and although there was a trace of the wood on the nose, the wine was fresh and mostly unmarked by the wood influence save to say that it had a rich finish. The bouquet was very open and rounded and the palate was rich and mineral and finished with great length. Next to this we tasted a Beaujolais Blanc 2017 but made without barrel. The bouquet was very fresh and lively with white flowers foremost in the bouquet. The palate also was very fresh and bright with mineral notes again. The hallmark of this wine was simply the freshness which made the palate come alive. According to Denise this would be perfect with a carpaccio of scallops or fish simply steamed.
Next came something of a rarity, a Beaujolais Villages Rose 2018 but made without sulphur dioxide. Making wines without sulphur is something which Didier is now doing more often, natural wines as he calls them which are not only pure expressions of fruit but also vegan-friendly. The wine was a pale salmon colour, very attractive in the glass and bottled under a glass stopper so no chance of being corked. The nose was abundant with red fruit aromas. On the palate the wine was extremely supple, again with abundant red fruit. It was soft, chewy and fresh with a clean and fruity finish. A great wine for the coming summer.
Then it was time for the red wines. The opener was a Fleurie Cuvee Nature Sans Souffre 2018 – an unsulphured Fleurie which was served at around 15 degrees. Because it was so young and without the Sulphur, the wine had massive amounts of red fruit flavours with a bright and fresh acidity. A terrific wine. This we compared to a Fleurie Les Garants 2017 which is a parcel of 65 year old vines. After a malolactic fermentation in barrel, the wine was then aged there for around 6 months. The result was a fuller, rounder wine with good fruit and a juicy acidity. Two excellent wines for different occasions.
Next came a Brouilly Cuvee la Chapelle 2017, a 2 hectare parcel of vines adjacent to the 10th and 11th century chapel of Saint Pierre. Normally Brouilly is one of the lightest of the cru wines but not in this case. This was bold, full flavoured and with a big under-pinning mineral streak supporting the fruit. A first class offering.
Then we had 2 wines from the home terroir of Morgon, the first Les Charmes 2017 made without barrique and the second a Clos des Charmes 2017 aged in barrique Both were superb, the unoaked wine being soft, fruity and chewy that was really easy to drink. The Clos des Charmes had far more complexity and depth with a big, savoury finish. Again, wines for different occasions.
Moulin a Vent 2017 aged in large oak foudres was the penultimate wine. The nose had the tell-tale hint of Moulin a Vent with notes of cigar box in the bouquet over ripe, red fruits. A very easy drinking wine that has plenty of time to develop.
Lastly it was back to Morgon and the Clos des Charmes but from 2011 vintage and with no oak influence. A stunning wine and proof if any were needed that Beaujolais is for ageing as well as young drinking. Long, complex and truly first class. It drank like a mature red Burgundy and was a very fitting way to finish a tasting.
Thanks and compliments to Didier and Denise for a spectacular tasting of their wines. We went for a little walk after this to see the vineyards which finished with a section of the Stations of the Cross in their vineyards behind the church in the small hamlet of Saint Joseph.
We made a quick dash then to see Alain Coudert at Clos de la Roilette in Fleurie. Alain is a very gently spoken man with a great talent for producing Fleurie in his vineyards bordering on Moulin a Vent.
The tasting began with wines of the 2018 vintage tasted from barrel to get an idea of the vintage. It is a bold and rich vintage with plenty of dark fruit and, depending on the vineyard site, varying degrees of spice notes.
When we came to tasting from bottle, it was back to the 2017 vintage and Brouilly was the starting point. This wine was light as you’d expect and really easy drinking with good chewy fruit and some slight medicinal edge in the finish.
Then it was a run of his three different cuvees of Fleurie beginning with the 2017 Cuvee Classique Clos de la Roilette. What a gem. It was laden with soft sweet fruit with notes of leather above and some hints of spice and liquorice. The wine finishes with soft fruit flavours backed by some decent tannins. A great wine for now but it will be even better after a couple of years.
Next came the Cuvee Tardive 2017, not so called because it’s made from late harvested grapes but because these are some of the oldest vines of the property. It has a fuller, riper nose of deliciously sweet berry fruit. It was chewy and soft yet with good structure and great persistence in the finish.
Lastly came the 2017 Griffe de Marquis cuvee. This special cuvee comes from a parcel of vines planted in the 1930’s and it was first made in 2009. The wine was aged for 13 months in Burgundian oak barrels that range in age from 2 to 6 years. The wine has opulent notes of flowers and small red berries with a backbone of richer fruit such as blackberry and cherry. It has a complex palate with hints of cooked fruits, a touch of vanilla and liquorice. Richly textured with fine, round and ripe tannins, the wine finishes with a soft and long aftertaste. A truly exceptional wine built for the future but extremely enjoyable now.
How could we top that? Well Alain had a superb idea and took us for lunch at Le Cep, a restaurant in the centre of the village that is the centerpiece of village life, with a bottle of 2009 Griffe de Marquis that had the locals queueing up for a small glass! A truly exceptional bottle of wine that drank like a top end red Burgundy from a great vintage.
To sum up, the Beaujolais has got some exceptional wines to offer at present both for drinking now and also for keeping for the future. The new passion of Didier Desvignes for Natural Wines is something that we believe will be seen more and more over the coming years and not just from the Beaujolais but from many areas of the world.
Just as a footnote, on our way back from the next part of your journey in the Cote d’Or we stopped overnight at an hotel in Tournus, Le Terminus which was simple but with good food. There we had a Chiroubles from Didier Desvignes , another cuvee of natural wine from the 2018 vintage. It was simply stunning and just the ticket to wash down a simple steak frites. We enjoyed!!