The ten crus of Beaujolais are Juliénas, Saint-Amour, Chénas, Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent. Morgon, Chiroubles, Regnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. For most people, these appellations won’t ring a bell, except maybe Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent.They represent about one-fourth of the total production in the Beaujolais region, with the smallest being Chénas (250ha) and the largest Brouilly (1300ha). For Beaujolais lovers however, this is were the magic happens, where you can discover the more complex wines that the region is capable of.
The tasting we recently organized focused on comparing biodynamic or natural wines from seven of these appellations (aside from the Beaujolais Nouveau clash). We looked for the producers who exerted a lot of influence over their appellation or the region in general, so the gang around Marcel Lapierre could not be left out. As we had tasted Lapierre’s Morgon in class already, it was not included. I tried to get all the wines of the gang, but unfortunately it seems that Breton is not imported in Belgium. Luckily, we found a couple of worthy replacements.
The first thing we noted during the tasting is that the differences between the appellations was enormous. Of course, some elements like little sour red cherries, pleasant fruit and juiciness are present in all the wines, but the structure of the wine is determined by terroir. Textbooks state that the main soil type in the Crus is granite which holds true for the most part, but even in granite you have different kinds, different compositions and minerality, factors that help each Cru to form its identity.
The major exceptions om the granite rule are Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. The soil here mainly consists of schist (pierres bleues), storing warmth during the day and distributing it during the night, a natural form of temperature control really. This can also be noted in the wine; the Brouilly Vieilles Vignes from Descombes 2010 for instance was less on the fruity side and more on earthy tones, firmly structured in the mouth. We discovered the same sensation in the Côte de Brouilly 2013 from Jean-Paul Brun, earthiness but substantial support from fruit later on. All in all this felt a bit more accessible and balanced, an honest, open wine that showed what makes Côte de Brouilly a unique Cru.
The most difficult Cru during the tasting was Fleurie. We tasted Julie Balagny’s En Rémont, already mentioned in a previous post, and the Fleurie 2012 from Métras. Both winemakers are friends, and this shows in their wines as first impressions were extremely similar. Very closed on the nose, even showing a bit of reduction. It did not really seem to improve with some time in the glass. The mouthfeel was very light in a positive way, delicate but juicy. I retasted En Rémont a couple of days later, and while the nose hadn’t evolved that much, the mouth was incredible, wide open, full of life and a true pleasure to drink. My advice would be to open the bottle in the morning if you plan on drinking them in the evening or to ask a waiter to decant them if you’d find them in a restaurant.
.A different kind of minerality can be found in Morgon. We tasted the Côte de Py 2012 from Foillard and the Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2011 from Thévenet. The minerality here is much more refined, elegant and nicely integrated with the fruit. The Thévenet took some time to open up but after a while you had lovely dark fruit balanced out by acidity and a nice supportive tannin structure. Foillard was even more refined, open from the start but more gentle, delicate little red berries and sour cherries which went very wide in the mouth. It is a wine with incredible depth and if it’s already delicious in this early stage, I can’t wait to try it again in a couple of years, that is if I am disciplined enough to stay away from my bottles!
Last but not least, this tasting confirmed that Beaujolais is very difficult to beat when it comes to finding good value wines. The Fleurie wines were the most expensive ones at 25 and 28 euros, but the average price of the rest of the wines was around 15 euros. These are wines that provide you with pure drinking pleasure, honest and open. Best of all, just putting your nose in the glass for that first sniff is often enough to put a smile on your face, and isn’t that what enjoying wine is all about?