The Best of Beaujolais
Today, we aim to draw back the curtain to showcase some of the very best of an often overlooked, and unfairly maligned region. The rise of Beaujolais Noveau in the 90s saw the celebrity and popularity of the Beaujolais region boom, however it also unfortunately tarnished the regions reputation, to the majority, for making world class wines. It was broadly painted with the cheap, bright, and cheerful brush, where it was written off as ‘this is what Beaujolais is, and nothing else’. However, as with most wine regions on this planet, there is always a skilful and passionate group, who quietly and confidently go about showcasing the potential of the region, all you have to do is dig a little deeper and look behind the curtain.
Our ‘Best of Beaujolais’ mixed case hopes to show you just a few of the great, characterful, and soulful wines that are being produced in and amongst the different crus of Beaujolais. The boom of Beaujolais Noveau, led to the overuse of chemicals and pesticides in vineyards all over the region, in order to consistently produce a homogenised and simple style of wine. However, this scouring of the vineyards, left the land and the wines lifeless and without identity, or soul. The winemakers we bring to you today, are amongst those fighting to regain the identity of the wines of Beaujolais, bringing life and personality back to their vineyards, and to their wines. These are serious wines, that should be decanted in order to truly experience all that the wines have to offer. This is Beaujolais as you have never tasted it before!
We kick things off in the largest cru in Beaujolais and arguably the finest, certainly when it comes to the consistent ability of the wines to age. Within the cru lies an extinct volcano, with its crushed blue granite soils. This gently rising peak is known as Py, which can produce some of the longest-lived wines of the region.
English couple, James and Sarah Wilding, took over the ancient estate of Grange Cochard in 2008. Prior to that the Chateau and its vineyards had fallen into disrepair. Together with their family, they set about restoring the building and investing in new machinery and equipment for the winery. With a clear passion for wine, and a deep appreciation and love of the estate’s heritage, and the area that they now call home, since 2008 the wines from James and Sarah have earned international recognition, and rightly so. They are committed to sustainable viticulture, unlike many in the region, and follow a policy of minimum intervention, using natural farming methods to nourish the soil and maintain a healthy and balanced eco-system. Traditionally the wines of the village are vinified quickly, but here a slower, gentler fermentation is preferred which brings out the individual character of the various vineyard plots and adds layer of nuance and complexity.
The Morgon Vieille Vigne, comes from vines averaging over 70 years old, and is aged entirely in the old oak foudre. It is sumptuous and elegant, with light touches of pepper. Luscious deep cherry, raspberry, strawberry and plums come through clearly on the palate and the complimentary tannins are silky and soft, with lovely minerality and life. Wonderfully balanced and expressive.
Richard Rottiers is without doubt one of the finest young producers in Beaujolais. Richard has winemaking in his blood, but he’s not actually from Beaujolais. Originally from Chablis, he went to the vineyards of Moulin-a-Vent, as he was aware of the great potential there. He created his domaine in 2007, taking on established vines aged between 40 and 80 years. Yields in Moulin-a-Vent are always naturally low, making this the most powerful, concentrated and long-lived of the Beaujolais cru. His driving passion has led to him running the domaine by a completely biodynamic philosophy and therefore, to vinify wines that are true to the noble nature of Moulin-a-Vent.
The ‘Champs de Cour’ is superb with hints of violets and roses complete with a wonderful complexity and more than a passing resemblance to Pinot Noir. Wonderful clarity and direction results in an approachable Beaujolais with far more depth and complexity than your standard Moulin a Vent! Even the Wine Advocate agrees, rewarding the 2013 Champ de Cour 93 points and saying ‘if you’ve not tasted Richard’s wines before then do yourself a favour’.
Jean Claude Lapalu is a master winemaker, and his bold and natural wine making process has been one of the big driving forces behind the seeming renaissance of Beaujolais in certain areas and for certain people. Jean-Claude’s personal journey started in 1996. His father and grand-father were viticulturists, who sold all their grapes to the local co-operatives. When Jean-Claude arrived at the estate in 1982, at first he simply carried on that tradition. In 1996 he decided to make his first wine by following all the usual rules, but discovered he hated it, it was Jean-Claude’s personal epiphany: the grapes which made the wine, he reasoned, had come from vineyards devoid of life with the over use of pesticides and herbicides. The wine had no expression, lacked any identity (it could have come from anywhere). The normal levels of sulphur he had used, further supressed the wine’s perfume and taste. Today, working completely organically, Jean- Claude has 12 hectares of vines, spread over many parcels and plots in the appellations of Beaujolais village, Brouilly and Cotes du Brouilly. The wines produced here now, are remarkable, and a testament to Jean-Claude’s belief and tenacity. His ‘journey’ to better understand both his wines and his vineyards using little more than belief in nature and a willingness to discover, is a lesson for anyone who loves and makes wines. He is regarded as ‘without-equal’, not only in Brouilly but throughout Beaujolais and is locally known as the ‘Boss of Brouilly’.
The 2013 Cuvee de Fous is 100% destemmed and made from vines that are over 100 years old. This is the most introspective and intriguing bouquet on the nose of his range. Blackberry, briary fruit are accompanied by limestone and flinty notes. The medium bodied palate is laced with supple and smooth tannins, surrounded by a core of very dark and pure berry fruits. Its sublime, the balance of tension and release, weight and levity. This is one of the finest examples of Beaujolais from Brouilly you will come across.
This is a six-bottle mixed case, containing 2x each of the following wines:
2012 Morgon Vieilles Vignes - £13.45 per bottle
2013 Moulin a Vent ‘Champ de Cour’ - £24.30 per bottle
2013 Brouilly ‘Cuvee de Fous’ - £21.70 per bottle
Normal Retail Price - £118.90