Beaujolais Nouveau Kicks Off The Holidays

The third Thursday of November marks the beginning of the holiday season.

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! The new vintage of Beaujolais is here.

I have written on the value and phenomenon that is Beaujolais Nouveau. But, in addition, it is an opportunity to herald the greatness that Beaujolais can be.

Greatness and Beaujolais are two words that most wine drinkers would not put together. Yet if you ask the likes of Kermit Lynch and Chuck Furuya, Beaujolais can certainly be great. And I am not talking about how deliciously a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau pairs with turkey and cranberry dressing on the Thanksgiving table, or even about how perfect drinking a cool glass of Beaujolais Nouveau at a street party in Paris can be. There are some Beaujolais that are really fantastic wines, not just “porch pounders” or carafe wines that are simple and straightforward.

This Beaujolais is Cru Beaujolais. There are 10 unique communes in Beaujolais that make wine that stand out from the rest of the crowd in the region of Beaujolais: Regnie, Fleurie, Morgon, Moulin a Vent, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, St. Amour, Julienas, Chenas and Chiroubles. Each has their own specific “terroir” and character that merit their distinction and all made from the Gamay grape. Yet, it is not just the name of the village that makes any of these specific wines great; one must also pay attention to the producer.

As in any trade, there are some producers who make things well, and then there are those who make things that are coveted and looked upon as reference standards. The following is a short list of ones that are worth seeking out as well as being producers whom I have personally visited over the years, so I make no excuse for knowing the wines intimately. Yet, if it were not for the quality of the wine, the soul they represent and character that they give to the maligned Gamay grape, they would not be included on this list.

In Fleurie, I have not tasted any better than from Domaine Chignard. Their Fleurie “Les Moriers” is something very special. Its name evokes character to begin with, but flowers certainly play a huge role in the wine’s aroma and flavor, along with sweet plum and freshly crushed cranberries. It is seductively silky on the palate with an effortless texture and satisfying fruit finish. It has elegance comparable to Pinot Noir and a fruitiness that is incomparable.

Moulin a Vent is known as the most structured of the Cru Beaujolais and the one that can age the longest. At Domaine Diochon, there are no hard angles in the wine. It has a pure, black-and-red fruit character along with a sense of wet, heated stones. It has a deep, piercing dimension of ripeness and an almost black-fruit flavor akin to currants and a hint of spice. Most wonderful with some jambon persillee and even some stewed meat or sausage.

On the slopes of Cote de Brouilly my heart is split by two domains. On an estate on the hill sits Chateau Thivin, where the Geoffray family has been making wine since 1877 though the estate itself has walls dating back to the 14th century. Here the wines are generous and welcoming, much like the Geoffray family itself. The wine is joyful with fruit, exuberant even along with a regal not of reserved intensity. It packs black currants and sweet plum alongside a hint of earth.

At Nicole Chanrion’s Domaine de la Voute des Crozes the wine is a bit more “feminine,” with softer edges and a smile inspiring fruitiness that is undeniable.

Morgon is perhaps my favorite of the Crus. There is certainly no shortage of great producers here. The “Gang of Four” has forever made its mark. Foillard, Thevenet, Breton and Lapierre all can be inspiring producers. Alas, Marcel Lapierre lost his battle with cancer last month, but his son Mathieu will no doubt continue his legacy.

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