Beaujolais


Beaujolais-Villages occupies the middle-ground between the immediate fruity appeal of regular Beaujolais and the more complicated nuances and character of the Cru Beaujolais wines, the latter of which are often capable of aging for a few years and increasing their depth and Imprimerdimension. One of the best-known producers of Beaujolais wines at every level is Georges Duboeuf, and merely because the output of his companies is enormous and ubiquitous does not merit scorn. An example of the way that Duboeuf’s people can craft well-made wines is the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2015, from a vintage that was almost too perfect with a very warm summer — I suppose that “very warm” means “hot” — encouraging the gamay grapes to luscious but not overblown ripeness. Perhaps this is a case of the year making the wines and the winemakers getting out of the way. The Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2015 offers a radiant hue of deep purple with a blue-magenta cast; aromas of ripe and smoky blackberries and currants are permeated by notes of cloves, raspberry leaf and graphite, while the wine slides across the palate with silky aplomb. Adding to the wine’s solid personality is a real depth of foresty, briery and brambly elements and dark loamy underpinnings, though the structural qualities lent by these aspects detract not a whit from the wine’s delicious nature. 13.5 percent alcohol. Super attractive and intriguingly textured for drinking through 2018 with roasted chicken; rabbit, duck or pork terrines; roasted pork loin; or a variety of tapas-like appetizers. Excellent. About $13, representing Great Value.

Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

So, My Readers, here is my annual list of the Great Wine Bargains from the previous year, except that, instead of offering you 25 examples, as I usually do, I provide 30, because there are so many excellent inexpensive wines available. The prices here range from $11 to $20. and while I realize that for some people even $18 to $20 stretches what they want to pay for a bottle of wine, I believe that you will find something on this roster fit for most every taste and pocket book. This is a gratifyingly diverse group of wines, and for the first time I welcome products from Brazil, Greece and Hungary to the line-up. Many of these examples are wines to buy by the case and keep around for a year for drinking daily, though, honestly, the point of most of these wines is not to make old bones. The primary theme is: Drink Up and Enjoy. Sensibly, of course, and in moderation.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
aia
Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2015, Toscana Maremma, Italy. Very Good+. About $12.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
alpha
Alpha Estate Turtles Vineyard Malagouzia 2015, Florina, Macedonia, Greece. 100 percent malagouzia grapes. Excellent. About $18.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
ascevi-cerou-friulano-label
Ascevi Luwa Ronco Superiore Ceròu 2014, Friuli Isonza, Italy. 100% tocai friulano grapes. Production was 500 cases. Excellent. About $18.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
furmint
Béres Tokaji Furmint 2014, Szaraz, Hungary. 100 percent furmint grapes. Excellent. About $19.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
15_VinGris_Domestic_750
Bonny Doon Vineyard Vin Gris de Cigare 2015, Central Coast. 44 percent grenache grapes, 20 percent grenache blanc, 13 carignane, 10 mourvèdre, 7 cinsaut and 6 roussanne. Excellent. About $18.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
colome-torrontes
Colomé Torrontés 2015, Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina. Excellent. About $15.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
grf140_nv_lbl
Garofoli Serra del Conte 2014, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico, Italy. Excellent. About $11.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
duret
Domaine Pierre Duret Quincy 2014, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent sauvignon blanc. Excellent. About $14.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
duas
Esporão Duas Castas 2014, Alentejano, Portugal. 60 percent arinto grapes and 40 percent gouveio, Excellent. About $14.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
csm_pinot_grigio_2005_riserva_7895065a86
Marco Felluga “Mongris” Pinot Grigio 2015, Collio, Italy. Excellent. About $18.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
illahe
Illahe Viognier 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $17.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
beaujolais_village_btl_535px
Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2014. Excellent. About $14.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2014_lff_tempranillo
Lee Family Farm Temprnillo 2014, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 53 cases produced. Excellent. About $20.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
lidio
Lidio Carraro Agnus Tannat 2014, Serra Guacha, Brazil. Very Good+. About $12.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
msi_rose_dei_masi_btl
Masi Rosa dei Masi 2015, Rosato della Venezia, Italy. 100 percent refosco grapes. Excellent. About $15.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
gemma-rose
Masciarelle Villa Gemma 2015, Cerasuola d’Abruzzo Rose, Italy. 100 percent montepulciano d’Aruzzo grapes. Excellent. About $15.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
francois-montand-brut
Francois Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs nv, Jura, France. Very Good+. About $14.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
morgan_label_albarino_2015_front-1
Morgan Albarino 2015, Monterey County. 375 cases. Excellent. About $18.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
m-cb
M de Mulonnière Chenin Blanc 2015, Anjou, Loire Valley, France. Excellent. About $15.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
forster
Weingut Eugen Müller Forster Mariengarten Riesling Kabinett 2013, Pfalz, Germany. Excellent. About $19.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
armador-sauvignon-blanc-2013-bottle
Odfjell Vineyards Armador Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Casablanca Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $14.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
pedroncelli
Pedroncelli Winery Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2015, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $12,

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
puyanche-blanc-sec
Chateau Puyanché 2014, Francs Cote de Bordeaux Blanc. 75% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon. Excellent. About $15.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
rc-temp-2013-ft
Real Compania de Vinos Tempranillo 2012, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, Spain. Very Good+. About $12.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
selvapiana
Selvapiana Chianti Rufina 2013, Toscana, Italy. 95 percent sangiovese grapes with five percent canaiolo, colorino and malvasia nera. Excellent. About $17.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
schneider
Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Paterberg Riesling Kabinett 2013, Rheinhessen, Germany. Excellent. About $15.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
serres-rioja
Carlos Serres Crianza 1012, Rioja, Spain. 85 percent tempranillo, 15 percent garnacha. Very Good+. About $12.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
traminpinotgrigionvlabel_1013-1
Cantina Tramin Pinot Grigio 2015, Sudtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
cava
Vilarnau Brut Reserve Cava, nv. Traditional blend of 50 percent macabeo grapes, 35 percent parellada and 15 percent xarel-lo. Very Good+. About $13.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
vr-label-13-red4_front
Vina Robles Red4 2013, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. 41 percent petite sirah, 40 percent syrah, 10 percent mourvedre, 9 percent grenache. Excellent. About $17.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

So, here it is, My Readers, the annual “50 Great Wines” roster, presently for the past year, that is, 2016. Not the “Greatest” of all wines or the “Best” of all wines, but a selection of 50 products that struck me as embodying everything we want in a wine: freshness, balance, appeal; depth, personality and character; an adherence to the nature of the grapes and, where possible, the virtues of the vineyard and climate. These are wines that leave aside the ego of the winemaker and producer for an expression of — not to sound too idealistic — an ideal of what a wine should be. I won’t belabor the process by which I arrived at this list of 50 wines, except to say that every wine I rated “Exceptional” during 2016 is automatically included. Did I leave out wines that I truly admired? Indeed, I did, because this list focuses on wines that I truly loved. Enjoy!
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
acorn-2013-heritage-vines-zinfandel-rgb-72dpi
Acorn Heritage Vines Alegria Vineyard Zinfandel 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 78 percent zinfandel, 12 percent alicante bouschet, 8 percent petite sirah and 2 percent a combination of carignane, trousseau, sangiovese, petit bouschet, negrette, syrah, black muscat, cinsault and grenache. A real field blend. Production was 548 cases. Excellent. About $45.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
gratien
Alfred Gratien Brut Rose nv, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $65.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
0000098_sauvignon-blanc
Arrow&Branch Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $35.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
bk-chard
Black Kite Cellars Soberanes Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Production was 212 cases. Exceptional. About $48.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
bns12c_bottle_180x579px
Bonny Doon Bien Nacido X-Block Syrah 2012, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. Exceptional. About $50.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
orestano-pn
R. Buoncristiani Vineyard Orentano Pinot Noir 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 305 cases made. Excellent. About $40.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
lescadrans_de_lassegue_bottle-2-2-232x800
Les Cadrans de Lassegue 2012, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux. Merlot and cabernet franc. Excellent. About $35.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
cdr_13pnoir-weblowres
Champ de Rêves Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Exceptional. About $45.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
chartogne
Chartogne-Taillet “Heurtebise” Blanc de Blancs Brut 2008, Champagne, France. Exceptional. About $65 to $80.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
julienas_12_web
Domaine Chignard “Beauvernay” 2014, Julienas, Beaujolais Cru. Excellent. About $22.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
cs12mcwlweb
Cornerstone Cellars Michael’s Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley. Production was under 250 cases. Exceptional. About $75.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
era_btl_sv_ph-png_store
Erath Winery Prince Hill Pinot Noir 2012, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $50.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
etu_12fiddlestix_pinot_nv_400x126
Etude Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Sta. Rita Hills. Exceptional, About $45.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
eve-essence
Eve’s Cidery Essence Ice Cider, Finger Lakes, New York. 390 cases produced. Exceptional. About $28.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
fields
Fields Family Wines Old Vine Zinfandel 2013, Lodi. 250 cases made. Excellent. About $28.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
gamble
Gamble Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $25.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
barb
Tenute Cisa Asinari Marchesi di Grésy Martinenga Camp Gros Riserva Barbaresco 2010, Piedmont, Italy. Exceptional. About $106.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
inman-ogv
Inman Family OGV Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley. Excellent. About $73.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
jayson-cab-label
Jayson Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $75.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
luscher
Luscher-Ballard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 200 cases produced. Excellent. About $80.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
lutum_2013_web-2-183x619
Lutum La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Sta. Rita Hills. Production was 225 cases. Excellent. About $50.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
macphail-logo
MacPhail Wightman House Pinot Noir 2013, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Production was 100 cases. Exceptional. About $55.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
alsace-1
Frederic Mallo Vielles Vignes Rosacker Riesling 2010, Alsace Grand Cru. Excellent. About $23.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
merisi
Merisi Wines Denner Vineyard Petite Sirah 2013, Lake County. 100 cases produced. About $35.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
montelena-riesling
Chateau Montelena Riesling 2015, Potter Valley. About $25.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
nerthe-2
Chateau La Nerthe 2014, Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc. 40 percent each grenache blanc and roussanne, 10 percent each clairette and bourboulenc. Excellent. About $65.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
patz_hall_hyde_pinot_noir2_1024x1024
Patz & Hall Vineyard Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Carneros-Napa Valley. Excellent. About $70.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
prv_lepetitclos_chard_sld_main
Pine Ridge Le Petit Clos Chardonnay 2013, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $75.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
pol-roger-brut-rose-bottle
Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve Brut Rose 2004, Champagne, France. Excellent. About $80-$100.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
montezargues-2012-website-1
Prieure de Montezargues 2014, Tavel Rose. 55 percent red and white grenache, 30 percent cinsault, 13 percent clairette, 2 percent melange of syrah, mourvedre, carignane and bourboulenc. Excellent. About $24.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
red-newt
Red Newt Cellars Tango Oaks Vineyard Riesling 2013, Finger Lakes, New York. About $24.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________
german-2
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Josephshoff Riesling Kabinett 2012, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $23.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
rmw_2013_cabernetsauvignon_oakville_lowres
Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley. 81 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent cabernet franc, 2 percent each malbec, petit verdot and merlot. Excellent. About $60.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2014 Romb_SB_f+b_v5
Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Napa Valley. Excellent. About $24.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
logo_saxon_brown_copper
Saxon Brown Durell Vineyard Hayfield Block Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma Coast. Fewer than 100 cases. Exceptional. About $48.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
sedition-bottle-of-wine2
Sedition Chenoweth Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. 230 cases produced. Exceptional. About $75.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
seed
The Seed Malbec 2014, Altamira District, Uco Valley, Argentina. 59 cases made. Excellent. About $60.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
smith-madrone-chardonnay
Smith-Madrone Chardonnay 2013, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. Production was 806 cases. Exceptional. About $32.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
stonestreet-sb
Stonestreet Estate Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $35.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
stony-hill-chard-label
Stony Hill Chardonnay 2013, Napa Valley. Production was 1,852 cases. Exceptional. About $45.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
3-sticks-durell
Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. 585 cases produced. Exceptional. About $65.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
tongue-dancer
Tongue Dancer Wines Pinot Noir 2013, Sonoma Coast. Production was 125 cases. Exceptional. About $45.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
troon
Troon Vineyards Vermentino Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Applegate Valley, Southern Oregon. 80 percent vermentino, 20 percent sauvignon blanc. 176 cases produced. Excellent. About $24.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2-sheps
Two Shepherds Catie’s Corner Viognier 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Production was 75 cases. Exceptional. About $26.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
02_85432_f
Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc 2013, Russian River Valley. 12.9% alc. Roussanne 50%, marsanne 25%, viognier 13%, grenache blanc 6%, grenache gris 6%. Production was 100 cases. Exceptional. About $30.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
carignanrose15-f_ttb
Two Shepherds Trimble Vineyard Carignan Rosé 2015, Mendocino County. Production was 50 cases. Exceptional. About $22.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
ws-westside-road
Williams Selyem Westside Road Neighbors Pinot Noir 2014, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Exceptional. About $55.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
poete
Guillaume Sorbe “Les Poëte” 2014, Quincy, Loire Valley, France. Sauvignon blanc. Exceptional. About $30.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
windracer
WindRacer Pinot Noir 2012, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. 1,007 cases produced. Exceptional. About $50.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
zena-259
Zena Crown Vineyard Conifer Pinot Noir 2013, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Production was 240 cases. Excellent. About $75.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Beaujolais, like all of Gaul, is divided into three parts, or perhaps the better word would be categories. The basic level is just “Beaujolais,” widely available, the darling of the bistro carafe, and made from grapes grown on the flatter areas in the western part of the region. (This is south of Burgundy, abutting the Côte Mâconnais.) Straight Beaujolais should be simple, grapy and agreeable. Next higher on the scale and presumably better quality is the category of Beaujolais-Villages, made from vineyards in the hills to the north. Best are the Cru Beaujolais, derived from 10 communes that occupy privileged locations in these northern hills. The red grape here is the Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc; a minuscule amount of Beaujolais Blanc is made from chardonnay grapes. Also, of course, there is Beaujolais Nouveau, the fresh, just-after-harvest quaffer of which altogether too much is made every November. The Cru commune wines are Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Regnié and Saint-Amour. The name on the label will be the name of the commune; the term “Beaujolais” frequently is not mentioned. Today, we look at two examples from Côte de Brouilly and Juliénas, each representing Good Value.

Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, Berkeley, Calif. Samples for review.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The grapes for the Domaine Chignard “Beauvernay” Juliénas 2014 were grown in vineyards 60 years old and more. The estate was founded in julienas_12_web 1900 and produces only 3,000 cases annually. The wine aged 13 months in old foudres, that is to say, large barrels of various dimensions. The color is light transparent ruby; on the nose, a glorious melange of strawberries and mint, iodine and loam, smoke, briers and brambles weaves a spell, unfolding, as the moments pass, notes of red licorice and a distillation of rose petals. Yeah, it’s pretty damned heady stuff, but with undertones of darkness, the rasp of raspberry leaf, the tug of graphite on the palate and brisk acidity, yet, withal, a model of elegance and delicacy. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $22.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Established in 1877, this domaine harvests grapes from vineyards that average 50 years in age and are situated on slopes of 48 degrees; thivin_cotedebrouilly_novintage10_12dot5alc_web
people, that’s steep. The Chateau Thivin Côte de Brouilly 2014 aged six months in old foudres. A medium ruby hue fades to a lighter, almost transparent rim; the wine features a fresh cherry-berry nose that deepens with aspects of iodine, loam and dried thyme, raspberries and black cherries. On the palate, the wine displays appealing silky heft and substance; it’s lively and dynamic, imbued with earthy, rooty notes of leather and oolong tea and bringing in shadings of woody spices, heather, forest flowers and blueberries. 13 percent alcohol. A lovely Cru Beaujolais that shyly offers a serious side. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $22.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Now that the maniacal devotion to Beaujolais nouveau seems to be diminishing, people who love Beaujolais_Village_btl_535pxBeaujolais can order and drink the real stuff without feeling abashed. The region, south of Mâconnais in central-eastern France — there’s actually a continuous narrow geographic and vinous entity that extends from Burgundy south through the Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais — produces wine in three qualitative categories: basic Beaujolais (the grapes generally comes from the south or Bas Beaujolais); Beaujolais-Villages (the grapes are a blend derived from slopes in the northern area of Beaujolais); and Cru Beaujolais (which comes from vineyards in one of 10 villages in the north that have their own AOC status and display the name of the village on the label). A tiny amount of Beaujolais blanc is made from chardonnay grapes, but the rest of these are red wines made from the gamay grape, or as it is formally known gamay noir à jus blanc. Our wine today is the Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2014, a wine that includes dollops of juice from Cru vineyards. The color is dark ruby shading to a lighter violet rim; aromas of freshly-picked black cherries, raspberries and plums convey a pleasing freight of woody spices and a dusting of sage and thyme. This is a dry wine, almost succulent in its black and red fruit flavors but checked by bright acidity and a hint of lean, graphite-infused tannins. As moments pass, the wine expands its offering of floral elements in rose petals and lilac. 12.5 percent alcohol. A truly charming wine with intriguing dark edges and corners. I drank a glass or two of this wine last night as accompaniment to a summery pasta with an uncooked sauce of fresh tomatoes, endive, garlic and basil, marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar and red pepper flakes. Now through 2017 into 2018. Excellent. About $14, a Distinct Value.

Imported by Kobrand Wine and Spirits, Purchase, N.Y. A sample for review.

At first, your reaction to the deep ruby-magenta Stéphane Aviron Beaujolais-Villages 2013 will be, “Oh, goody, pure black raspberries avironand black cherries!” Why ask for more, right? Give it a few moments in the glass, though, and notes of cloves, lavender and violets creep in, followed by tinges of graphite and loam. A little plum, dark and spicy; a bit of cranberry, fresh and tart. It’s a tasty wine, actually delicious, but quite dry, with a definite mineral edge to the lithe finish. 13 percent alcohol. The wine is made from 100 percent gamay grapes, as it must be in Beaujolais, from vines 50 years old and older. It undergoes whole-cluster fermentation and ages briefly in old 50 hectoliter puncheons, that is, large barrels that hold 1,320.86 gallons; the standard French oak barrel for aging wine holds 59 gallons. The point is that the wine should possess shape and tone — much like human beings — but no taint of wood to inhibit freshness and flavor. Beaujolais-Villages is a versatile wine; we drank this with last night’s pizza of basil, roasted fennel and red onions with three cheeses and a dash of peppered salami. Really charming. Very Good+. About $15, a local purchase.

Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York, whose website has not caught up to the vintage of the wine under discussion.

The cash-cow of Beaujolais Nouveau jumped over the moon Thursday, the third Thursday of November being the regulated release day for the first wine after harvest of the gamay grapes in the bucolic French region of Beaujolais. Much ink had been expended in maligning the supposedly fresh fruity quaff, especially in its role of submerging or obliterating recognition of the fine wines produced in the 10 cru villages of Beaujolais, and I have spilled my share of that ink in such service. What was once a local ritual to celebrate the harvest turned, through canny marketing and overproduction, into a world-wide phenomenon that approached frenzy. The wine, let’s say frankly, is not worth that promotional upheaval. On the other hand, there’s not a thing wrong with enjoying a glass or two of Beaujolais Nouveau under rational — that is, non-hysterical — circumstances. Since the wine is released shortly before the American feast called Thanksgiving, there’s a tendency to link the two, and while Beaujolais Nouveau is not my choice for the late November groaning board — I go with pinot noir and riesling and zinfandel not in the blockbuster vein, preferably wines with zippy acidity — a well-made and classy Beaujolais Nouveau would not be amiss. I mean, let’s face it; you’re going to drink what you want to anyway, n’est-ce pas? Here are reviews, then, of two of the most broadly available Beaujolais Nouveau wines for 2014.

These wines were samples for review. Image from petitnuagemyblog.blogspot.com.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Open a bottle of the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2014, and you smell the bubble gum and bananas from a foot away. The color is a glowing yet fairly dark purple-magenta; fortunately, aromas of mulberries, raspberries and red currants are also present, and they persist into the mouth, where the wine is dark and spicy on the palate. This is quite dry, in fact almost austere on the finish, and lacks what I think should be the essential qualities of Beaujolais Nouveau — freshness and charm. 12 percent alcohol. Good only. About $11.
Imported by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, White Plains, N.Y.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The color of the Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 is radiant medium purple-violet; the bouquet weaves mulberries, red currants and red cherries with echoes of black currants and cherries in a spicy, up-lifting package; this rendition of Beaujolais Nouveau feels classic, grapey, yes, but a little earthy and with a touch of graphite minerality for structure. It’s not delicate, but it is charming, almost elegant. Clearly my favorite of this pair under review. 12.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $12.
Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby, New York.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Vintage 2009 in Beaujolais received a tremendous amount of praise as the “best year ever” or “the vintage of the century” — it’s a pretty short century so far — and other superlatives, and indeed 2009 produced terrific wines across the board, but in its way, 2010 may have resulted in even deeper more structured wines. Perhaps I’m rushing to judgment, basing this conclusion on an excessively limited number of examples, but I was very impressed by the wines mentioned in this post and their character and their eloquent expression of the gamay grape, or, to give its full name, gamay noir à jus blanc, called thus because while the skin is dark, the flesh is pale.

As well known as it is, especially for the frothy, forgettable Beaujolais nouveau released on the third Thursday of November, Beaujolais is somewhat of an outsider. It’s often considered to be part of Burgundy, that region’s southernmost area, below Chalonnais and Maconnais, yet Beaujolais could alternatively be counted as the northernmost wine region of the Rhône départment; mainstream Burgundy, including Chalonnais and Maconnais, lies in the next down départment of Saône et Loire. In addition to that geographical anomaly, Beaujolais devotes itself with almost fanatical monoculturalism to the gamay grape, while the rest of Burgundy, with equally focused devotion, cultivates chardonnay and pinot noir. (Yes, a tiny amount of chardonnay goes into Beaujolais Blanc.)

Three of the wines I discuss in today’s post are Beaujolais Cru wines, that is, they derive from one of the 10 villages or communes that produce the top echelon of the region’s gamay wines; the fourth example is a “regular” Beaujolais. Making the third category and falling between Beaujolais and the Cru wines is Beaujolais-Villages. The Cru communes occupy the best hillside sites in the northern area of the Beaujolais region; they are, going from north to south, Saint-Amour, Juliènas, Chenas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Côte de Brouilly and Brouilly.

These wines would be perfect with the food we associate with Autumn’s chill, braised and roasted meats, hearty casseroles and game birds.

The wines mentioned here were imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Ca.; they were tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event. I apologize for the lack of the diacritical marking on Maconnais; WordPress just would not allow an “a” with a circumflex.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Forget all your conceptions of “straight” Beaujolais as light-hearted, grapey, quaffable stuff. The Dupeuble Beaujolais 2010, made from vines ranging from 50 to 100 years old, is very evocative, dark and smoky, seething with blackberry, currant and blueberry scents and flavors laden with cloves and sandalwood and a distinct earthy-minerally-briery quality. Quite dense and chewy for a Beaujolais, this displays great character and presence and a long finish packed with rhubarb, blueberry tart and graphite; vibrant acidity provides a taut structure. This received not a scrap of oak, fermenting and aging in cement vats and stainless steel tanks. Alcohol content is 12.5 percent. Drink now through 2014 or ’15. Very Good+. About $16.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Wow, the Chateau Thivin Côte de Brouilly 2010 exudes the power of the grape, the vine, the earth that harbored and nourished the roots. Oh, right, call me a romantic, but this is one of those wines that feels as if the soil and bedrock not only influenced its personality and character but seeped up the vines into the grapes themselves and thence into your glass. Made from vines that average 50 years old and aged six months in foudres — large barrels of various dimensions — the Thivin Côte de Brouilly 2010 is dense, dark, smoky, spicy and chewy, almost brooding in nature, though that aspect is beautifully balanced by the brightness and immediacy of ripe, vivid black currant and black raspberry flavors permeated by notes of dusty briers and brambles and by lip-smacking acidity. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $24.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Jean-Paul Thévenet Vieilles Vignes — “Old Vines” — Morgon 2010 is unusually large-framed, resonant and dry, even for Morgon, usually cited as the biggest and most structured of the Beaujolais Cru wines. O.K., so, multi-dimensioned, richly detailed, vibrant, with a ravishing fleshy, meaty, spicy bouquet, all slightly exotic black and blue fruit, violets and rose petals, and then a seductive firmness and viscosity to the texture. The grapes came from two parcels of vines, one 45 years old, the other 110 (!) years old, and you feel that age and maturity, that sense of knowledge and experience, to be anthropomorphic about it, in the wine’s depth, in its grip and generosity. The wines at this estate, founded in 1870, receive long skin contact and age six to eight months in old Burgundian barrels, deriving from those processes rich color, heady aromas and a supple structure. If you are one of those who do not deign to drink Beaujolais, this one may change your mind, though that assertion holds true for all of these wines. Best from 2012/13 to 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $35.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Another “wow” for the Domaine Diochon Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Moulin-à-Vent 2010, a Beaujolais Cru wine that radiates purity and intensity. Again, this is broad and deep, dark and dense, intense and concentrated and revealing loads of character. What makes it different from the other Beaujolais Cru wines in this post? I would say that it’s distinguished structurally by not only the typical briery-brambly and earthy qualities but by an unusually sharply-etched dusty floral-graphite-granite element that gives the wine real point and grip and beguilement. Still, the wine would benefit from a little age, even a year, so try from 2012 or ’13 through 2018 to ’20. Alcohol content is 13 percent. Excellent. About $25.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


A year ago I tasted through a range of Georges Duboeuf’s Cru Beaujolais wines from 2009, both in the well-known “flower” label series — on which the floral aspect has gradually diminished over the years — and from single-vineyard estates. Last week, I had the opportunity to try many of those wines again, at a wholesaler’s trade event, and among them was the flower label or “regular” Juliénas 2009 that I had not tasted last August. I thought the conjunction provided a way of investigating what a year in the bottle had done to two of the estate-grown Juliénas wines and compare them to the regular model I just tasted.
The wines of Georges Duboeuf are imported by W.J. Deutsch & Sons, N.Y.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Georges Duboeuf Juliénas 2009 offers a characteristic deep ruby color with a violet-magenta glow. Violets seem to be a theme, because there’s a hint of violets in the bouquet, along with notes of strawberry and mulberry, touches of red and black cherries and a slight briery quality. Those cherries, ripe and succulent, come out in the wine’s flavor aspect, adding layers of smoke, plums, more briers and brambles. The wine is juicy but dry, with keen acidity and a bit of slightly gamy earthiness providing anchor. Drink now through 2013 or ’14 with omelets, pates and terrines – or rabbit fricassée, which is what I ate when I had the Georges Duboeuf Julienas 1983 — my first Beaujolais Cru — at my birthday dinner in 1984. Here’s a link to a post about that wine and occasion. Very Good+. About $15.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
A year ago, I wrote of Duboeuf’s Juliénas La TrinQuée 2009 that it was a wine of particular purity and intensity, resonance and vibrancy. It offers, paradoxically, the warmth of ripe, fleshy, meaty black and red fruit flavors with the coolness of granite and peat. Immensely appealing, powerful without being forceful, elegant without being fragile. Now through 2015 or ’16. Twelve months have lent the wine more heft and “darkness” in the form of additional graphite-tinged rooty, mossy, foresty, spicy elements though its beguiling notes of roses and violets, blackberries and mulberries and strawberry bubblegum have lost none of their allure. The wine is beautifully knit, vibrant and still tremendously appealing. 2015 or ’16 also still seems right. Excellent. About $16.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
I was not so fond of the Georges Duboeuf Juliénas Chateau des Capitans 2009 last August, writing Oh, it certainly displays tremendous purity and intensity — it practically vibrates in the glass — but in its wheatmeal-earthy-minerally nature, its rollicking spice and dusty, chewy tannins, I find it atypical of its grape and commune. It’s not enough merely to take the virtues of those essential entities and pump them up like sluggers on steroids. Or perhaps it just needs some time to find company manners, say from 2012 or ’13 through 2015 to ’17. Well, it seems as if a year in the bottle has smoothed the wine out a great deal, though no denying that it remains somewhat of an uncharacteristic powerhouse for the commune; nonetheless, the wine delivers a gorgeous, penetrating floral and mineral-tinged bouquet that layers ripe red and black cherries and currants with deeply spicy, briery qualities that extend dynamically and elegantly into the flavor profile. A lovely estate Juliénas with a serious edge. Now through, yes, 2015 to ’17. Last year I rated this wine Very Good+, but it surely merits Excellent now. About $20.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

So, yes, this post is a miscellany, a salmagundi, a pot au feu of topics and wines with which I want to deal and get done; well, two, anyway. Here goes:
____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Not meaning to be a jerk or any such thing, but like all people who write about wine, while I try to cultivate a universal palate, there are certain styles of wine that get my back up; as if you didn’t know, one is over-ripe, tropical chardonnay from California and another is red wine from Tuscany that relies on aging in French oak barrels and ends up resembling nothing more Italian than a Bordeaux or Napa Valley cabernet. So, I was pleasantly surprised to like two wines I encountered recently that reversed my bias, at least in these examples. I’m not a convert, if you please.

The first is the Seven Heavenly Chardonnays 2010, from the Michael David Winery in Lodi (and counterpart to their 7 Deadly Zins, ha-ha), an area of the Central Valley not typically regarded as prime real estate for chardonnay; actually, viognier tends to do better. Anyway, the wine opens in a very ripe, very spicy manner, seething with lemon curd and lemon balm, mango and pineapple, quince jam and crystallized ginger, with underlying notes of cinnamon toast. Holy Hannah, I thought, I’m not going to like this one damned bit! I was wrong. Carefully nurtured by winemakers Adam Mettler and Derek Devries, the wine ages only five months in a combination of 30 percent French oak and 70 percent steel tanks, so after the initial introduction the wood influence smooths out and is actually quite subtle and supple. Though the wine is sizable, and sports a texture that’s almost talc-like in softness, it’s deftly structured with enough acidity and limestone-like minerality to lend it balancing crispness and energy. Flavors still fall into the classic pineapple-grapefruit range but feel fully integrated into a package that while being bold and bright never seems flamboyant or ponderous. 14.5 percent alcohol. Very Good+ and a Great Bargain at about $14. A sample for review.

The second example of a wine that surprised and pleased me is Le Volte 2009, a Toscana IGT from Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. Truly, I open red wines from Tuscany with constant trepidation, because I know the way of thinking in that ancient realm of traditional winemaking is that if a wine is good, it will be better if it ages in French barriques. This concept is a complete misconception, of course, yet producers all over the world cling to it as the drowning to a lifeboat; the result is that many of the (especially) red wines I open and taste deliver an overwhelming smack of smoky, toasty, austere woody wood right to my nose and palate. It’s a shame. So, I extracted the cork from this bottle of Le Volte 2009, a blend of 50 percent merlot, 30 percent sangiovese and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, with a rueful sigh. And guess what? Prego, the wine was absolutely lovely, balanced, integrated and delicious. Yes, the wine aged in French barriques, but only for 10 months, and the barrels ranged from 2 to 4 years old and were all, as they say, “third-use,” having been employed previously in the production of the estate’s flagship wine Ornellaia. Here’s a “modern” Tuscan red, dominated by “international” grape varieties that does not seem hopelessly devoted to the models of Paulliac or the Napa Valley. The wine offers the essence of thyme-and-cedar-infused black currants with a touch of black olives and wild traces of mulberry, rhubarb and sandalwood underlain by a generous element of graphite-tinged earthiness. The whole shebang is ripe and a little fleshy, spiced and macerated (with a hint of sangiovese’s black tea, dried roses and orange rind), and it glides across the palate on sweetly orchestrated bearings of finely-milled, well-oiled tannins and polished oak. Lithe and elegant, yet with a touch of the unbridled free spirit about it. Drink now through 2015 to ’17. Alcohol content is 13.5 percent. Excellent. About $30.
Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners, Napa, Ca. A sample for review.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The current vintage of Pillar Box White in the United States in the 2008; in Australia, they’re drinking the 2009. Having lunch in Memphis a couple of weeks ago, however, with Kim Longbottom, owner of Henry’s Drive Vignerons, producer of the Pillar Box wines, we tried the 2007. This situation resulted from a conflict between distributors about changing brands and having to get wine from a distributor on the other side of the state — and Tennessee is a very long state — all the ramifications of which I did not comprehend, but the upshot was that the Pillar Box White 07, a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and verdelho grapes, is drinking beautifully now. Remember, this is basically a simple, direct white wine intended for easy quaffing and not thinking about too much. I was amazed then that this four-year-old uncomplicated white wine offered beguiling notes of roasted lemon and bees’-wax, some hints of sunny, leafy figs and quince, a touch of lanolin, a delicate infusion of limestone and shale. Certainly I would not hold onto the wine for even another year, but it’s so graceful and charming now that it’s irresistible. 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+. You can find this around the country at $7 to $12, representing Great Value.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Ca. Image from isleofwine.com.au.

Another wine from 2007 that I encourage My Readers to look for the Chateau Thivin Côte de Brouilly 2007, a cru Beaujolais from one of the hardest areas to find. Made 100 percent from gamay grapes, as by law the wines of Beaujolais must be, this delivers that true gamay combination of black currants, red cherries and high-tones of fresh grapiness permeated by briers and brambles and a hint of clean slate. Three and a half years have given the wine a little fleshy ripeness, a whiff of lilac, a back-note of fruitcake. Smooth, mellow, engaging, downright delicious. The wine spent six months in large oak casks. Zaccharie Geoffray bought the small estate and chateau at auction in 1877; his descendents still own and operate the property, now with grand-nephew Claude Geoffray, his wife Evelyne and their son Claude-Edouard. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $20 to $28 around the country, the latter the price I paid locally.
Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Cal.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Next Page »