Thu 1 Dec 2016
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 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;
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.