61 wines tasted blind, though tasted in the order 1) Beaujolais Blanc and then 2) Beaujolais Villages Blanc – it was by pure chance that my picks were equally split between each AOP.
The general style of 2017 Beaujolais Blanc is more attractive than in most recent vintages – I have previously found a certain rigour to both the aromas and flavours – a mineral rigour – or you could also say a lack of charm, but in 2017 that’s rarer.
I came to this tasting, only half-jokingly, looking for ‘those 1 in 10 wines’ that I would enjoy and could recommend – as it turned out, I found that I could drink a glass or two from most of these 2017s, but I also found not just ‘good’ I found some ‘excellent’ wines – and I’m sure that you would all prefer to drink ‘excellent!’
Actually the ‘excellent‘ turned out to be 1 in 10, so look no further than this fine selection of wines, noted in the order tasted:
- 2017 Passeloup, Pierres Dorées Florencin, €8.90*
- 2017 Château Thivin – Family Geoffray, Beaujolais Clos Rochebonne, €14.50
- 2017 du Penlois – Besson Père & Fils, Beaujolais Le Chêne du Chatelard, €16.00
- 2017 Longère, Beaujolais Villages Nos 2 Elles, €9.00
- 2017 Robert Perroud, Beaujolais Villages Terres Blanches, €11.00
- 2017 Lagneau, Beaujolais Villages, price not given
*Estimate prices from the producers, ex-cellars
The whites of Beaujolais:
This turns out to be a little less straight-forward than it could have been – but here goes:
Chardonnay is the principle white grape, but aligoté is allowed as an ‘accessory’ grape – ie with a maximum percentage, but no 100% aligoté wine is allowed today with a Beaujolais or Beaujolais Villages label, but older planted parcels – pre-dating 2004 – could theoretically produce a 100% aligoté wine – but presumably with a Bourgogne Aligoté label rather a Beaujolais label.
The most recognised area for plantation of chardonnay is the southern part of Beaujolais – Pierres Dorées – with its golden-colour limestone and plenty of clay – described as a soil for whites and more recently plantations of pinot noir too – analogous to the Côte d’Or. This is the pre-eminent territory for the Beaujolais Blanc label, rather than Beaujolais Villages Blanc, despite a slightly higher allowed yield for Beaujolais vs Beaujolais Villages – 68 vs 66 hl/ha for whites, versus 65 & 58 hl/ha for reds and rosés.
Outside of the Pierres Dorées, soil types are extremely variable throughout the Beaujolais – some of these wines are made from plantations on other limestone and clay outcrops – others with just clay, or mixes of clay or sand and granite – or event just granite. It’s for this reason that the soils are often better suited to chardonnay for the Beaujolais Blanc than for the Beaujolais Villages Blanc.
Whilst white wine remains a small part of what Beaujolais ‘does,’ about 60 hectares of chardonnay was planted per year between 2000 and 2010, and more like 150 hectares per year from 2010 onwards. There are occasional plantings with ages from 30-60 years of age, but predominantly, the chardonnay vines of Beaujolais are less than 20 years old.
The surface of chardonnay currently planted represent 16% of the Beaujolais/Beaujolais-Villages classified land – and this is still growing – considering the important losses of gamay vines in recent years, the relative importance of chardonnay is increasing rapidly. Currently about 1,600 hectares are planted with chardonnay, but it’s projected to be nearly 2,000 hectares in another 2 years. There is also a tiny amount of land in the crus that hosts chardonnay vines – this is declassified to Beaujolais Villages as there are no AOPs for, for instance, St.Amour Blanc. From that ~1,600 hectares, the end market for the produce is currently split:
- 1,100 hectares producing grapes for Crémant de Bourgogne
- 220 hectares for Beaujolais Blanc
- 92 hectares for Beaujolais Villages Blanc
- 150 hectares for Bourgogne Blanc
So, 16% of the Beaujolais/Beaujolais-Villages surface-area is planted to chardonnay, but from that, only 3.5% of the Beaujolais/Beaujolais-Villages surface-area is declared as white under those labels as so much is used to make crémant or is labeled as Bourgogne Blanc.
The local marketing group, InterBeaujolais, estimates the following split for commercialisation of the blancs in 2017/2018:
– 70% commercialised by producers
– 20% by cooperatives
– 10% by négociants
Bourgogne Blanc from Beaujolais:
There is quite a lot of wine that is simply labeled as Bourgogne Blanc. I asked one producer why they used the ‘Bourgogne’ label instead of Beaujolais. Summarising (and translating), this was their response:
“Well, in our hearts we’d much rather be using the Beaujolais label, but there are two reasons why we choose not to:
1. The cavistes that buy our wines, do-so, they say, only because of the Bourgogne label – they tell us that it’s easier to sell in their markets than Beaujolais Blanc – if we didn’t label it as Bourgogne Blanc, then these cavistes would go buy it from somebody else.
2. We are also concerned that if we stopped using the Bourgogne label, that we might lose the right to use the label in the future – due to lack of use.”
You can never be dogmatic about wine – I have the generic impression that I really like just 1 in 10 Beaujolais Blancs that I’ve tasted from 2013-2016, but 2017 turns that on its head and it’s ‘only’ the 1 in 10 that lack charm in this vintage. That said, the flavours are typically of generic, round, ripe, chardonnay – I still have no feeling for a defining, or at-least, consistent character for whites from this outpost of southern-Burgundy. For the low price of many wines – many are only €6-8, depart cave – perhaps character is of only secondary importance, or maybe it simply reflects the diversity of soils where chardonnay is planted in Beaujolais.
Note that many chardonnay vineyards suffered with frost in 2017, so yields were often much lower than normal.
Whilst I didn’t find any ‘bravo’ wines – there were half a dozen ‘excellents’ which I have chosen to highlight. Honorable mentions – let’s call them the silver medals – are due to a few ‘almost excellents’ too, though I didn’t have any ‘honorable mentions’ from the Beaujolais villages:
2017 Château de Pizay, Beaujolais, €9.00
2017 Oedoria, Beaujolais Accord Majoeur Réserve Particulière, €7.50
2017 Claire & Fabian Chasselay, Beaujolais Eparcieux Blanc, €17.00
2017 Terres Dorées – Jean Paul Brun, Beaujolais Vinification Bourguignone, €16.50
Of incidental interest, for the Beaujolais blanc, the seals were equally split between Nomacorc, DIAM/DIAM-style cork amalgams and cork – I really detest Nomacorc having ruined/oxidised so many bottles in less than 18 months since purchase – I avoid them like the plague today! For the Beaujolais Villages Blancs – nearly half were sealed with cork, the rest equally split between DIAM types and Nomacorc. If you are forced to buy something sealed with Nomacorc, then please drink it asap – certainly less than 6 months from purchase.
First the Beaujolais Blanc:
2017 Château de l’Eclair, Beaujolais Pierres Dorées
Fresh, actually a little saline, a perfumed depth of citrus. Supple, ripe but with a lovely mobile style and perfect texture. A perfumed fruit of some weight as opposed to elegance but absolutely tasty. The best first?
2017 de Baluce – Jean-Yves Sonnery, Beaujolais Cuvée Baptiste N°2
A narrower nose, fresher, more lime than lemon, but quite ripe – changing in the glass and becoming more exotic. Supple, perfectly textured again – here a little more richness – some oak but it’s discrete. Less perfumed than the last but a little more tasty. Wait six months but I think something worth waiting for…
2017 Tante Alice – C & JP Peyrard, Beaujolais
Fresh again, but this time much more airy, and with the merest reductive impression. A little more phenolic and the reduction is more visible here – mineral too – but perhaps the reduction is accentuating that. Persistent and with a nicer ‘shape’ than the last two – for my palate – yet certainly less delicious also…
2017 Bonne Tonne – Monique Grillet, Beaujolais
More colour. An acacia-honey style of nose – attractive if you like honey! Mouth-filling, some weight and richness of flavour, yet modest in flavour intensity. Very tasty for all that, if a little facile.
2017 Cheysson, Beaujolais l’Exception
My expectations are high – this bottle weights nearly 2 kilos!
A little more complexity of aroma, but the generic ripeness of citrus is here – not complicated by oak in this case. A little more volume and ‘presence’ in the mouth – more floral and more mineral – there is a suggestion of the rigour to the minerality that I find in other vintages – but here it’s just another complexity. Young wine, not quite ready, and with the most impressive and complex finish of any so far.
Wide, ripe lemon but with a little lemon zest to so seems fresher. Likewise a little zest and almost a fume impression. The first wine that has it’s own individual style – more depth of flavour, less richness of lemon – more zest. It’s young, but it’s easily my favourite so far.
2017 Jean Paul Dubost, Beaujolais Lantignié
Another heavy bottle – these small things keep me amused while tasting blind.
Yellow fruit in a more herby width. Depth, a little reductive and herby. Lots of mid-palate intensity – particular wine and quite long – let’s call it ‘individual.’
2017 Château du Chatelard, Beaujolais Secret de Chardonnay
A vibrant nose, if of quite exotic fruit. Mouth-filling, layered, quite a cool fruit style in the mouth. Here’s a weight of finishing flavour of reasonable persistence. Good.
2017 P Ferraud et Fils, Beaujolais Les Merrains
A good width of aroma accented with herb in a positive way. Fresh, good drive – the first with a more agrume-style fruit. The flavour is lacking a bit of focus but it’s good in the finish. Fine in parts and very drinkable.
2017 Pierre Marie Chermette, Beaujolais Collonge
A heavy bottle alert!
Bright, fresh lemon notes accented with a little oak – a Pouilly-Fuissé Doppelganger! With air the nose becomes more mineral and even shows a hint of aniseed – no-more a Pouilly! Lots of mouth-filling volume, a mineral rigour in the middle – a slight lack of charm here – rare in 2017 but exactly my ‘generic’ impression of a Beaujolais Blanc.
2017 Gaget, Beaujolais Les Galets
More colour. Big, ripe and also herby nose, though it does settle with more time in the glass. Good volume in the mouth, certainly quite a mineral wine – but also rich of texture. Perhaps it’s the small note of sweet oak in the finish that differentiates this from the last, as here is a certain sucrosity, a certain tastiness.
2017 Château de Pizay, Beaujolais
A little vibrance of aroma – ripe lemon but with freshness and less overt depth. Supple, depth of flavour, great texture, a decent freshness and actually quite delicious flavour. Open finishing. I find this super, finishing with a minerality yet also a charm!
2017 Emmanuel Fellot, Beaujolais Fût de Chêne
Bright lemon yellow colour. A nose that’s not just lemon, but like one or two others has a little of the freshness of the skin too. Supple, layered, a suggestion of oak, round flavour but like the nose with some citrus zest too – another fine wine – the minerality also here only really showing in the finish, but with some charm.
2017 La Revol – Family Debourg, Beaujolais
Fresh, airy nose – a depth of ripe citrus but more composed and classy than many, almost a suggestion of salinity. Some gas here – too much – you should carafe. My first impression is of a touch of reduction, but as with the gas, it is quickly gone. Supple, tasty, perhaps a touch of fresh apricot in the flavour. Quite good, but as noted, carafe!
2017 Mommessin, Beaujolais Grandes Mises
Heavy bottled again.
Not a big nose, but one of interest and some subtlety. Really a wine of transparency, of overt minerality but also of charm. No hard edges and really very, very tasty. A wine of subtlety and some character. Nice!
2017 Château des Pertonnières – Family Dupeuple, Beaujolais La Prébende
Quite pale. Deep nose, some minerality at first lacking charm but that aspect fades with aeration, indeed it almost become too perfumed with time! Fresh, bright, mineral, complex – ooh that’s a good characterful wine with a zesty intensity of finishing flavour. Nice!
2017 Lathulière Gravallon, Beaujolais Roche Noire
A deep nose, mineral, only slowly releasing some mineral notes. Mouth-filling, fine textured, a little lime to go with the lemon – a hint of finishing rigour – a long finish. Not the most charming but a nice wine all the same.
2017 Château des Jacques, Beaujolais Clos de Loyse
A little extra depth of lemon colour – but not so deeply coloured. Deep, chunky, ‘obvious’ aromas of fruit. Too much gas. Plenty of volume – but that’s the gas. Some citrus and a good line – but first impressions count, and mine are not that great. The finish is very attractive though – carafe!
2017 des Nugues – Gilles Gelin, Beaujolais
A subtle herb complexity over a width of ripe lemon – not too deep. A wine of volume and subtly attractive accents – the core, the middle, is mineral with a little rigour to the flavour – you could say ‘less charming’ instead of rigour. Overall the wine is quite good with a good finish.
2017 Jean Loron, Beaujolais Les Blémonts
Hmm – a beeswax impression to the aromas – not a big nose here. Good freshness and drive – not a wine of large volume but more one of energy – and there are relatively few of those here! Subtle flavour but a wine that dances well over the palate. This I like – very good wine!
2017 du Guélet – Christine & Didier Puillat, Beaujolais Cuvée Christine
A little more colour again. Oof – the first with a big slug of oak aroma. In the mouth too. The shape and freshness is good, ‘it’s a good oak!’ but there’s far too much for Beaujolais Blanc, indeed any wine, do I want to taste only oak? No…
2017 du Penlois – Besson Père & Fils, Beaujolais Chardonnay du Chatelard
Ooh – at first I think plenty of oak here too but it’s the residues of the last wine! I re-wash my glass and here, finally, is some perfumed freshness. Hmm, a certain acidulated drive to this. It’s very-much an individual and quite nice for that. Lovely finishing flavour too.
2017 Château du Corcelles, Beaujolais
Some perfume over a mineral base. Mouth-filling, plenty of energy, perhaps a touch of reduction or it’s simply the more overt minerality – some rigour here. Nicely mouth-watering flavour in the finish. A mixed bag but overall good.
2017 de Baluce – Jean Yves Sonnery, Beaujolais N°1
A little different, perhaps a touch of melon in the citrus aromas. Direct, mineral but a wine that is far from lacking charm. Complex, good energy – a wine you could wait for but it’s a good package. Tasty wine with a little zestiness in the finish.
2017 Château de Buffavent, Beaujolais Pierres Dorées Vieilles Vignes
More colour. Plenty of oak on the nose but some airiness to the style. Round – not too full, a palette of flavours that is really centred on the barrel today – question – will you keep your Beaujolais Blanc 2+ years to discover the real wine below the oak? Probably not…
2017 Canard, Beaujolais
Plenty of freshness of aroma – certainly more attractive than the oaked wines. Plenty of mouth-filling volume too. Flavour that’s accented with citrus freshness – but remains relatively shy. The finish is the best part. Wide and tasty.
2017 de la Grand Fond, Beaujolais Terre d’Argile
More depth of aroma – obvious fruit but some freshness too. Bright and fresh in the mouth – you won’t get bored with this one! Nice clarity of flavour, perhaps a suggestion of oak – more spice than vanilla. Good texture and a nice finish. Lovely citrus in the mouth-watering finish!
A rounded citrus nose, perhaps a touch of oak taking any sharp edges off the shape. Big and fresh in the mouth – an attack on the palate. Palate-staining flavour here – that’s impressive. Good character, great flavour. Excellent – one of the few!
2017 Cave du Château de Chénas, Beaujolais du Domaine Danielle & Maurice Picard
A heavy bottle but a light coloured wine. Some herb to nose, perhaps a hint of cheese too! Volume, depth of flavour but the lack of class after the last is stark! A little finishing rigour though, and a nicely lingering flavour.
2017 des Marrans – Family Melinand, Beaujolais
One of the rare, quite tight noses. Plenty of volume in the mouth – aided by some gas. Wide, a little mineral rigour but not much. Good but finishes a little anonymously.
2017 Dominique Piron, Beaujolais
A nice, almost saline, width of aroma. Good in the mouth, a tasty citrus of modest but enough freshness. A good, tasty wine with a little charm too!
2017 Pascal Berthier, Beaujolais Les 17 Pièces
Bright, lemon yellow. A width of aroma, quite tight – a little salt and pepper impression but only that. Fuller, more impact than the last wine – fresh, mineral and citrus – perhaps more a lime than lemon accent. Good vibration of finishing flavour. This is lovely…
2017 Terres Dorées – Jean Paul Brun, Beaujolais Chardonnay Classic
An open nose for the high tones – some ripe citrus of freshness – rather tighter below. More energy, a touch of saline minerality, good citrus complexity in the middle. This is another lovely wine – well-done – a super persistence of fine citrus notes – yum!
2017 des Pampres d’Or – Parras & Fils, Beaujolais Prestige
A musky depth of oak on this nose. Good attack and a bright and open personality – but the oak is quite forward today – this will need all of 12 months to settle – but the finishing flavours are a pure blend of the citrus and mineral notes. Good.
2017 Georges Duboeuf, Beaujolais
A modest nose, some width and seemingly fresh. Round but fresh and of good energy, there is depth of flavour and a nice texture here. Modest intensity but of fine taste in the finish. Good again.
2017 des Duc, Beaujolais
More energy to these aroma – more complex and more in the direction of agrume than pure citrus. Mouth-filling, lots of minerality with a modest rigour. Yet the finish is complex and tasty with a nice energy. Nice wine with very good potential in 1-2 years…
2017 de la Beche – Olivier Depardon, Beaujolais Alexis
Wide, ripe but fresh fruit – some aromatic intensity of ripe fruit here. Fine in the mouth – there’s both mouth-filling volume and plenty of energy. A less overtly citrus style of fruit again, mouth-watering with a hint of phenolic texture – I like the character that this wine shows. Very good!
2017 Oedoria, Beaujolais Accord Majoeur Réserve Particulière
Such a heavy bottle! (To go with such a long name!)
A little extra colour and perhaps to match, a more overt oak aroma on the nose. In the mouth too – the first impression is the oak – but then it’s the volume and the clarity, the open-ness of the wine. Fine texture, beautifully balanced. This oak is not dominating the flavours – though it has an obvious presence! Despite the oak I think this very good – but not quite excellent!
2017 Claire & Fabian Chasselay, Beaujolais Eparcieux Blanc
I’m feeling the pressure here – the weight of the bottle and the fact that it’s the only wine declaring its worth with a wax top!
Extra colour again. A deeper nose than most – a subtle, almost spiced, herbed, oak in the background. Direct, beautifully fresh, good energy, a wine of fine open flavour over the palate and a delicious finish. Wax aside – a wine of fine character and delicious. Super!
Oof – an even heavier bottle!
A modest vanilla-oak. Good width and mineral energy here – supple, but with excellent intensity. Lovely line to this wine. Not the longest but great character – super wine – no, excellent!
2017 Terres Dorées – Jean Paul Brun, Beaujolais Vinification Bourguignone
Another (frankly) stupidly heavy bottle.
Open, pure, fresh nose. Mouth-filling volume, very good energy too. A phenolic lick to the texture, and a nice vibration of finishing energy. Another really great effort – super wine.
2017 Château de Durette, Beaujolais Villages Prestige
Not a big nose – some width and quite attractive though. Plenty of volume in the mouth, good energy and concentration. There’s oak in the mix if not obviously on the nose. A nice finishing complexity here that is, perhaps, different to those that went before – some oak too. Wait 12 months but this is tasty wine.
2017 Le Fagolet – Valerie & Paul Girard, Beaujolais Villages Granit Blanc
A width to this nose – a width of freshness, perhaps minerality too. The palate is concentrated, mineral – it also it has some rigour to the flavour – there’s a lot of wine here but not a lot of charm…
2017 Château de Raousset, Beaujolais Villages Cuvée Marquise de Robien
Another very heavy bottle.
Brighter, more open, fruited – and oaked – nose. Yellow fruit, some concentration to that fruit – almost a creamy aspect to it – an individual for sure – lots of finishing flavour. Particular, but tasty wine.
Hmm – now here is an attractive nose – modestly complex but a good invitation. Full, fresh, complex, a touch of tannin, lots of energy – excellent – really a super peak of finishing flavour – the first in this respect – excellent!
2017 de Gry Sablon – Dominique Morel, Beaujolais Villages
A more modest nose. Some attack and some weight, somehow more somber than the last wine, a little herb complexity in the finish – and it’s a good line of finishing flavour – the best part!
2017 Châteaux de Pierreux, Mommessin, Beaujolais Villages Monopole
Another heavy bottle.
A little extra colour to go with the heavier bottle. Quite a vibrant depth of ripe lemon fruit. Mineral, some rigour, even a touch of tannin. Lots of energy and flavour but currently lacks a little charm…
Ooh – very different – a fresh summer fruit-salad of aroma. Attack, quite mineral but with energy and not too much rigour. This is really interesting – a real character – it could have a little more charm and perhaps that will come, but it’s completely engaging wine – excellent!
2017 Philippe Deschamps, Beaujolais Villages
A less overt nose, but still with quite an attractive freshness, almost a suggestion of mineral reduction below the fruit. Oof – very mineral – perhaps the most of any wine so far – a touch of phenolic texture too – fresh and open. Another characterful wine and very good it is…
2017 Grange Masson – Alain Deshayes, Beaujolais Villages
A good nose, some intensity of fresh fruit – a slightly exotic agrume mix. Weight, concentrated, ripe fruit, with lots of weight to the fruit flavour – almost heavy with that aspect yet the energy and freshness is fine. Certainly wine of character and very good, if particular.
2017 des Combiers – Laurent Savoye, Beaujolais Villages Les Bruyères
Relatively pale colour. A modest but fresh and open nose. Plenty of open volume with a mineral weight, spiced, some rigour. Really interesting, complex wine – there’s much to recommend here, but relatively, charm is on a low-level – but so interesting…
2017 du Granit – Franck Bessone, Beaujolais Villages
Possibly the tightest nose of the tasting! In the mouth this has good volume, freshness and energy – quite a mineral style – not lacking any charm – but perhaps lacking a little direct flavour. The finish, though, has lovely texture and is delicious – an anonymous wine to start but not in the finish.
2017 Longère, Beaujolais Villages En Verchères
Another quite tight nose but showing a little herbed complexity to augment the apparent freshness. Wide, fresh, really quite ultra-mineral. Mouth-watering, indeed, like the last, very tasty finishing, but the mineral mid-palate could benefit from a little more charm.
2017 Château Grand Grange, Beaujolais Villages La Grange Masson
Absolutely the deepest colour wine of the tasting – is this a 2007 rather than a 2017? A deep nose, cushioned with plenty of oak. The palate is big, ripe and, for me, over-oaked (or under-wined). Enough said…
2017 Jérôme Lacondemine, Beaujolais Villages Chantemerle
I washed my glass twice with this after the last wine.
A nice freshness – a certain acidic style – it’s attractive. Wide, quite some very fine textured weight of flavour here. Layered in the finish. A little obvious style to the flavour but delicious for all that.
2017 des Nugues – Gilles Gelin, Beaujolais Villages
Quite an open, airy, fresh nose – faint high-tones of sweetness but also quite attractive. Plenty of volume of flavour – mouth-filling. A good blend of the fruit and mineral aspects. Mouth-watering in the finish – and easy, tasty style of wine. Very good!
2017 du Clos du Fief – Michel & Sylvain Tête, Beaujolais Villages Fleur du Chardonnay
Another modest nose – there’s freshness and a suggestion of salinity though. Plenty of mouth-filling wine here – lots of minerality, but without any suggestion of rigour – this sweeps towards the finish with concentration and a modest complexity. Complex, almost chewy finishing. Very good!
An open, quite high-toned freshness – almost herbed with a faint but growing apple-style fruit below. Drive, sleek lines, mineral, quite a different style. I like. Wide, and lingering flavour. Maybe excellent!
2017 Paul Janin, Beaujolais Villages Argiles
Like most of these BJV, a relatively tight nose, though offering some ripe lemon, almost gelée style. Wide – really mouth-filling volume. A suggestion of oak but only a suggestion. Layered, small waves of finishing flavour. Tasty wine – very good!
Beaujolais Villages 2016
Because a couple of domaines didn’t note that this was a tasting of 2017s 🙂
2016 De la Madone – Bérerd Père & Fils, Beaujolais Villages
Big, deep, oaked but seemingly mineral too. More mineral than fruit for the palate – still accented by the oak – vanilla oak. Long, actually rather impressive, but the oak – that’s going to take some time to fade…
2016 Château Poncié, Beaujolais Villages Grand Lamure
A more musky nose, but less overtly oaked. More direct, more freshness and more energy. Like the last very-much a wine of minerality but here there is some nicer citrus balance. Wide finishing, touched by a faint tannin. This is very good – lots of tasty finishing flavour here – lovely wine.