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4. Beaujolais – the beauty produced by gamay…

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The wines of Beaujolais can age as well as any wine from Burgundy – just a little different in character – I see the great cuvées being roughly Côte de Nuits 1er Cru quality – though young, it’s harder to see grand cru quality, except in a great vintage or with 20 to 40 years of age. And I’ve certainly tasted older wines with the quality of GREAT grand crus.

Seriously made Beaujolais presents itself not unlike a Bordeaux when young – it’s not really about tannin, but 5 years in bottle is often required to bring aromatic resonance and a more thrilling clarity – the modest 2010 vintage in Beaujolais is showing some of the most thrilling wines right now – the massively scaled 2011s are going to need much more time! The material on the palate is rarely in doubt, but it needs time to soften and melt over your tongue. As the wines age, the term pinosity is often used, and I see what people mean, but the crus of Beaujolais are unique, they have something that pinot never offers – a special kind of oxidation. Normally I would use the term ‘oxidation’ as a negative (sorry Jura…) but Beaujolais has something specific, an accent like cooking a sauce with Marsala – aged Beaujolais has a Marsala note, both in aromas and flavours, and it’s tasty. Of-course I sometimes find these Marsala notes in 5-year-old wines – and that’s just wrong, these people need to learn to seal their bottles better, even if decent corks (or DIAMs) are expensive!

It is clear that even the wines with less up-front charm are built with future drinking in mind – and clearly the region has to (re)discover a clientele prepared to cellar their bottles – a 20 year-old Beaujolais Villages can present itself very well indeed!

Carbonic maceration was actually invented for the Rhône and it was Jules Chauvet who brought it to the Beaujolais in the 1950s. My long-time problem with the wines of the region have been reflected in the elevage of those wines – carbonic maceration supposedly leading to ‘fruity wines’ – yet my palate suggesting that it actually renders the aromas flat of fruit – certainly as banana notes become apparent – and really telling the story of the vinification choice rather than the location of the vines. Even those wines not overtly ‘carbonic’ have a miserly flatness of aroma that is at best uninteresting and certainly doesn’t bring a pure fruit aroma. How will I even know that they might taste great, if they do not invite me to take a sip? This has been my long-held view of the region – even if it was unfair to certain vignerons. It’s probably also important to mention the wave of ‘natural‘ wine producers – I often find these no better than the obviously carbonic approach – the wines are redolent of their production – I’m always looking for clean, precise, focused wines – ones where I can see and hopefully enjoy something pure…

I have to say that the flat and uninteresting wines I was expecting to encounter, whilst visible, were a relatively small quantity of the wines that I tasted – a result that really brought out my enthusiastic side.

In Burgundy the producer says directly ‘80% whole clusters and 30% new oak’, often in Beaujolais, the amount of destemming seems almost a thing to avoid discussing – like smacking your children (or dog!) – I often feel like they would rather discuss how many tonnes of herbicide they will spray next week! In theory the stems of gamay don’t bring anything vegetal like for pinot noir, but that’s because the cuvaison is much shorter in Beaujolais, macerate longer and it is there.

In Beaujolais it’s the reverse to Burgundy – destemming in the south is considered an approach to making vin-de-garde, where in Burgundy, stem inclusion seems a more long-term proposition. But destemming or not – it doesn’t have to be a matter of an either/or choice – you can take both…

And the whites of Beaujolais? – No, sorry. They are not on my purchase list(s), but the rosés are a different kettle of fish…

2 responses to “4. Beaujolais – the beauty produced by gamay…”

  1. tick4d

    I have never seen a white from the Beaujolais. What are they made from, and am I correct in assuming them rare?

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