Readers who’ve followed my vinous ramblings over the past few years would recognise me as an unabashed booster for Beaujolais.
I have great empathy for the growers of the region, as while it is inimitable for the magic that its hero red gamay grape can deliver, it has been afflicted economically with the branding blight of “nouveau”. Nouveau was – and still is best enjoyed in close proximity to its place of birth, but has unfortunately found its way to almost every corner of the earth.
The long term marketing success of Beaujolais Nouveau has been to the detriment of the overarching brand of the Beaujolais region.
If you’re not aware of the experience, it’s largely an English thing best described as a Boris Johnson moment for winemakers. Just weeks after the new vintage has been picked and fermented, it’s bottled and released for sale on the third Thursday of November, then shipped in a mad dash to London for the Oxford-educated version of lager louts to get hammered on. It’s marketing genius – overpriced bragging rights to not particularly interesting wine.
So with the annual hysteria of Nouveau upon us on November 16, I want to remind readers of the regions greater, broader virtues.
And whilst historically Beaujolais lovers could have held their AGM in a phone box, the region is now rising in fame and popularity like a phoenix from the ashes.
“Booj” from the region’s best producers are wine list “must haves” for savvy sommeliers and value-conscious consumers know they can represent great value on those restaurant lists.
The very best Beaujolais are the Crus, which are solely the produce of one of the 10 designated villages. The next rung down in the hierarchy – and thankfully still bargain-priced – is Beaujolais Villages.
The 2016 BV’s have been hitting the shelves over the past few months and there are some ripper drinks to be had at silly good prices. Any or all of these would make a delicious addition to the cellar and all are best enjoyed over the next few years.
I’m overdue for a visit to the region and tasting these wines for this article could well have me on a plane very soon, bound for France.
Come to think of it, The Lyon Town Hall would be a perfect place to have the next AGM of BLOP: Beaujolais Lovers Out and Proud.
But nowadays with Beaujolais’ popularity, a phone box just wouldn’t cut it.
Here are four worth trying
2016 Beaujolais Villages “Manoir du Pavé “ Claude Geoffray
RRP $43 Heartandsoil.com.au
I’m having a wine bromance with Claude Geoffray. His cru wines under the Chateau Thivin label are some of my very favourite drinks. From a manually harvested, 4ha vineyard of old vines on the precipitous west facing granitic slopes of the Chèvres valley, year in, year out, this cuvée is outstanding and a bargain for the bucks.
Superb bright crimson red, brilliant appearance. Voluminous pure aromas of red fruits cherry and griottes, leap out of the glass.
Racy generous flavours attack on entry with real vif and intensity, notes of spiced cherry, a touch of liqueur like texture and a beautifully fresh, long piquant finish. A wine to put a smile on your face. Giddy Up.
2016 Beaujolais Villages Dominique Piron
RRP $24 Cellarhand.com.au
A hard earned thirst needs a good, cool …Booj. And this BV is a true Vin du soif.
The domaine owners, the regional roots of the Piron family can be traced back to 1590 in Morgon, so its not surprising that they consistently produce first rate gear. As my wine trade friends might say, they are an address to remember.
This wine is positively thirst quenching with its bright, crunchy red cherry and raspberry fruit flavours racing across the palate, with length and acidity perfectly integrating to extinguish a lusty thirst.
This is yardstick, glugable BV, which ticks all the boxes as a red to drink in copious quantities. A steal at the price. Yes please.
2016 Beaujolais Villages Damien Coquelet
RRP $43 vinous.com.au
The first wine I’ve tried from this producer and hopefully not the last if this is representative of his usual standard. Made by the stepson of legendary Booj producer Georges Descombes, at the age of just 20, Damien Coquelet punched out his first bottling with the 2007 vintage.
It seems he has been well schooled in the ways of wine.
Beautiful vibrancy about this. The aromas are complex and clean as a whistle, exposing the quality fruit in all its glory.
In the mouth there is a sheen to the fruit with the tight red berry fruit flavours exploding and dancing across the palate. The medium body is long and extremely persistent leaving refreshing aromatics lingering way after the wine has been swallowed. A ridiculously elegant wine. I’ve ordered mine.
2016 Chateau Cambon Beaujolais
RRP $42 vinous.com.au
Chateau Cambon was started by three amis who were in the vanguard of natural winemaking with the late Marcel Lapierre being the best known of them.
Note this wine makes no claim to being a BV.
Indeed the back label states “Beaujolais Contrôlée” Nonetheless this cuvee is produced from a vineyard with very old vines of 80+ years, situated between the crus Fleurie and Morgon, grown on soil a mixture of calcareous sand and clay/granite.
This is natural wine making at its best: unfiltered, unfined, zero chemicals etc. And after all that naturalness, it’s clean as a whistle. No natural wine funk or for that matter, nouveau “bubble gum” fruit here.
This has a beautifully rendered palate with a delicious balance of typically bright seductive gamay fruit with a shape and structure which elevates it beyond the norm.
The Long zingy fruit flavours are in the bright red/raspberry and cherry spectrum, and finish refreshing and clean. Another superbly crafted wine in this quartet of beauties.
* Frank Wilden is a retail food strategist and a “lapsed” restaurateur whose love of wine began nearly four decades ago. He believes that on the road to wine nirvana, if you don’t end up in Burgundy you have probably taken a wrong turn somewhere.
Frank writes this regular wine column for Business Insider Australia. Get in touch with him via @thefrankreport on Twitter.
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