Friday, July 16, 2010

Brilliant Beaujolais

Georges Duboeuf

As I specialize in Italian wines, I don't try as many French wines as I would like. So when I was asked to taste a selection of 2009 Beaujolais from Georges Duboeuf with the winemaker the other day, I jumped at the chance.

The initial information I received about these wines is that 2009 is "the vintage of a lifetime." I've heard comparisons like that before, so I went in with a calm manner, knowing that everyone tries to tell you that their new wines (the ones they need to sell) are great! Well, at least they didn't say the "best of the century", especially as there have only been nine harvests in the century!

I sat down at Chicago's L2O restaurant with winemaker Emeric Gaucher to taste through a mix of commune as well as cru Beaujolais. As for the claim of 2009 being a remarkable vintage, he commented that it was a growing season with "perfect conditions." That meant a sunny May, a rainy June and then two very sunny months in July and August; in fact, August 2009 was the sunniest August on the last 60 years, according to Gaucher. Combine that with the fact that methods in the vineyard and the cellar are far better now than they were sixty years ago and you have the recipe for classic wines.

Dubeouf produces Beaujolais-Villages along with commune bottlings (Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin-a-Vent et al) as well as cru bottlings from those communes. The straight Beaujolais-Villages (every wine is is produced entirely from the Gamay grape) is always best fresh- enjoyed within 1-2 years of the vintage date, though tasting the wine three years after the harvest usually works well. The commune Beaujolais tend to be more aromatic -wines from Fleurie have lovely floral aromatics, as befits the name - while the single estate wines offer a combination of more pronounced aromatics with greater depth of fruit and even a touch of tannin. These wines can be enjoyed 5-7 years following the harvest and in a few examples, espcially with a great vintage such as 2009, can be cellared for 7-10 years.

Here are a few brief notes on my top wines:

Beaujolais-Villages 2009 "Flower Label"
Typical flavors and body for this wine - pleasant cranberry and red plum fruit - but much deeper color than in most years. Very pleasant - enjoy with all sorts of ligher white and red meats (ideal with cog au vin).

Fleurie 2009 "Domaine des Quatre Vents"
This is from a single estate ("domaine of the four winds") in Fleurie. Cranberry, roasted coffee and bacon aromas - very intriguing! Medium-full, excellent complexity - wonderful wine! Best in 5-7 years.

Morgon 2009 "Flower Label"
Mulberry, mincemeat and black plum aromas; nicely balanced; enjoy over the next 3-5 years. Pair with light red meats or sautéed vegetables.

Moulin-a-Vent 2009 "Flower Label"
Plum and cherry aromas; medium-full with notes of chocolate in the finish; enjoy over the next 3-5 years with stews, casseroles and lighter red meats (pepper steak).

Julienas 2009 "Chateuau des Capitans"
Made from grapes grown at an estate owned by Dubeouf and his U.S. importer, William Deutsch (the estate's title is in their children' names). Juicy cranberry and red raspberry aromas; medium-full with a long finish and silky tannins. Notes of licorice. Best in 5-7 years; pair with roast lamb and veal.

Moulin-a-Vent 2009 "Domaine de la Tour du Bief"
Moulin-a-Vent is known as the "king of Beaujolais" and this bottling offers ample evidence as to why. Roasted coffee, Queen Anne cherry aromas with a hint of black mint. Medium-full with excellent depth of fruit. Best in 7-10 years, perhaps longer. Pair with roasts and lighter game.

Two notes on these wines.

All were served with a light chill (cellar temperature). This is the proper way to serve Beaujolais, as tannins are light; thus the wines are more refreshing and easy to consume. (This was also quite welcome on a 90 degree day in Chicago!)

Also the prices of these wines are remarkably fair, from $9.99 retail for the Beaujolais-Villages to $17.99 for the Julienas "Chateau des Capitans". Everyone associates French wines with high prices (and God knows there are too many high-priced examples), so it is a great sign - especially in today's economy - to find wines of this quality for such reasonable prices. The $18 for the cru Julienas bottling is an excellent value, particularly for a wine that you can cellar for at least five years, yet enjoy tonight!

Text ©Tom Hyland
Photos courtesy of Georges Duboeuf

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