Tag Archives: Beaujolais

The Entrance – Domaine du Vissoux 2009 Fleurie “Poncié”

Having almost gone through my last Internet order all too quickly (I only really had two red wines for immediate consumption) I placed another all-red order on Friday which was promptly delivered yesterday. Without skipping a beat, I opened one of the highlights: a 2009 cru Beaujolais from a respected producer which I had been wanting to try in this fabulous vintage!

Pierre-Marie Chermette

Located in the southern part of Beaujolais, Pierre-Marie Chermette and his wife Martine have been in charge of the Domaine du Vissoux since 1982. The estate comprises a total of 27 hectares from their AOC Beaujolais vineyard in the town of Saint-Véran to smaller vineyards further north in the top Beaujolais cru appellations of Brouilly, Moulin-à-Vent as well as Fleurie. The Poncié vineyard in Fleurie is situated at the top of a slope which requires that all work be done by hand, and this is where the quality Gamay grapes for today’s bottle are grown.

the entrance Fleurie

The Entrance Fleurie

Domaine du Vissoux 2009 Fleurie “Poncié”

Impression (++)

Wow. I was expecting a lot of fruit from this lauded Beaujolais vintage, but this is insane! The best part is that while keeping its youthful charm, the fruit shows a deep character which prevented it from falling into caricature. The fresh acidity extends the wine in length, while the fruit expands across the width of my palate, and I am simply left speechless as this beauty walks past.

Turning heads

This Fleurie reminded me of a precise moment many years ago, a moment in which time stopped and a single girl captured the attention of an entire restaurant. My buddy’s new girlfriend had made her entrance in a casual outfit, a lollipop in her mouth, her youthful strut paralyzing every man in her path. Every head turned, servers stopped in their tracks and one could almost see tiny hearts forming in their eyes.

There was no extravagance, nor anything easy or revealing about her outfit. It was all about the entrance, the context, the way everything fell into place perfectly so that an otherwise pretty girl had ascended to the status of goddess. Sure, I enjoy a nice Beaujolais from time to time, but this bottle blew me away. Nothing extravagant, nor anything easy or revealing… but what an entrance!!

photo by Al S

Beaujolais Trilogy: Brun, Lapierre, P-U-R Nouveau

Beaujolais has had an interesting evolution over the past few decades. I get the impression that our perception of this region’s wines have come full circle, in particular with regard to the Nouveau phenomenon. So I bunched together three Beaujolais reds which I’ve recently tasted on separate occasions, and tried to retrace the many makeovers undergone by these provocative, innovative, and simply delicious Gamay wines.

Beaujolais Nouveau

When the Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon first exploded on the international wine scene, in the 80s and 90s, these fruity banana bomb primeur wines had an undeniable appeal to new consumers in North America and Asia, who were only just beginning to get serious about wine. Beaujolais Nouveau was hip, and only the true connoisseurs were unimpressed, decrying the event as a marketing gimmick to sell off large stocks of relatively basic, industrially made wines.

Beaujolais l’Ancien, Jean Paul Brun 2009 Beaujolais

At the time, these connoisseurs would redirect their friends to real Beaujolais: crus* made the old-fashioned way, without the use of those commercial yeasts which inflict the wines with artificial banana and candy aromas. And unlike Nouveau, these wines were capable of aging! The word got around that Nouveau was pretty much crap, but the second part about the other quality Beaujolais behind the spotlights was lost somewhere along the way, leaving local producers with a slight image problem.

The Jean Paul Brun 2009 Beaujolais is a simple Beaujolais AOC, but made the old-fashioned way, as its name -ancien- tries to convey. The wine has very deep, yet juicy fruit feel, with strong floral notes reminiscent of violets. Although this entry-level bottling doesn’t have a tannic structure to age as long as Jean Paul Brun’s cru level wines (last month, his Morgon required a couple hours before it even started to express itself!), it is an immensely pleasurable wine which shows that serious Beaujolais is more than an alcoholic fruit juice.

Beaujolais Nature, Marcel Lapierre 2009 Morgon

marcel-lapierre-2009-morgon-label-460

The Beaujolais region would find its second wind in the late Marcel Lapierre, who passed away just last month. He was the most vocal defender of vin nature, natural wines made with absolutely no intervention in the cellar, and he convinced a new generation of winemakers throughout France to make fresh, easy-drinking wines with no added sulfites and to emphasize wine’s strongest assets: pleasure and drinkability. Along with the Loire Valley, Beaujolais has been a leader in the natural wine movement, and has been getting a lot of positive press in recent years, particularly from bloggers on the net.

The Marcel Lapiere 2009 Morgon had a stunning nose, which started off with very deep and explosive berry fruit, and evolved over time to incorporate aromas of orange peel, dried herbs and a subtle earthiness. The lively acidity of the wine kept me longing for more, even after the bottle was empty. Overall, I was most impressed with the wine’s freshness and purity of fruit. Luckily, Marcel’s son has been gradually taking over in the cellar over the past five years, and plans to continue in his father’s footsteps.

Beaujolais Re-nouveau?

Lately, I’ve been noticing that the same connoisseurs (or is it a new generation of connoisseurs by now?) defending Beaujolais Nouveau. Is it the influence of the easy-drinking attitude of the natural wine movement? A general trend towards more fruit-forward, less oaky wines? The appearance of better quality Nouveau wines from producers with a quality driven philosophy? Or maybe a return to a more festive and convivial approach to wine? Probably a little bit of each, but in any case, I’m glad that Beaujolais is bouncing back, and that we can celebrate the first wines of the vintage without feeling ashamed. And if anyone tells you otherwise, they need to get with the program!

No, this is not Coca-Cola.. quite the contrary: an all natural, no sulfites added Beaujolais Nouveau!

I celebrated Beaujolais day this year with the P-U-R 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau, which I found at a wine merchant in Beaune. The Coca-Cola style label is actually quite tongue-in-cheek, as this original Nouveau is an artisanal product made in very small quantities. It is a natural wine, with no added sulfites (or sugar as the label jokingly indicates -sans sucre ajouté-), and my first impression was that… well, it doesn’t taste anything like a Nouveau!

The wine was completely closed at first, with crushed berries and sandalwood aromas slowly emerging with time. It never did reach a full-blown fruitiness however, and reminded me more of a Pierre Overnoy Jura (also a natural wine) than a Beaujolais! Like the Lapierre, the acidity was also quite brilliant, and the wine went beautifully with a Jambon persillé, though it’s strong character is definitely not for everyone. When you think about it, this Nouveau was the antithesis of Nouveau: artisanal, unapproachable, and thought provoking. Could this be the next wave of Beaujolais?
NOTES:
*Beaujolais cru comes from one of 10 specific sub-zones of the Beaujolais appellation. While they are made from the same Gamay grape variety, the nuances in soil and micro-climate produce wines with more character, which are generally more structured and age-worthy. The ten Beaujolais crus are (from North to South) : Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.

A fortified red from…. the Beaujolais?!

My uncle came to visit for a couple days, and in addition to some of my favorite Jura reds, he also brought along this very original bottle of fortified wine from the Beaujolais.

Domaine des Terres Vivantes

From the little I could find online, the Domaine des Terres Vivantes -Living Soils Estate- is a relatively recent organic estate in southern Beaujolais run by Marie and Ludovic Gros. Before setting off on this new adventure, she was a baker and he was a sommelier, and so they not only craft wines in the Beaujolais AOC, but also bake and sell their own artisanal bread.

Fortified Gamay: Volutes

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this bottle, since my uncle didn’t really know what it was, just that it was sweet. Also, the Volutes is labeled as a “spiritueux” (spirit) and contained 18% alc/vol, so my first thought was a Pineau des Charentes type drink, which is made by adding distilled spirits to grape must (ie. unfermented juice).

After contacting the winery, I found out that Burgundy/Beaujolais does have such a product called riquiqui., but it turns out that this bottle is actually a fortified red wine similar to a Banyuls or Porto. The estate first made the experiment in 2003, the year of the heat wave which provided many over-ripe grapes. They were able to repeat the process in 2006 and 2010 by harvesting part of their Gamay 15 to 20 days later and adding a neutral spirit to halt the fermentation at around 40g of residual sugar.

Ripe aromas of dark fruit and griotte cherry reminded me of some of the more exuberant Uruguay wines which I had very much enjoyed in South America, though with noticeably more alcohol. On the palate, soft tannins confirmed this impression, but the sweetness gives the wine a more mellow feel, while the surprisingly racy acidity keeps it composed and relatively fresh on the delicious finish, with lingering pomegranate notes.

I think it is this freshness that sets this Beaujolais apart from the more southern Banyuls or Porto, and I very much enjoyed the wine, though the alcohol can be a bit too present without some food to balance it out.

Ludovic Gros also mentioned that they are currently working on a proper “cooked” wine, which is reduced to only a third of its initial volume and reaches 19.5% alc/vol. Interesting, but probably not for me…