Like a lot of great wines we used to enjoy, over production, Nouveau and poor marketing put Beaujolais in the dog house of wines that nobody drinks anymore.
Dr. Kathy Chase always has something up her sleeve when it comes to blind tasting and this month her Rude Tasters meeting consisted of Beaujolais wines from France. Beaujolais is the name of a region technically part of Burgundy (Bourgogne) though most wine lovers do not consider it Burgundy because they mostly grow and vinify Gamay grapes in Beaujolais for most of their red wines while most other parts of Burgundy utilize predominantly Pinot Noir. Somehow, perhaps due to difficulties growing true Gamay in California, Gamay got a bad name in the US. Parisians still drink it like water, however.
So Kathy went to Martha's Vineyard in Grand Rapids to see if she could find any fine Beaujolais. She lucked out and found a bevy of them. A wine simply labeled Beaujolais originates from the sandier soils of the Beaujolais region and is lighter and easier than those labeled Beaujolais Villages or list one of the 10 Cru. Beaujolais Villages is made from grapes grown among certain villages which have a high granite content in the soil and have a reputation for richer more full flavored wines. Those with one of the ten Cru (Brouilly, Cotes de Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin a Vent, Regnie, and St. Amour) listed on the label really taste like Burgundy made from Pinot Noir and cost as much too. The Cru are allowed to use the term "Bourgogne" if they wish. Another quirky wine from the region, usually Macon, another adjacent Burgundy region, is Passetoutgrains which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay.
We started with two warm up wines. The first warm up was 2016 Jean Foillard Beaujolais Village $23.99 (12.5% abv). To me and several of the tasters, it tasted like a very good Cotes du Rhone made from Grenache. It is vividly fresh with raspberry, raw tomato, and persimmon. Most of the tasters really liked this one which you'll see was produced by a very high end producer in Morgon, known for extracting the best quality acheivable from his crop. The second warm up was a delightful wine, but so over shadowed by the Folliard that it kind of got lost. This was a simple Beaujolais. 2015 Beaujolais Terres Dorees L'Anciene $20.39 (12% abv) had a fresh red fruit flavor though flavors of cinnamon and allspice seemed to suggest it may have seen oak and actually tasted a bit alcoholic though only 12% abv.
2015 Beaujolais Villages Damien Cloquelet $22.99 (12.5% abv) This one seemed a bit closed and simple with modest fruit. Soft and easy but not memorable. My score 80 points; group score 87 points 5th place. 2015 Chiroubles Damien Cloquelet $26.49 (12.5% abv) The odd volatile paint smell spoils what otherwise would be a lovely, soft, easy wine with good spice and a fine finish. As it airs, it does get a lot better and grows on you. My score 83 points; group score 82 points 7th place. 2016 Fleurie Clos de la Roilette $19.99 (13% abv) There is a bit of fermentation smell, but, diminishes as it airs. The finish is bright, fruity and edgy with a clean dry aftertaste. My score 80 points; group score 86 points 6th place. 2015 Fleurie Dillie Morgon $47.00 (14.3% abv) As usual, the group liked the most expensive wines. This one is very exotic, with a vermouth worm wood like thistle nose and a very full and complex finish. My score 88 points; group score 99 points first place tie.
2016 Morgon Cotes de Py Jean Foillard $39.99 (13% abv) I love this wine! The fine elegant sour grape candy-like intensity shows fresh vivid fruit flavor thoughout. The finish is as superb as the bouquet. My score 95 points; group score 98 points 3rd place. 2015 Morgon Cotes de Py Jean Foillard $39.99 (14% abv) 2015 was a hefty vintage with plenty of alcohol and considered one of the best in a decade. Neither I nor the group enjoyed the '15's as much as the '16's, however. This is a nice wine with fresh edgy spice and rustic fruit flavors though just a bit harsh and not as complete as the '16. My score 87 points; group score 92 points 4th place. 2014 Bourgogne Passetougrains Bourgogne Domaine Chevillon $29.49 (12.5% abv) This Pinot Noir Gamay blend has an odd stewed tomato potato aroma and not a lot of bright fruit. The finish is pleasant but, not enough up front. My score 75 points; group score 68 points 8th (last) place. 2015 Cotes de Brouilly Clos Zachary Thevin $40.00 (13% abv) Beautiful example of Beaujolais here. Deep dark color with a dense ripe mouth feel meminds me of California Syrah. It is fine and powerful, not particulaly classy but not coarse either. Big stuff! My score 93 points; group score 99 points first place tie.
I don't know if anyone guessed what we were tasting prior to the bottles being unveiled. I certainly had no idea. The first warm up had me thinking Rhone, but, then the rest dispelled that notion. With the exception of the first wine (Cloquelet Beaujolais Village), Alice thought that there was a sameness to the wines which was less than exciting. Certainly, the producers making good Beaujolais charge prices accordingly, so, the good ones are hardly simple quaffers. This summer, if you are lookiing for a pleasant red to go with backyard barbeque, give Beaujolais a try.
Enjoy in Good Health, A. Brian Cain, the Michigan Vintner