Beaujolais it ain't all Nouveau


So naturally what I mean by that title is,that much, if not most, of the wine from Beaujolais is wonderful stuff marred by the phenomenon that is Beaujolais Nouveau. The marketing concept of producing wines in a blaze of forced glory, and using techniques that make the wine a shadow of it's self, has propelled this particular wine to the tops of recognition, if the bottom of appreciation. Beaujolais is now a wine to drink from Thanksgiving until perhaps Christmas, as a novelty, the first wine of the year, and without thought, since this particular interpretation of the wine offers very little stimulative value in that realm.
So what then am I talking about? I am talking about the Beaujolais that seems at times to have more in similar with the great Burgundies that grow just to the north than other wines based on the Gamay grape. Wines that have a wonderful purity of floral scents, violets and roses, that compliment their slightly herbal stemmy notes and crisp, direct fruits. Wines that speak with a fine transparency, allowing the grape, terroir and winemaker each to have their say yet have no voice obscuring another. OK, that last line could be used to describe any great wine.

Hey did you see that point I made right there?  Yes I called Beaujolais a GREAT WINE, it ain't all Nouveau you see. So we spent 2 weeks here at Snooth tasting through a dozen wines in an effort to share with our members the wines that together make Beaujolais a region worth exploring. Our tastings included simple Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages and the crus so that, together, we could learn just what the labels on the bottles mean.

Our second weeks tasting was more casual in nature as a group of us tasted the wines and exchanged thoughts in a freewheeling round table. In such a setting it was more difficult to get a real handle on each persons thoughts but there was a consensus that emerged. Now this is a bit of a different take, on basically the same wines, since we had the wines with some light food, wonderful cheeses, olive scented crackers and mixed nuts.

In this setting the best wines continued to shine, The consensus top wines were no surprise. Roughly in order they were:

2007 Vissoux Pierre Chermette Brouilly

2007 Thenevet Grain & Granite Regnie

2007 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie

2007 Domaine de Billards Barbet St. Amour   

2007 Georges Trichard Chenas    

What was a bit of a surprise was that all the other wines found fans from the simple Pizay to the ethereal and gently fruited Lapierre, each wine made someone happy, though the wood on the  Jadot was still off-putting. About that Jadot, in fact the second go-round had a 2006 in place of the 2007. The wine was all together more appealing even if the wood remained obvious. Perhaps the vintage's character, perhaps a sign of the benefit one can derive from ageing Beaujolais a bit.

In the coming days I will dip into my cellar and take a look how a few bottles of Beaujolais are ageing, 2 from 2003,  and one each from 2002 and 1996. Beaujolais is full of surprises yet one thing that will not surprise me is if these wines are wonderful and bear and even more striking resemblance with Burgundy! On that old canard, while Beaujolais may, or may not, really resemble Burgundy one thing is for sure. For $20 one can certainly drink a whole lot better in Beaujolais!

And without further ado allow me to relate what it was we discovered. I've included my notes below and an impression from each of the tasters that participated in our first weeks blind tasting.

Flight 1
2007 Chateau du Pizay Beaujolais
A bit stemmy-spicy on the nose with hints of earth, roses and a marshmallow edge. Soft pure raspberry fruit and nice zesty acidity make this a nice basic Beaujolais and a light red perfect for serving with a chill this summer. 85pts

Philip – strawberry, good structure
Lance - strawberry, mild spice
Baratunde – butter and smooth
Dave – flat, lost me at the end
Sophie – quite fruit forward, almost sweet,
Evan - indistinct, herbaceous on the palate

2007 Chateau du Chatelard Beaujolais Villages
Coming from gentle hills with a bit of rocky terrain this smoky, tobacco scented Beaujolais Villages is a step up from simple Beaujolais. This is a bit mineral toned on the palate with a bit of forced, extracted tannin that adds a touch of bitterness to the otherwise dried herbal, strawberry flavors. I bit too inky and blocky for my palate. 83pts

Philip – gamier, tobacco
Lance - not very complex, didn't hold my interest
Baratunde – sharp and mildy spicy
Dave – chalky, strawberry,
Sophie – mineral, younger vines
Evan - fuller and actually sweet

2007 Vissoux Pierre Chermette Brouilly
Brouilly is the largest Cru in Beaujolais. Chermette produces natural wines and this is a beauty! A bouquet full of violets, crystallized black raspberry, rich forest soil, and aromatic candle wax leads to a gorgeous palate full of sweet fruit. This is wonderfully precise with great balance and a tense crisp, tannic note that frames the wonderfully transparent fruit. On the long finish a hint of medicinal herbs adds depth to the fruit and finale return of violets. Beaujolais doesn't get much better than this. 92pts

Philip – lot of fruit, floral violet, topnotes
Lance - mild sweet fruit, liked the finish
Baratunde – sharper, dryer,
Dave –cherry candy, violets
Sophie – softer fuller approachable style
Evan - rich nose, , earthiness that I liked

Flight 2
2007 Domaine des Terres Dorees Jean-Paul Brun Cotes de Brouilly   
The Cotes de Brouilly is located within Brouilly, on old volcanic slopes and generally produces deep, dark fruit. This is decidedly herbal and stemmy on the nose with medicinal floral tones and hints of green peppercorn and juniper. Rich and well balanced in the mouth with noticeable fruit tannin balanced by a nice acid spine. Some woodsy notes recall the nose and are joined by black berry and black currant fruit. This finishes with a touch of Ricola and is bit shorter than I would like but is complex and complete. 88pts

Philip – simple fruity, a little iron on the finish
Lance - a bit spicy on the nose, nice finish
Baratunde – medicinal, hot
Dave – strawberry, bitter cola
Sophie – strange milk chocolate lactic Cadbury nutbar, firm and enjoyable tannins
Evan - tea tannins, earth, raspberry

2007 Thenevet Grain & Granite Regnie
Regnie is the youngest Cru of Beaujolais, dating from 1988 but is part of the historic home of Beaujolais. This has superb aromatics with balsamic, candle wax tones almost verging on eucalyptus with a roast meaty edge and layers of intense and complex violet pastille and wild berry fruits. This smells like old vines. This has big weight but is not weighty do to the incredible balance and precision that makes for lovely depth of fruit with a raspberry, slight roasted strawberry tone yet crystal clear transparency. I love the quality of the tannins here, they are soft and like flannel, mouth filling. A nice mineral wash cleanses the palate and leads to a long finish that ends with a wild strawberry flourish. This is simply great Beaujolais! 94pts

Philip – mushroom, black cherry, blood
Lance - , tea flavor, good
Baratunde – woody, toopia
Dave – violets, white pepper ripe cherry
Sophie – rich fruit on the palate, savory, thyme
Evan - more herbaceous, raspberry in the back of the mouth

2007 Marcel Lapierre Morgon

Morgon produces rich, earthy wine that can easily be mistaken for Burgundy. Lapierre is a great biodynamic producer. This offers up notes of beet roots, dusty earth, anise and aggressive herb and medicinal notes. With a very light, natural and elegant in the mouth this is refreshing but quite herbal and almost vegetal on the palate with a decided green streak and some granitic minerality but not much fruit. 84pts

Philip – vegetal, mineral, earthy dry finish
Lance - smoky nose, mild but complex
Baratunde – fruity
Dave – raw meats, white pepper, raspberry
Sophie – soft light fruit on the palate, lots of Gamay character
Evan - candy cherry nose, very flat, almost watery

Flight 3
2006 Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles
Chiroubles comes from vines at higher elevation that produce delicate wines and Pacalet's minimalist style of winemaking preserves this ethereal quality. A touch funky on the nose with a gamy edge to the wooly, wet cotton, rainwater tones that feature an intriguing touch of dried thyme. This is a bit more structured in the mouth with lots of sweet yet indistinct fruit that is slightly pruny. It is very aromatic in the mouth but a bit short on the finish. 86pts

Philip – – mushroomy nose, tobacco, plums
Lance - lemony nose, nice balance and fruit,
Baratunde – soft and gentle feel on the nose, gummi bears
Dave – really perfumed with sweet resinous flowers, gamy and attractive
Sophie – high toned floral nose, savory finish is cool and sleek
Evan - nose hit me, leather, cherry, hint of tar in the background

2007 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie
Fleurie is always one of my favorite Crus, full of plush, deep fruit that takes a couple of years in the cellar to peak. Once one gets past the noticeable hit of sulfur this is dark and slightly resinous on the nose with bark and fruit tones in a masculine, cologne-scented register that includes a touch of campfire and very lovely subtle vegetal tones and medicinal herbs. In the mouth this feels a touch closed at first but with mouthwatering acid and hints of bright red fruits and red currants with a nice iron edge. The youthful tannins are a touch stiff and pop on the finish with a touch of almond nuttiness that offers contrast to the nice dark fruit return with it's touch of fig and darker cherry fruit. A bigger style of wine but complete if a touch blocky at the moment. 89pts

Philip – smooth and supply, cherry notes
Lance - dusty nose, good forward fruit
Baratunde – did not like, chemical maybe sulfur
Dave – sour ripe cherries, black currant, medicinal
Sophie – odd nose pencil lead/shaving, fairly Gamay,
Evan - black tea spice, berries, soft tannins

2007 Jadot Chateau des Jacques Moulin a Vent 
Moulin a Vent produces low yielding vines and powerful wines from rocky soil in the north of Beaujolais. This is sweet smelling with predominantly woodsy tones of white mushroom and gardenia. There's lots of fruit on the palate, which is a bit sweet though an herbal edge offers a bit of relief from the onslaught of prominent black gapey fruit. This ends with a bit of an extracted matte feel and some wood tannin that mars the finish and adds a bit of bitterness. 84pts

Philip – a lot of butter and oak on the nose
Lance - grassy, rosemary, chalky finish
Baratunde – acid, maybe lactic
Dave – black currants long finish
Sophie – not as expressive, nice but ambivalent
Evan - burnt cherry, hint of toasted wood

Flight 4
2007 Duboeuf Chateau des Capitans Julienas

Julienas produces elegant and spicy wines from a region that gets its name from Julius Caesar! This is dusty and mineral with a big bay leaf tone and a touch of seared beef but it lacks some liveliness. On entry this is fiercely acidic for this ripeness yet very simple with big black fruits. This finishes with some chemical notes and I can't say that there's much here for me to like. 80pts

Philip – Bovril, tight at first, leather but now it's plain cherries
Lance -– tobacco nose, black currant cinnamon,
Baratunde – very strong overpowering cherry
Dave – very ripe cherry, vanilla, black olive
Sophie – sweet black cherry and licorice excessively candied viscous
Evan - not much, hints of candy, soft tannin

2007 Georges Trichard Chenas

Chenas is the smallest of the crus, many of the vineyards that formed the appellation are now part of the Moulin au Vent appellation. With waxy red fruits, dried apricot, blond tobacco, spicy, wild red berry fruits, a touch of tea and a hint of dried cranberry on the nose this is compelling to smell. The mouth feel is suave and smooth with lovely tannins nicely balanced with bright acids. There are strong cranberry tones on the palate with a touch of tea that is nice and measured and leads to a finish that has good length and offers a hint of cherry pit bitterness that adds cut, This is not super complex but a style I really like to drink. 91pts

Philip – nice nose pine needles and foresty, riverbed,
Lance – spicy, a bit woody, tannic on the finish
Baratunde – very spicy a lot of pepper
Dave – lush fruit, toasted nuttiness, and diluted texture
Sophie – lighter nose a touch vegetal, more tannin not completely well integrated
Evan - – gaminess, toast, sweet mixed berry

2007 Domaine de Billards Barbet St. Amour
St. Amour combines great fruit, spice, structure from the northern border of the region. A romantic choice! This starts out reticent on the nose with an underlying natural sweetness of dried raspberry fruit and just a hint of earth and spice with a touch of grassiness. Fairly fleshy and round in the mouth with lovely depth. This is fairly powerful yet transparent and really bright with wonderfully precise fruits that lean to the black cherry, black currant end of the spectrum. The finish is really long and fruit driven but refreshing with a lovely final of almost gamy wild fruits. This read more…might be a touch dilute but the appeal is undeniable. 91pts

Philip – very plummy, fruity throughout
Lance - floral nose, seemed young, didn't open up much
Baratunde – deep dark plum
Dave – gamy raspberry, prune, and cherry
Sophie – feels muted and dilute, hard to taste, at this
Evan - hint of cherry with toast, earth tobacco

Gregory Dal Piaz

Community Manager


Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 6,198

    Great compilation, Greg, with quite useful functionality. Still want to find that Thenevet Regnie!

    Jun 15, 2009 at 9:48 AM

  • Snooth User: GregT
    Hand of Snooth
    89564 2,594

    And of course only certain people got to taste all those wines. The rest of us? We had to drink that Pizay.

    Jun 16, 2009 at 2:44 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Some of us got a head start from 6 to 8:30 or so!

    Come over on Thursday and you can have allt he summer whites, I promise!

    Jun 16, 2009 at 4:37 AM

  • Rebecca Maria Filice

    Hi Greg, This is so beautifully written. Your ability to articulate flavor profiles, depth of palate, and terroir is crazy amazing! Cheers, Rebecca Maria

    Jun 16, 2009 at 11:01 AM

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