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It has come to our attention over the past thirty-plus years that Americans don't drink enough Beaujolais. Whether this is a reaction to years of sugary, artificial Nouveau from the big negociants or to a preference for heavier-bodied, higher alcohol reds we're not sure. At any rate, we'd like to tempt you with some of our favorite Beaujolais of the past few years, all of which are delicious to drink now and will benefit from a few years in the cellar as well.
Since taking over the estate from his father Fernand in 1991, Alain Coudert at the Clos de la Roilette has become one of the most consistent and respected producers in Beaujolais. Alain was a reluctant vigneron, returning to aid the family after his brother had a serous accident in 1979. During our early visits to the estate, the modest Alain would defer to his father who would hold court at the long bar as old bottles were brought up from the cellar. Located near the border with Moulin-a-Vent and having a large percentage of clay with manganese in the soil, the wines here are quite structured for a Fleurie and even poor vintages will show well with ten years of age. "Vinification is the traditional, semi-carbonic Beaujolais style," says Alain. "We do a submerged cap, we do temperature control and we use native yeasts. The idea is obviously to best express our terroir...the result is a more structured wine, somewhere between a "typical" Fleurie and a Moulin-a-Vent. Cuvée Tardive is made from 80 year-old vines and can seriously age - in a way it's to prove that Gamay is a grape that can achieve more than youthful drinkability." The 2015s here were big, bold wines, somewhat awkward upon release that will need time to come around. Happily, in 2016, Alain's Fleuries are beautifully balanced and quite delicious now, although both cuvées will benefit from cellar time, especially the Cuvée Tardive. Quantities are limited so don't delay!
The 2014 vintage was not appreciated by the US press, but we thought it offered fantastic, beautifully balanced wines with lovely fruit and moderate alcohol. As always, the Georges Descombes Vieilles Vignes are among the very best of the vintage and the 2014s are superb - at 12.5% alcohol, they are complex, subtle, stylish wines that are wonderful now, but will probably be best between 2020 and 2025+. All three of the 2014s are back in stock including the Regnié Vieilles Vignes which is particularly delicious - we urge you to try them.
Last March we offered the gorgeous 2014s of Cedric Chignard - we have just taken the last available stock of the 2014 Juliénas "Beauvernay." It's ripe and sapid but with lively acidity and perfectly proportioned at 12.5% alcohol. Morello cherry and red currant fruit with saline minerals, earth and spice coat the palate and continue in the earthy finish. Equally lovely is the 2014 Fleurie "Les Moriers," perhaps more age-worthy than the Juliénas - both these wines offer superb value and are sensational food wines, as are the 2014 Morgons from Roland Pignard. The Pignard estate is certified Biodynamic (Demeter) and practices relatively short macerations giving wines that are always well-balanced and with pronounced underlying minerality. The Morgon Tradition receives an extra year of aging in old barriques and will age beautifully in a Burgundian style.
2015 was a hot, dry year in the Beaujolais, not sufficiently freshened by rains late in the season as in the Northern Rhone. Alcohol levels were commonly at 14% or higher, giving wines with impressive sappy fruit but that often lacked balance and brightness. Roland Pignard and Georges Descombes both produced delicious wines in 2015, products of organic/biodynamic farming and careful vinifications, with alcohol levels at 13 to 13.5%. While the wines show very pretty lush, ripe fruits, they are nicely balanced with bright acidity and will drink beautifully over the next three to five years. The 2015 Pignard Regnié is particularly impressive, with complex fruit, earth and mineral flavors that will develop nicely with time in the bottle.
2009 was announced as the Vintage of the Century in Beaujolais, although many "purists" found the wines a bit too ripe. Alcohol levels varied, but were generally lower than those in 2015, and the wines had some nice blance and brightness to the lush fruit. We're curious to find out how the wines are maturing - join us for dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 15th at Racines NY at 7pm as we open some our favorites, including Lapierre Morgon, Lapierre "Marcel," Thevenet Morgon, Foillard Morgon, Ducroux Regnié, Coudert Clos de la Roilette and the Cuvé Tardive and a flight from Domaine des Terres Dorées including Fleurie, Morgon, Côte de Brouilly and Moulin-a-Vent. This will be a delicious and fun evening, $150 all inclusive.
Alain Coudert, who took over from his father in the late 80s, produces some of the finest wines in Fleurie. Originally classified as Moulin-a-Vent, the Clos de la Roilette vines produce a somewhat more structured wine with more black fruit aromas than a "normal" Fleurie. The 2015s here, as in much of Beaujolais were high in alcohol and extremely ripe, a bit awkward in their youth and needing a few years to calm down. The 2016 Clos de la Roilette has returned to form showing a bright red/garnet color and aromas of crushed raspberry, violette and brown spice with hints of blackberry, citrus and earth. The palate retains the floral character with creamy raspberry fruit and hints of spice, leather and greens, with nice sappy length. Delicious now and quite easy to drink, although it will benefit from decanting. Serve with charcuterie, roast chicken, pork dishes and mild cheeses. As always the Coudert Clos de la Roilette will benefit from 3 to 5 years or more in the bottle as well.
The Descombes Regnié Vieilles Vignes is superb in 2014, showing lovely aromas of red currant and strawberry, violet, orange peel, brown spice and soil. There is velvety strawberry and blackberry compote on the palate with rose, pomegranate, earth and citrus. The finish is long with lemony acidity, mineral flavors and pretty red fruits. This is a complex and beautifully balanced Regnié that is delicious now, with aeration, and it should be superb from 2020 to 2026+. Highly recommended. David Lillie
The Vieilles Vignes bottlings from Georges Descombes are always among our favorite Beaujolais, and we're very happy to finally have the lovely 2014s in the store! A difficult growing season that was saved by good weather at the end of summer, 2014 produced beautifully balanced and very expressive wines in Beaujolais. The Chiroubles Vieilles Vignes shows floral, spiced strawberry and blackberry fruit, with hints of graphite, earth and citrus. Bright plum, strawberry and black fruits on the palate with rose and citrus, textured and mineral with nice length of berry fruits, bright acidity and earth in the finish. This is a lovely, beautifully balanced Chiroubles, at 12.5% alcohol, that is delicious now, best perhaps 2020 - 2025. DL
Georges Descombes, one of the finest producers in Beaujolais, captured the lush fruit of the 2015 vintage with moderate alcohol (13%), lovely aromas and silky, supple fruit on the palate. Blackberry, red currant and violet aromas with hints of meat and chocolate; the palate is quite ripe and pretty with nice balancing acidity and freshness - we miss the more delicate, complex fruit of the 2014, but this is a delicious Morgon in a riper style that will drink beautifully over the next five years. Serve with charcuterie, grilled pork and roast chicken, slightly chilled. DL
From eighty year-old vines on clay and granite soil in Alain Coudert's beautiful Clos de la Roliette, just over the border from Moulin-a-Vent. By "Tardive," Alain Coudert implies that one should wait for this wine to mature, in this case probably about 5 to 7 years, although those unable to wait will certainly enjoy drinking it now. The 2016 is cool-toned and finely structured, at 13% it's showing less density than the 2015 and calling to mind the balance and bright minerality of the 2014 vintage. The wine shows deep ruby in the glass, intense aromas of red fruit, violets, fennel, smoke, and black pepper. The palate is creamy and floral on the attack then develops vivid flavors of blueberry and crushed strawberry layered over earthy spice, game, and stone on the grippy mid-palate. The finish is long and mineral and ends on a slightly bitter citrus note. An elegant and age-worthy vintage from Alain. Drinking now, but should develop beautifully with a few years of bottle age. Amanda Bowman
This is an extremely pretty Morgon, showing subtle high-toned black raspberry and tart cherry aromas with plum, violet, citrus and brown spice, really lovely. The black and red fruits continue on the palate with complex notes of blood orange, earth, mint and spice. The wine is dense and structured but bright and balanced, finishing with refreshing acidity and mineral flavors. Delicious now, this should be superb in three to five years, and should drink well till 2027. DL
This is an outstanding Beaujolais from the Chignard family, better known for their lovely Fleurie "Les Moriers." Possessing the lovely fruit and balance of the 2014 vintage in Beaujolais, the Julienas "Beauvernay" shows a pretty red/black color, with elegant aromas of blackberry and red currant with violet, blood orange, earth and stone. It's ripe and sapid but with lively acidity and perfectly proportioned at 12.5% alcohol. Morello cherry and red currant fruit with saline minerals, earth and spice coat the palate and continue in the earthy finish. Quite lovely now, this should become a beautiful mature wine with three to five years of aging, drink till 2023-2025. Highly recommended. DL
The Chignard Fleurie "Les Moriers" is consistently one of our favorite Beaujolais, coming from a high-density vineyard of 60+ year-old vines adjacent to Moulin-a-Vent. The wine is always quite elegant, even a bit austere in it's youth, due to the less extractive winemaking of the Chignards. The 2014 is a bit more expressive and full-bodied on opening, showing intriguing aromas of ripe strawberry, blackberry, plum, citrus and earth with hints of white pepper and spice - really lovely. There is fairly dense blackberry fruit on the palate with earth and mineral notes and firm acidity with berry fruits and mineral notes lingering in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. This is a potentially great mature Fleurie, best perhaps 2019 to 2025. Hats off to Cédric Chignard for his two beautiful 2014s!
2014 proved to be an excellent vintage for many growers in Beaujolais, and we are thrilled to announce the arrival of Joelle and Roland Pignard’s wines! The vines for this cuvée are 60 years old, planted at high altitude on steep hillsides in sandy clay soils over granite in the lieu-dit "les Charmes," just northwest of their home in Villié-Morgon. The nose offers plummy, dusty fruit, with hints of cranberry, raspberry seed, and savory herbs. Over time it plumps up a bit showing lovely wild strawberry and morello cherry aromas along with a hint of graphite and a gamey quality. High-toned red berry fruit comes forward on the palate along with damp earth and red cherries backed by silky tannins and a crunchy minerality. Very pretty served quite cool now, but there is no doubt that this would age well over the next few years. Tim Gagnon (Tasted again in November, 2016, the wine shows deeper, sappy cherry fruit that coats the palate, and is much more supple and forward. Really a lovely Morgon that's beginning to open up - delicious right now, this will soften and develop over the next five to eight years.)
While the “regular” Morgon is aged entirely in concrete vats before release, Tradition has an extended elévage in neutral barriques before release (think Griffe du Marquis from Alain Coudert). This serves to add depth to the wine, while also softening and rounding it, making for a very unique expression of the Pignards’ terroir. Exuberant on the nose with bright red and black cherry fruit, red licorice, brown spice, and strawberry compote rising from the glass. The palate is broad and supple with bright red fruit flavors along with a hint of fresh cream, tangerine peel, ample minerality, and fine-grained tannins. This wine is definitely structured to age, probably best in 5-10 years, but is lovely now in its energetic youth paired with steaks, game birds, or pork. Tim Gagnon
This delicious Regnié shows a vivid red/black color and lush aromas of blackberry liqueur with hints of violet, bitter chocolate and citrus. Ripe, supple berry fruits coat the palate, which is quite well-balanced for a 2015, blackberry and black cherry with lovely length of fruit lingering in the finish which is lifted by firm acidity. This is a great success for the vintage and will provide joyful drinking for the next five years! DL
The 2015 Descombes Brouilly shows a deep red/black color, with aromas of ripe blackberry and strawberry liqueur, with violet, black pepper and citrus - quite lush and pretty. Dark and earthy black fruits on the supple, velvety palate, with good length of sappy fruit that is balanced by refreshing acidity in the finish. This is certainly one of the prettiest and most balanced of the 2015s, really quite delicious in the riper style of the vintage. DL
The Pignards work 4.5 hectares in and around Morgon and Regnié. Biodynamic farming, natural fermentations and minimal SO2. We've walked through their vineyards, which are absolutely beautiful — "wine is made in the vineyard" say the Pignards and it shows in the gorgeous fruit and mineral character in their wines. The 2015 Beaujolais-Villages is from 40 to 60 year-old vines on decomposed granite soils in high-elevation parcels above Morgon. The wine shows very bright aromas of strawberry and cherry fruit with violet and citrus, quite pure and lovely. The palate is beautifully balanced for a 2015, at 13 % alcohol, with pretty berry fruits backed by saline minerals and firm acidity. This is "gouleyant" - simply delicious and easy-drinking! Serve quite cool with just about anything, and leave a few in the cellar, as this wine has the structure to age for a few years as well.
Roland and Joëlle Pignard make a small quantity of Regnié from fifty year-old vines in a vineyard with clay and stones over granite, always giving a dense and mineral wine. The Pignards made a superb Regnié in 2015, very well balanced, even with the higher ripeness in this sunny vintage. The wine shows deep blackberry, red currant and plum aromas with hints of earth, graphite, violets and citrus peel. There is a lovely melange of black and red fruits on the palate backed by firm acidity and saline mineral flavors, quite full and ripe but nicely balanced at 13 % alcohol. This is a great glass of Beaujolais in the richer style of 2015 - delicious now but should develop nicely over the next five to eight years. And it's a fabulous value at $18.99! DL