Why Don’t I Love Beaujolais More?


I should. Gamay can be a fantastic grape. And the best cru Beaujolais’ have lots of what I love in wine—precision, freshness, structure, aliveness, a core of addictively delicious fruit. But somehow I never seem to reach for a bottle of Beaujolais in the store; I flip past it online; and rarely look at the Beaujolais section on a wine list (if there even is one). What made me realize all this were two amazing wines I recently tasted.

The first was CHATEAU DU MOULIN-À-VENT Moulin-à-Vent 2019. And the second was the same wine from the 2009 vintage—in other words, a 13-year-old Beaujolais.

I expected the first wine to be good. It was from the cru called Moulin-à-Vent which, of the ten Beaujolais cru, is considered the most powerful and full-bodied. But this wine was more than good—it was intriguing and loaded with personality. It was seriously earthy and savory, with a bitter dusty cocoa edge and iron-like minerality. I wanted to drink it all night. And for a brief moment, I remembered that Gamay was once planted throughout Burgundy. Maybe this wine was what some of those historical wines tasted like.

I imagined the 13-year-old 2009 Beaujolais would be a little tired, hollow, and missing any fruit bounce. Just the opposite. In fact, I couldn’t write fast enough: cinnamon, cherries, peaches, anise, vanilla, and crushed stones all came hurtling out of the glass. Texturally, the wine was pure silk.

I googled aged Beaujolais. As expected, most commentary reinforced the “best to drink Beaujolais young” idea, noting an “occasional exception.”

So why don’t I think about and drink Beaujolais more young or aged?

I once read that it’s possible to get stuck in a music time warp—that many people, for their entire lives, like the music they first heard when they were 20 something years-old. No matter that they are 50 now, they’re still listening to whatever was popular when they were in their 20s.

I think this is what has happened to me with Beaujolais. When I was 25 and living in New York, one of the big deal events of the fall was Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Every newspaper and TV station covered it. The wine was soda popish but the wine itself was, in a sense, beside the point. It was the joy of the event that mattered.

Somehow, I got stuck in the idea that Beaujolais wine itself is beside the point.

I’m wrong about that of course (a fact that some importers—hello Kermit Lynch—have been trying to tell me for years).

So, with those Chateau du Moulin-à-Vent wines as inspiration, this year, I’m fixing that.

 

Here are some additional producers of Beaujolais producers whose wines I’ve recently loved.

Alain Coudert

Charly Thévenet

Domaine Anne-Sophie DuBois

Domaine Dupeuble Père et Fils

Domaine Jean-Ernest Descombes

Domaine Louis-Claude Desvignes

Georges Descombes

Guy Breton

Julien Sunier

M. & C. Lapierre

Marcel Lapierre

Michel Tête

Thibault Liger-Belair

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