Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Beaujolais Bounty

I am risking ridicule with this post.

Recently, Jay McInerney wrote an article, Best Beaujolais, in the Wall Street Journal that praised praised the wines of Georges Dubouef. He received much scorn and ridicule for the article, both in the comments, on Twitter, and probably elsewhere as well. But I am unsure whether his critics have actually tasted the 2009 Beaujolais wines put out by Georges Dubouef. They might be unfairly judging them without having first tried the wines.

I had the opportunity to taste some of those wines at a luncheon at the Taj Hotel in Boston and I was impressed. So my own praise here for these wines may lead others to ridicule me as well. But before you do so, why not try the wines first? You may be pleasantly surprised.

Most people are familiar with Beaujolais Nouveau, the light, fruity wine that is released each November to much fanfare. Thought that is not really considered a serious wine, there is Beaujolais that is more serious. Besides Nouveau, you'll also find Beaujolais, Beaujolais Superieur, Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais Crus. There are ten crus, villages, in the Beaujolais region, including Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgan, Moulin-a-Vent, Regnie and Saint-Amour. These cru wines are supposed to reflect terroir, to be wines of more depth and complexity.

Beaujolais wines are made from Gamay, an ancient red grape, and the wines are usually light, low in tannins and high in acidity. But, like any other grape, the wines can vary in their flavor profiles, dependent on various factors. You can find wines of great depth made from Gamay, though few people seem to realize that is possible.

Georges Duboeuf is a négociant, representing over 400 winegrowers in Beaujolais. In 1964, he founded “Les Vins Georges Duboeuf,” which currently represents wines in Beaujolais, Mâconnais and Southern France. He is sometimes referred to as the “King of Beaujolais” for his ardent advocacy of Beaujolais, especially the promotion of Beaujolais Nouveau. He is not without his critics and controversy. He certainly seems to be a skilled marketer, and does tend toward hyberole at times. But I won't address these matters much, and concentrate mostly on the taste of the wines I sampled.

But first I will address a bit of hyperbole. Duboeuf has declared that 2009 is the "vintage of a lifetime." Such hyperbole is often ignored, because it is over used so often, by many different wine regions and growers. So many vintages seem to be declared phenomenal, and even the vintage of a lifetime. It is meaningless to me as well. But, I can accept and respect that 2009 was an excellent vintage, because the weather was so perfect for the grapes. There was plenty of sunny weather, but also rain in June, which is important as the wine growers cannot irrigate. So, the Beaujolais wines of 2009 should be excellent examples of the potential of Gamay.

A special guest at the luncheon was Emeric Gaucher (pictured above), who is a third generation winemaker currently working for Les Vins Georges Duboeuf. He started working in the vineyards on his family farm so has spent almost all of his life involved in wine making. At Duboeuf, he is the second in charge of winemaking, assisting in managing relationships with the winegrowers, the sourcing of grapes and the logistics of winemaking. I sat next to him at lunch, and found him to be down to earth, personable and passionate about wine.

I tasted nine different Beaujolais, from Villages to Crus, priced $9.99 t0 $17.99. They generally were delicious wines, good values with a fair amount of individual differences. Paired with food, they did well though some I could easily drink on their own. Some possessed an interesting complexity which I would usually associate with wines at a higher price point. And one wine even reminded me of an excellent Burgundy. Ridicule as much as you want, but these were tasty wines and if you blind tasted them, you would be similarly impressed.

The 2009 Beaujolais-Villages 2009 ($9.99) was a light, fruity wine but with more depth than Nouveau. Emeric stated that this wine should not be chilled, like some Nouveaus may be, as room temperature is thought to present its best expression. Emeric also stated that this is a wine you can start drinking just after breakfast, and then drink all day. It is certainly an easy-drinking wine, with pleasant red fruit flavors, and was very enjoyable. It went well with a dish of salmon tartare. The 2009 Brouilly ($13.99) had more restrained fruit on the nose, and the fruit flavors were deeper, more like plum than cherry. It was a smooth wine, with a bit more complexity than the Villages. The Villages though went better with the salmon tartare.

The 2009 Morgon ($12.99) was similar to the Brouilly in many ways, except there were more spice notes in the Morgon and it seemed to be a bit bolder of a wine. Interestingly, the 2009 Morgon, Domaine Jean Descombes ($14.99) was very different than the regular Morgon. Domaine wines are produced by independent wine makers and DuBoeuf acts as the broker, labeling the wines under his own label. This wine was a lighter red color than the regular Morgon, as well as having brighter red fruit and floral notes. It was more of an elegant wine than the bolder Morgon. They were both good wines, though different, each with their own place.

The 2009 Fleurie ($15.99) was very similar to the Domaine Jean Descombes, being a more elegant and light wine and Emeric told me that many women prefer this wine. Yet like the Morgon, the Domaine version of the Fleurie was radically different. The 2009 Fleurie, Domaine des Quatre Vents ($16.99) had a darker red color with a smoky smell, and lots of ripe plum, black cherry and spice on the palate. The tannins were restrained and the finish was long and satisfying. I really enjoyed this wine and could see this easily as a good BBQ wine. The 2009 Juliénas, Domaine de Capitan ($17.99) was similar, being a bolder, spicy wine. I think it was slightly more restrained than the Quatre Vents, but with more complexity and subtle flavors lurking in the background.

The 2009 Moulin-à-Vent ($15.99) did not impress me as much, and almost had a touch of effervescence. But the 2009 Moulin-à-Vent, Domaine de la Tour du Bief ($16.99) was amazing! In fact, it reminded me of a fine Burgundy. It had intriguing and complex flavors, from ripe plum to subtle earthy notes. It was smooth, delicious and had a lengthy and interesting finish. The depth and complexity of this wine enthralled me and I couldn't get enough of it. This is supposed to be a wine with an excellent aging potential, though I think it was pretty killer now. This was my favorite wine of the tasting, a wine showing the incredible potential of Gamay and it receives my highest recommendation. At this price, it is a top-notch value wine too.

Before casting judgment, give these Dubouef wines a try. Whether you prefer bold wines, or those of elegance and grace, you will find a wine you will enjoy. Even if you don't try the Duboeuf wines, try some 2009 Beaujolais from other producers. Gamay can make some amazing wines, especially in such a good vintage.


Unknown said...

Emeric Gaucher came to our office and tasted me and my staff on these wines. I was really impressed. Like, really really impressed. Considering all of these wines were less than $20 I would agree. While it's hard to call it a "vintage of a lifetime" (considering I'm not that old) I would easily call this "a vintage no one should miss."

Personally, I will be purchasing these wines in bulk and I will be recommending them to everyone.

meghan said...

I have enjoyed several of the wines from this post, and found them to be good wines for an unbeatable value. Nice post!

David Dadekian said...

I don't see what the big problem is. I love some of the Beaujolais Cru's. Moulin-a-Vent makes great wines. I get some almost every year. I haven't had these but I definitely will. Sure I don't drink Nouveau, but I don't drink White Zin and that's not going away any time soon so why bother to complain about Nouveau?

Vicky Wine said...

Very interesting, this is true that Duboeuf is often critized, and I am from Beaujolais and feel sometimes skeptical about his marketing.

Thanks for this article that makes me want to try some more of his.

If you ever want to try my delicious Fleurie, i'll let you know when it is on sale in your state.

All the best

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks for all your comments, and I am very glad that others have very much enjoyed these wines as well. After Jay got blasted on the WSJ, I figured anyone else writing positively about the DuBoeuf Beaujolais would also take heat. Happy to see that was not the case.