Last stop: Beaujolais

I couldn’t help but like the vignerons that I met in Beaujolais.  The region immediately appeared more accessible and the level of enthusiasm for this mostly unloved region more palpable.  Here, we visited the Cave du Château de Chénas, Cave du Château des Loges and the Vignerons des Pierres Dorées.

A view from Mt Brouilly.

I have already provided some brief impressions on the Beaujolais region in my previous post, but my takeaway points were these.  First, the region is very beautiful.  As a tourist, if you are seeking rolling hills covered in vines, this is your place.  Second, the visit highlights one of the limitations of the appellation system, namely that producers are unable to adapt to produce different wines that the market wants.  It is as if the region must wait for the wheel of fashion to turn, and starve in the interim.  Third, it is a reminder that I must buy more Beaujolais, and in particular, more Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie and Côte de Brouilly.

The Moulin in Moulin-à-Vent.
Not all vines are gobelets.  Trained vines in Beaujolais.
Gazing across the Beaujolais region.
Gobelet trained vines on the Côtes de Brouilly.

Before I get into the tastings, first some more observations on the limitations of the appellation system.  While in an Australian context, I support an increased focus on regionalism and indeed am also partial to Australia considering stricter appellation rules in some cases to really help distinguish our greatest and most well known terroirs, I don’t think that rules and laws generally, and appellation laws in particular, should result in outcomes where producers mush perish as a matter of principle, lock in anything other than best practices or result in a loss of common sense flexibility.  I noticed same small steps around the edges in this regard in Beaujolais – a few Beaujolais Blancs here and there (hitherto mostly unsighted by me and generally quite good), a couple of viogniers here and there (definitely previously unsighted by me) and then the biggest surprise, namely that there is now some limited machine harvesting permitted in the region, even though carbonic maceration requires whole bunch grapes.  Whether the latter is a good development remains to be seen, instinctively it is not, but equally having to tend to gobelet trained free standing vines and vineyards by hand when the wine is being sold at a euro or two a bottle is plainly unsustainable.

The key aspect of Beaujolais is that the crus are largely regarded separately from Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages wines and appear to be doing just fine.  The crus are wines from the towns and places of Saint-Amour, Julienas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.  Interestingly, the locals regard Côte de Brouilly as the most worthy of the crus, Moulin-à-Vent is the longest lived and most pinot noir like in time and Fleurie seems to be the UK market’s Beaujolais of choice.  As my tastings found, there is a certain logic in these outcomes.

Cave du Château de Chénas

Unsurprisingly, the Cave du Château de Chénas is in Chénas.  The wines here were a great insight into the respective attributes of the Beaujolais crus, which are rarely seen together in any detail on Australian shores.  The quality proved to be very good, and the prices as ever for this region, low.

Beaujolais Blanc 2014
From 4 year old vines.  Lemon and lime aromatics.  Lemon and yellow grapefruit on the palate.  A

Saint-Amour 2014
80% destemmed.  Aromatics of pepper, raspberry and anise.  Palate reminds of rubber, smoke and anise.  A

Brouilly 2014
Aromatics of liqueur, cassis and raspberry.  Short to medium length and fruitier style on the palate.  A-G

Fleurie 2014
Raspberry and more white pepper than preceding wines.  Similar characters.  Balanced.  G

Julienas 2014
Similar aromatics to the Fleurie, reminding of white pepper and raspberry.  Less strength on the palate.  A-G

Morgon 2014
Aromatics of white pepper and raspberry.  A little bit of cherry on the palate, and some tannins.  A-G

Chénas 2014
Raspberries and strawberries on the nose.  Palate with tannins evident.  The comment was made that Chenas more generally can be rustic with higher acidity.  A-G

*Moulin-à-Vent 2014
This is a good wine.  Aromatics of plum, raspberry and white pepper.  The palate has mid range tannins, medium length and similar flavours.  G

*Chénas Selection Couer de Granit 2014
This is still in vat.  Super fruity aromatics that are floral and remind of raspberries and cherries.  The palate is fruity, with tannins and similar characters.  The new winner.  G-VG

*Moulin-à-Vent Couer de Granit 2014
Also still in vat.  Raspberry and plum aromatics.  More acid on the palate, with a gaseous prickle.  Seems like it will be good.  G

A real cellar.

**Moulin-à-Vent 1990
The vintage is not a typo.  What an extraordinary wine this was to finish on, drawn from the (very) cold cellars of the Cave du Château de Chénas.  Aromatics of cherry, earth and game.  So pinot noir like.  The palate is gamey, earthy and smokey.  This is an outstanding wine, proving that Moulin-à-Vent is capable of producing wines that age effortlessly for a quarter of a century.  Buy them if you can find them, and they have been stored well.  VG

Cave du Château des Loges

The Cave du Château des Loges is located in the town of Le Perréon at the southern end of Beaujolais.  Here, we undertook a 2013 v. 2014 vintage exercise with the reds, an outstandingly instructive way to taste.  In terms of comparisons between the vintages, the impact of pH on the wine was viewed as being of some importance.  In this regard, while the tartaric acid of the wines in each vintage were almost the same, the pHs in the 2014s were higher, leading to a rounder mouthfeel.  Lower pH tends to express itself with more forceful acidity.

The whites

Viognier 2014
Out of tank.  This is quite minerally in impression, with florals too with some effort.  There is no real mouthfeel on the palate.  Inoffensive.  A

Beaujolais Blanc 2014
Aromatics of lemon.  The palate is also lemony with some acidity.  Not bad.  A-G

Beaujolais Rosé 2014
Floral aromatics.  Floral palate, medium acidity.  Pleasant if unremarkable.  A

The reds

Beaujolais Villages
2013: Aromatics of raspberry, cassis and some bacon.  The palate is similar, with some tannins and structure.  A-G
2014: More strawberry, verging on strawberry jam.  An even palate.  A-G


2013: raspberry, plums and spice aromatics.  Quite structured.  A-G
2014: raspberry, plums.  Medium acid, similar flavours on palate.  A bit better.  G

2013: aromas of raspberry and strawberry.  More acid evident on the palate, with tannins.  Similar flavours on palate to the aromatics.  G
2014: a quieter wine, with raspberry and more acid on the palate.  G

Côtes de Brouilly
It was hard not to be influenced by this being the locals’ preferred cru.
2013: aromatics of cherry, that were finer and seemed more integrated.  Medium tannins on the palate, relatively serious in intent, the length only short to medium though.  G
2014: aromatics of blackcurrant, florals and game.  Sweet cherry and medium tannins on the palate.  A-G

2013: More fruity with raspberry and strawberry.  This is a completely different style to the Côtes de Brouilly.  Similar palate (to the nose) with medium tannins.  G
2014: Cherry, raspberry aromatics.  Similar palate, with medium tannins.  G

Vignerons des Pierres Dorées

The final tasting of my tour de Burgundy was near the unquestionably scenic town of D’Oingt.  In typical French style, D’Oingt has been formally ranked as among the most beautiful towns in France.  There was a bit of energy around the Vignerons des Pierres Dorées, which I quite liked and a rather eclectic selection of wines followed.  Some of the Beaujolas whites and reds see a small amount of oak.

The whites

Beaujolais Blancs (chardonnay) are not a bad value wine choice for a wine I barely new existed prior to this tour.  They can resemble the whites of the Mâcon and the ones with good acidity are quite a refreshing style.

Chateau de Chanzé Beaujolais Blanc 2012

This is a well regarded estate.  Aromatics of cedar, toast and oak. Medium acid, vanilla and stone with mid length on the palate.  The oak won’t appeal to all, and is a little heavy handed, but it is clearly a good wine.  G

Rostre de Bélemnite Beaujolais Blanc 2012
Vinified in oak.  Aromatics of match stick and nectarines.  The palate has medium length and acid.  G

Terra Iconia Beaujolais Blanc 2014
Aromatics of stone, lemon and yellow grapefruit.  Palate of lemon and stones supplemented by medium acidity.   A-G

Carré Blanc Viognier Vin de France
2012: A bit socky, reminding of wet wool.  Probably oxidised and promptly replaced with the 2013.
2013: Aromatics of apricot stew.  A bit simple on the palate.  A

The rosés

Terra Iconia Rosé 2014
Aromatics of strawberry.  Palate that is fresh and reminds too of strawberries.  A-G

Carré Rosé 2014
Floral aromatics.  Strawberry on the palate, slightly less line.  A

The reds

Terra Iconia Beaujolais 2014
Raspberry, compot fruits.  Similar palate and quite supple.  A-G

Terra Iconia Beaujolais Bio 2013
Bio means organic in French, with the little hard to see green symbols on the left of the bottle in the picture above providing evidence to those willing to search really hard for it.  Raspberry, pepper and fruit compote.  More going on the palate.  Fruity.  G

*La Rose Pourpre Vieilles Vignes Beaujolais 2014
2014: Minimum of 40 year old wines.  Raspberry and plum aromatics.  Plums, raspberry, medium length and good concentration on the palate.  The pick of the tasting.  G
2013: Raspberry and plums aromatics.  Similar palate with light tannins.  Less concentration, but still good. A-G

Rostre de Bélemnite Beaujolais 2013
Aromatics of vanilla.  Palate of vanilla too, with medium length and raspberry.  Vanilla quite strong, suggesting a heavy oak hand. Good wine otherwise. A-G

*Laforet Beaujolais 2012
Aromatics of raspberry and cedar.  Similar palate, with medium acid and really rather good length.  This is quite a serious wine, and is recommended.  G

*Le Collins Altieres Beaujolais 2012
Aromatics of cherry, earth, raspberry and cedar.  The palate reminds of cherry and cedar with towards long length.   Good too. G

Late harvest styles

The final two wines were both late harvested styles, neither typical of the region but somehow fitting to finish on.

Derniers Grains Viognier Vendage Tardive
Aromatics of raisin.  Palate reminding of raisins and apricot.  Balanced with good acidity on residual sugar on the palate.  This style of viognier worked. G

Derniers Grains Chardonnay Vendage Tardive
I am not sure I have ever tasted a late harvest chardonnay that comes together.  Lemon, residual sugar on the palate, with acidity tasting separate.  A

This concludes a most enjoyable visit and thank you for putting up with such long posts in the last few weeks.  I am very much grateful to the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, Bibendum PLB, the producers I have named and Robin Kinahan MW for their time, effort and kind support and guidance in supporting this trip, which proved an outstanding educational experience.

Leave a comment