Saturday, October 23, 2010

Taste Live: Discover Beaujolais

This past Wednesday we were invited to participate in a twitter Taste Live event "Discover Beaujolais". The event is sponsored by Inter Beaujolais, the official wine-trade organization of the region, working to promote Beaujolais wines and raise awareness of the region. Beaujolais is a French Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and the wine is mostly Gamay grape, a low tannic, thin skinned grape. According to Wikipedia the region of was first cultivated by the Romans who planted the areas along its trading route up the Saône valley. "The most notable Roman vineyard was Brulliacus located on the hillside of Mont Brouilly. The Romans also planted vineyards in the area Morgon. From the 7th century through the Middle Ages, most of the viticulture and winemaking was done by the Benedictine monks. In the 10th century, the region got its name from the town of Beaujeu, Rhône and was ruled by the Lords of Beaujeu till the 15th century when it was ceded to the Duchy of Burgundy. The wines from Beaujolais were mostly confined to the markets along the Saône and Rhône rivers, particularly in the town of Lyon. The expansion of the French railroad system in the 19th century opened up the lucrative Paris market. The first mention of Beaujolais wines in English followed soon after when Cyrus Redding described the wines of Moulin-à-Vent and Saint-Amour as being low priced and best consumed young".

During the Taste Live event, we tasted four wines selected to represent the region and which were widely available in this country. Specifically they were the Domaine Cheysson, Chiroubles; Henry Fessy, Brouilly; Charly Thevenet “Grain et Granit”, Règniè; and the Alain Coudert, Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie, 2009.

Domaine Cheysson, Chiroubles, 2009
This wine, like all the others, is 100% Gamay and is made from grapes planted in the highest cru in the appellation. Chiroubles is home to approximately 80 winemakers and because of its attitude, cooler temperatures allow for a later harvest. I'm not sure if elevation had an effect, but the wine had a repugnant black tea aroma - that was tough to get past. Once I did, I found a tart, raspberry flavored wine; not bad - but not a good start to the evening.

Henry Fessy, Brouilly, 2009
Brouilly is the southern most region of the appellation and is comprised of six villages and four terroirs. Wine from Brouilly is the most popular in the United States, one reason is that the cru represents 20% of the Beaujolais region. The Henry Fessy had a slightly similar Back Tea aroma, but more red fruit which didn't allow the tea to overwhelm the nose. The flavor is silky smooth; some texture, with black fruit and some chocolate. Plus a longer smoother finish. This texture is mostly due to the manganese soils, which yield more robust wines. Since the first two wines retail for a similar price ($15-$18), it was a no brainer for me which I would select.

Charly Thevenet “Grain et Granit”, Règniè, 2009
This wine was the most expensive, $35, of the group; partly from its pedigree - crafted by Charly Thevenot, the son of Jean-Paul Thevenot. The wine is also crafted using Biodynamic methods and aged 12 months in 4 year old Burgundy barrels. Could be why locals consider this a "pinotfied" wine - even though Gamay is a relative to Pinot Noir. "Pinotfied" or not, this is a fine wine; red fruit flavors, and very smooth - not a great value - but a good wine.

Clos de la Roilette, Fleurie, 2009
This region is named after a Roman legionary, not any flower; although the wines are more elegant than anything resembling a Roman soldier. The cru "backs up on to the a chain of peaks including Avenas, Durbize and Les Labourons". The Clos de la Roilette retails for $20 and after the tasting, this is a decent value. The wine is smokey, from the nose to the tail - but only subtly so. Fruit flavors eventually dominant but this is still the most earthy of the wines - dry and "minerally". Drinking the remainder right now, in fact, it remains nice even after three days opened on the shelf.

We felt very privileged participating in this event. We seemed to have ignored Beaujolais wines for awhile, but no longer. We've always liked Gamay, and the search will start to explore Beaujolais Gamay as well as more U.S. made Gamay. of the four, I think the Brouilly may have been my favorite with the Fleurie and Règniè close behind. Make sure to visit Inter Beaujolais to Discover Beaujolais.

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