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Those Saucy 2005 Crus Beaujolais


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For our second in the "Practice Makes Perfect" series, we'll be exploring melon de bourgogne's close red cousin, gamay. The 2005 vintage in Burgundy (of which Beaujolais is a part) has been rightly regarded as one of the "perfect" vintages, with plenty of ripeness for village level wines, but without the overripeness or roastiness of freakshow vintages like 2003, allowing great sites to show their signature, even when young. And, I have to say, the 2005 Beaujolais I have tasted (about 20 of them so far) have been dynamite, albeit a bit riper than some classic vintages, such as 1999.

The heart of great Beaujolais lies in ten villages or crus, where gamay can, when well-farmed, provide the penetrating sense of place that we saw from the Pepiere and its friends in the last unit. These sites are (from north to south):

  • St.-Amour: Granite, but more decomposed (thus trapping more heat for ripeness)
  • Julienas: Granite, but purer and closer to the river valley.
  • Chenas: Sandier, more weathered soils. This cru often struggles for elegance.
  • Moulin-a-Vent: The king of the crus, tannin-wise. Similar to Chenas but a better exposure.
  • Fleurie: Weathered and more alluvial, the name speaks to the floral nature of the wines. My favorite cru.
  • Chiroubles: A more granitic version of Fleurie. A forgotten cru that did particularly well in 2005.
  • Morgon: Another classic cru. The best Morgons are backward like Moulin-a-Vent, but have aromatic elegance like Fleurie.
  • Regnie: Another forgotten cru in decomposed granite. Wines tend to be chunkier.
  • Cote de Brouilly: The one purely volcanic site in the Haut-Beaujolais, with striking, almost ferric minerality.
  • Brouilly: The area just west of the Cote, with more traditional granites mixing in with the tuffs. Did very well in 2005.

The assignment, so to speak, is to go out and source one or more bottlings from these crus. I suggest 2005s because I find the vintage to be stronger across-the-board, but some retailers (Ace in particular) still have some of the tip-top 2004s (such as Charvet Moulin-a-Vent from local Beaujolais king Ed Addiss of Wine Traditions). Arrowine and Whole Foods Fairfax have extensive selections from 2005 from Addiss and other top importers.

If you can, try to get two or more bottlings from the same vintage and different crus. Decide how you feel about how the wines differ in respect to their site characteristics (the excellent, albeit geeky Terroir by James Wilson is an invaluable reference here). What do you think is the aromatic/textural signature of each site?

For extra, extra study, try to find multiple bottlings from the same cru and decide what you think is the common thread running through them.

Post your thoughts and questions here, as always!

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We drank a 2005 Ch. des Bachelards Fleurie with dinner last night--grilled swordfish paella--and Jonathan happily shlerped most of the bottle while I was paying more attention to the food and the table conversation. What I did get to drink was delightful. Multi-dimensional fruit, leaning heavily in the sour cherry direction, well balanced in the acidity and tannins department. This was a Dubouef wine, and I know that his bottlings are not held in the highest regard among the local wine uber-geeks, but I am planning to sock away a few more bottles of this. Poor man's (and woman's) pinot indeed.

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What did you pay for it? The best example of Fleurie I've found available in the DC area is the Clos de la Roilette bottling (another Dressner joint--I realize this sounds a bit like a broken record, but he's THAT GOOD at what he does). The delightful Out of Site Wines, a small shop at 214 Dominion Road NE in Vienna, will have this open for tasting this Saturday afternoon. I think it's about $18/btl.

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DuBoeuf is the white zinfandel of Beaujolais.

Now before you jump down my throat:

About 10-15 years ago, DuBoeuf starting being more vigilant about bottling cru wines for export and maintaining the sanctity of the sites. They are cropped more sensibly and maintained. By doing so, DuBoeuf has raised the profiles of the crus and made sure more of the crus remain under (well-tended) vine. Just as the white zin makers helped make sure a bunch of great old-vine zin didn't get ripped out, fall into disrepair, or get grafted over to merlot. Now there are a bunch of domaines and small negociants that are making (and exporting) splendied, expressive cru Beaujolais at a slightly higher price point. Good for business, good for drinkers. Who could ask for anything more?

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Schurping happily from a glass of 2005 Cote de Brouilly, and I gotta say, Jake, you weren't kidding about the ferocious ferric minerality! This wine has a beautiful color, but that sharp minerality is all I get in the nose and on the palate. And the finish, too - as if I bit my tongue and am tasting blood. Nontheless, I'm glad to have tried it with the guidance of the board, because otherwise my reaction would've been "gak!" Now I'm making an effort to enjoy and appreciate it. <schlurp> hmmm, I guess there's some fruit now that it's been open awhile. Maybe raspberry...?! or is the color coloring my judgement?

Opened it to drink with a mildly harissa-spiced lamb and vegetable stew. The food tamed the minerality somewhat, but otherwise it was not a great pairing. Any suggestions on what to cook for dinner tomorrow for the other half of the bottle?

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I tasted through a round of 2005 crus this weekend (direct-imported by our Maryland distributor, Noble Vintners). I highly recommend the 2005 Descombes Julienas. The only place I know it is available is at Wine Cellars of Annapolis.

The 2005 Jacky Janodet Chenas (distributed in DC by Henry Wine Group and Maryland by Noble Vintners) is very good with a lot of air. That is normal for tip-top Bojo crus like ms. porcupine's Morgon above.

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A friend of mine and I met up at Lavandou to take advantage of the waived corkage on Monday. I brought a bottle of the 2005 Georges Viornery Cote du Brouilly (same wine that porcupine had). Didn't seem like much at first, but once it had some air and the food started arriving, the wine developed nicely. Minerally, with pleasant fruit and a good player with the various dishes we had.

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Had another hit of the Perraud Brouilly "L'Enfer" 2005, imported by Wine Traditions, yesterday at the Enoteca at WF Fairfax. It is starting to close up (matching reports on many top '05s around the internets), but still shows beautiful fruit, Brouilly iron filings, and classic crunchy-but-ripe Gamay tannins.

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One of the wines they highlighted is on my must try list. Louis-Claude Desvignes Morgon Javernieres 2005 (Dressner)
You'll have to go to NYC to get it. It's a big, hard wine right now...the Jav often takes 8-10 years to come around, and in a high-tannin year like 2005, that may be the minimum.
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