Beaujolais Beyond Nouveau

The tendency, among too many consumers, is to guzzle a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau every year on its eponymous release day--the third Thursday of November--and then to generally forget about the region for the next 364 days.

This is a huge mistake.

Beaujolais, located south of Burgundy’s Maconnais, is one of the most misunderstood regions in all of France--yet it’s home to wines that, for as long as I can remember, have played a significant role in my personal cellar. The wines are food-friendly and, depending on the appellation, drinkable early on as well as age-worthy in the best vintages. And the best of the wines--the Beaujolais Crus--have the potential to attain a level of expressiveness, complexity, and terroir-specificity that would impress even the most ardent Burgundy lover.

There are, essentially, four “levels” of wine here: Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, and Beaujolais Cru. (Click here for an excellent primer on the “Discover Beaujolais” web site.) Personally, I’ve always been a fan of these wines, especially the Crus, which, in terms of the quality you get for the price, are tough to beat. And in a vintage like the justifiably lauded 2009, the wines have the potential to age for a decade or more--not bad for wines that are famously easy on the bank account.

I recently had a chance to taste one Beaujolais-Villages and three excellent Beaujolais Crus from the 2009 vintage (and just recommend one of them, the Chanrion Cote-de-Brouilly, in my CityDrinks Thanksgiving column at CityEats Philly). Here are the full tasting notes. I recommend all of these highly.

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2009
A dark nose for a Beaujolais-Villages--the seriousness of the vintage comes through even at this level. Aromas of strawberry compote, dark berry, hints of pomegranate, cherry, mineral, and oak lead to flavors of bright cherries, raspberries, oak spice, mineral, and a touch of forest floor, all structured by fine-grained, nicely integrated tannins. Solid example of the vintage’s overall quality. Drink now - 2015.

G. Descombes Regnie 2009
Beautiful garnet color. The nose sings of the barnyard, with saddle leather, slightly drying flowers, damp earth, and minerals. On the palate, however, this wine pops with cranberry, pomegranate, raspberry, and red cherry. With air, minerals and a hint of mushrooms emerge, as well as the suggestion of tart red plum. Nicely driving wine, boasting a well-etched red fruit character finishing with lavender, and a solid spine of acid: This almost acts like a village-level Burgundy from a cooler year. Drink now - 2017.

Nicole Chanrion Cote-de-Brouilly “Domaine de la Voute des Crozes” 2009
Aromas of sweet fresh cherries jump from the glass, and are joined by subtle cinnamon-kissed caramel, cranberries, blackberries, and spice. The subtly minty lift here is intriguing. These lead to bright, beautifully structured flavors of cherries, cranberries, spice, and mineral, all of it carried on a spine of acidity and well-integrated, fine-grained tannins. Really lovely wine; drink now - 2018. A fabulous example of both the vintage and the potential of Beaujolais Cru.

Barbet Saint-Amour “Domaine des Billards” 2009
Intense, concentrated aromas of raspberries, wild strawberries, ripe cherries, dark spice, a touch of tar, and mineral lead to linear flavors of mineral, granite, red cherries, cranberries, and pomegranates, as well as more mineral, spice, and flowers on the finish. Showing very well already but still has plenty in reserve. Drink now - 2016.