Warm welcome and  excellent winemaking wait in Beaujolais

I’m writing about Beaujolais again this week partly because I am finding myself drinking more and more wines from this region and also because I spent a fascinating few days there in early April.

Driving up and down this region (it is just 55km from north to south) was hugely pleasurable, not just because of the beautiful landscape with rolling hills that rival Tuscany, but also thanks to the warm welcome and generally excellent standard of winemaking.

Beaujolais has 12 appellations with basic Beaujolais followed by Beaujolais Villages and then 10 Cru villages.

The Cru differ in character and in rough order of fame are as follows — Fleurie, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Brouilly, Cotes-de-Brouilly, St-Amour, Julienas, Chénas, Régnié and Chiroubles.

As expected the wines of Fleurie, Morgon and Moulin were probably the most complex (and tasty) but the biggest surprise for me was the quality of Régnié and also of the St-Amour we tasted — to be honest I don’t think we tasted a duff wine on the whole trip.

 The Burgundians to the north are quick to point out that Beaujolais is a separate region but in fact the two intersect and technically Beaujolais is part of Burgundy.

It is true that the Gamay grape does not have the legendary status of Pinot Noir but given a bit of age you could easily mistake a Morgon or a Moulin-à-Vent for say a Savigny les Beaune or even a Volnay (and you will pay a lot less). 

Beaujolais ages better than you might think — Chateau de Javernand in Chiroubles are 100 years old this year and conducted a fascinating and enjoyable vertical tasting with wines dating back to the 1990s. 

Don’t forget the white wines here also (eg, Wines Direct Terres-Dorée) — much of Bourgogne Blanc is actually sourced in Beaujolais. Beaujolais Blanc can easily rival anything from Macon or St-Veran but is significantly cheaper. 

On a visit to the excellent Chateau de Lavernette the family pointed out their Pouilly Fuissé vineyard which was just 50m from the plot that makes their stunningly good Beaujolais whites and the beguilingly fragrant fruity Beaujolais Villages Leynes reds.

Diary: Ballymaloe LitFest is on next weekend with a number of drinks talks and tastings on everything new wave Cocktails, Champagne, German Wines, Natural wines and Terroir.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Beaujolais Le Ronsay, Jean Paul Brun, France — €15.35

Stockist: Wines Direct Mullingar and Arnotts Dublin; winesdirect.ie

Jean Paul Brun’s delicious beaujolais blanc has appeared here before but his reds are also excellent. 

This is his entry level wine and is made without using carbonic maceration so has proper pure gamay cherry and red-fruit aromas with ripe black raspberry on the palate and a lingering fruit-driven finish.

Pardon My French, Fit-You Fitou, Languedoc, France — €7.99

Stockist: Aldi

Aldi have a new range called Pardon My French and I liked this best of the reds thanks to its soft ripe fruits and easy-drinking style with plum and blackberries. 

The ‘Want-To’ Ventoux is lighter and fresher with smoky edges and the ‘Men-Are-From-Mars’ Minervois is a little more structured and spicy.

Cantina Tombacco Aglianico IGT, Italy — €10

Stockist: SuperValu

This doesn’t quite fit with the other wines here but I wanted to mention the SuperValu Italian wine sale which started a couple of days ago. 

Aglianico is mainly grown in the south around Basilicata and can be tannic and intense but this eminently drinkable version is packed with ripe black fruits with a smoky liquorice edge on the finish.

BEST VALUE OVER €15 Chateau de Fleurie, Beaujolais, France — €19.45

Stockists: O’Briens stores nationwide, www.wine.ie

Like all the 2015’s I tasted this has exuberant fruits with strength and power as well as Fleurie’s fleshy fragrance.

Bright plum and red cherry fruit with floral notes, ripe and fruity with just a little structure to keep things interesting while remaining very easy drinking.

Dominique Morel Fleurie 2015, Beaujolais, France — €23.95

Stockists: World Wide Wines, Independents.

This producer has just 2.5ha in Fleurie on stony granite soils. Bright pure juicy fruit on the nose with violets and iris aromas — supple light fragrant and fruity with surprising depth and intensity on the finish. 

I drank this with barbecued lamb recently on a sunny but cool day and easily made three new converts to the joys of Beaujolais.

Chateau de Vaux Beaujolais Villages, France — €16.95

Stockists: Wine Buff, Oliver Plunkett St, and nationwide

Wine Buff have two good value Beaujolais in stock at the moment, including this and a very drinkable Dom Moulin Berger Julienas at €12.99. 

I visited Chateau de Vaux and liked their winemaker and found good consistency across his range of wines. This has a bright purple colour, floral red fruit aromas and a bright lightly structured fruit-driven palate.


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