Beaujolais – a useful alternative to burgundy

23 November 2018 I have just had the pleasure of adding a note on Le Grappin's St-Amour 2017.

22 November 2018 Happy Thanksgiving! We're republishing this short tasting article free because we think serious beaujolais is a great choice for large gatherings and the sort of food typically served to celebrate Thanksgiving. These are versatile red wines with the refreshment value of whites. For more current choices, see also Richard's Beaujolais 2017 – believe the hype? 

16 November 2018 A very small collection of beaujolais tasted recently, published to complement Around the world in 47 Pinots

Those looking for better-value alternatives to red burgundy might well look south to Beaujolais. The grape may be different – Gamay rather than Pinot Noir – but the build is the same especially since more and more beaujolais is being made using traditional Burgundian techniques rather than the high-speed version of carbonic maceration that was so popular when Beaujolais Nouveau was at its peak in the 1980s. (Our picture shows traditional foudres at Ch Thivin in the Côte de Brouilly, an admirably reliable producer of fine wine for drinking over a period of many years.)

Of the nine wines described below, the Ch de Pizay, Ch Thivin and Thibault Liger-Belair examples are all extremely Burgundian, have a great future ahead of them (particularly the last two), and are thoroughly recommended to those who appreciate the taste of red burgundy but not its current price level. 

To those looking for a top-quality wine in a lighter, fresher, more classically Beaujolais style, I strongly recommend the Ch de la Pierre.

It was significant how many beaujolais were shown by The Wine Society and The Bunch group of independent UK wine merchants in their recent  tastings. I will publish my notes on the latter later this month.

I was also recently introduced to the Juliénas 2017 of Domaine David Chapel, the exciting new enterprise run by David son of chef Alain Chapel and his wife Michele, once a top New York sommelier. See my note below.  

We have long been championing good-quality beaujolais on JancisRobinson.com; click on the beaujolais tag above to see much more coverage. It has clearly been underpriced for many years but many growers, long under-rewarded, suffered terrible losses to hail in both 2016 and 2017, in some cases bringing them close to having to abandon viticulture altogether. The good news, however, is that 2018 was an excellent, healthy, generous crop. 

The 10 wines are listed in ascending price order below but you could change this.

Louis Jadot, Combe aux Jacques 2017 Beaujolais-Villages

Made traditionally at Jadot's Beaujolais winery, substantially from Regnié fruit.
Mid crimson. Not that aromatic but well balanced with lots of juicy, sweetish fruit on the palate and some fine, refreshing acidity. No desperate hurry to drink this.

13%
Drink
2018
2020
£11 Tesco, Ocado (2016)
16

Maison Jean Loron, Château de la Pierre 2016 Brouilly

From 50-year-old vines.
Pale crimson. Aromatic, lifted and energetic. Serve cool and prepare to be refreshed. Nice stony edge on the finish. Could be enjoyed without food. GV

13.5%
Drink
2017
2020
£14.95 Hercules Wine Warehouse
16.5

Jean-Paul Dubost 2017 Beaujolais, Lantignié

Mid purplish crimson. Not especially communicative on the nose at the moment. Quite marked acidity and a little pinched on the end. May well open out a little next year? Stony, tight finish.

13%
Drink
2019
2020
£12.50 Montrachet
15.5

Dom André Colonge 2016 Fleurie

Pale garnet. Light, vaguely gamey nose. Sweet, polished fruit. Sucky-stony finish. But just a little dried out on the end. Perhaps it just needs little more time?

13%
Drink
2019
2022
£13.25 Tanners
16

Piron-Lameloise, Quartz 2014 Chénas

Bright mid ruby. Evolved, savoury nose and very marked acidity. A wine with masses of texture and chew even if, arguably, a slight lack of juice on the mid palate. Rather uncompromising but admirable.

12.5%
Drink
2016
2020
£18.40 Theatre of Wine
16

Ch de Pizay 2016 Morgon

Firm, glowing mid crimson. Pale rim. Intense, almost animal nose. Really quite fragrant and already really rather burgundian. Very opulent fruit within an admirable structure. Fine tannins suggest a fine future. Lots to love here. Perfect for refugees from the Côte d'Or. I wouldn't serve this too cool. VGV

13%
Drink
2018
2024
£14.50 Le Bon Vin
17

Piron-Lameloise, Quartz 2015 Chénas

Pretty dark crimson. Concentrated and definitely not prepared to make a blushing light beaujolais! Meaty and interesting. Serve cool and enjoy with cold roast beef. Textured and racy. Seriously artisanal wine. Just ready to drink but with quite a future ahead of it.

14%
Drink
2018
2024
£20 Roberson
16.5

Ch Thivin, Les Sept Vignes 2016 Côte de Brouilly

Nervy, suave on the nose and then utterly convincing as fruity cru beaujolais. Admirable combination of racy acidity and expressive, unforced fruit. This comes down the mountain at you. Long and ridiculously underpriced. Everything in its place. So vibrant. And you could drink this at more or less any stage of its life. VGV

13.5%
Drink
2017
2030
£22 - £23 Butlers Wine Cellar, Four Walls, Richard Kihl, Taurus Wines (imported by Domaine Direct) and Vin Cognito
17

Thibault Liger-Belair, Les Rouchaux 2015 Moulin-à-Vent

A Beaujolais aimed fair and square at burgundy lovers. Nuits rather than Beaune, even. Made just the same as a serious burgundy. Very deep, glowing crimson – deeper than most Côte d'Or reds. Slightly reduced at the moment (a fairly common state of affairs with young wines from this producer). Very young and ambitious with masses of smooth, concentrated fruit. Sort of Gamay squared. The intense fruit seems polished at first but then the tannic charge kicks in. If this carried a Côte d'Or appellation it would cost three times as much. Long. Work in progress!

14%
Drink
2019
2026
£22.50 Berry Bros & Rudd, £29 Vin Cognito
16.5

Dom Chapel, Côte de Bessay 2017 Juliénas

From the son of chef Alain Chapel and his wife Michele, ex somm at Thomas Keller's Per Se. From a south-east-facing 2.2 ha parcel of 65-year-old vines on granite and schist at 400 m. The cool weather in September meant that fermentation lasted more than 20 days. 
Truly beautiful wine. Ripe fruit but overall refreshingly irresistible. For drinking with or without food. Brilliantly smooth texture with no sacrifice of flavour.

12.5%
Drink
2018
2025
£23.48 Uncharted Wine, £25 Quality Wines, £28 Lechevalier
17

Le Grappin 2017 St-Amour

Made in their cellar (Fanny Sabrie's old cellar) in Beaune by Andrew and Emma Nielsen (the 'bagnum' people) from old vines at the base of La Grande Charrière on decomposed granite, schist and clay. Made following Marcel Lapierre's recipe of clusters left in a vat for three weeks and then pressed into a wooden vat where it aged for nine months. I cannot find a price at the moment.
Mid crimson. Very pure, verging on super-natural nose with beautifully relaxed, fruit-dominated texture and no aggressive acidity. Like a feather brushing the palate. Fruit completely dominates any tannin and acidity. Already very seductive. Clean and neat.

13%
Drink
2018
2022
16.5
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