​Joseph Drouhin, Hospices de Belleville 2015 Fleurie


A thoroughly seasonal recommendation of a wine that needs a little more love. 

€12, $21.90, £19.95, 175 Danish kroner, 2,208 roubles 

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Last week I went to a tasting of the wines imported into the UK by Pol Roger’s British distribution company. Surprisingly, they include a number of high-profile, highly priced Napa stars, some presented by their principals. So I had the pleasure of tasting a couple of Gallica wines – including a thoroughly atypical but very convincing Albariño – with Rosemary Cakebread. I also enjoyed having Garen Staglin challenge my lazy preconception that Staglin’s interesting wines were all red. And of course I tasted the latest releases from Épernay, including a brace of 2012s (see today's collection of tasting notes on 140 champagnes and sparkling wines).

But the best-value wine I came across was on the crowded Joseph Drouhin table manned by export director Christophe Thomas. It was a 2015 cru beaujolais sold under the Hospices de Belleville label. Both the Fleurie and the Brouilly were shown and, as when I first tasted them with the rest of Drouhin’s 2015 burgundies in November 2016, I much preferred the expressive Fleurie. The Brouilly was tart and inexpressive in 2016. I hoped it would improve, and last week’s tasting suggested that it had, though I described it as somewhat ‘Beaune-smoothed’ rather than showing the zest and crackle I look for in a fine, representative bojo.

Much more impressive was the Dom des Hospices de Belleville 2015 Fleurie, which burst with the raciness of a good beaujolais but had masses of intense fruit that seemed likely to support the wine for at least another five years. It starts rich and charming but ends dry, fresh and persistent.

During the tasting I quickly looked it up on Wine-Searcher.com and was delighted to see how well distributed the Fleurie 2015 is. It’s currently available in the UK, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Russia and quite widely in the US. So I was most surprised, when I went to express my enthusiasm to Christophe Thomas, to find him making a face and telling me how difficult it was to sell these Hospices de Belleville wines. (‘I can let you have another few thousand cases if you want', he said ruefully. ‘They’re all stacked up in the warehouse.’)

Drouhin of Beaune signed an agreement with the historic Hospices de Belleville charitable institution back in 2014 in a well-meaning attempt to underline their admiration of top-quality beaujolais and to focus a bit more attention on the region’s wines. This involved exclusively making and selling the produce of the Hospices’s 14 ha (35 acres) of vines in Fleurie, Brouilly and Morgon.

The total holding in Fleurie is 6.5 ha, split between three well-drained lieux-dits, mainly Vers le Mont on the slopes of La Madone (pictured above by Jon Wyand) supplemented by a little in each of Les Marrans and Les Grands Prés. The wine is made like Drouhin’s burgundies rather than the fast ferments of Beaujolais Nouveau, with 10 or 15 days in the fermentation vat and carbonic maceration used only on the least successful lots of grapes. Most of the wine is aged in 500-litre casks and total production was 43,000 bottles.

Julia’s profiles of Beaujolais part 1 and part 2 last week should have whetted your appetite for the fantastically versatile wines of a region that's currently in full ferment – not least because land is so much more affordable than in the Côte d'Or to the north. Julia profiles just some of the new forces for good in Beaujolais. These versatile wines can be served at a wide range of temperatures (I note that Drouhin recommend 15–16 ºC, or 59–61 ºF, for this one) and can be enjoyed with or without food.

I encourage you to take advantage of this example. Drouhin need some encouragement to continue with this exercise!

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