Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Castles in Beaujolais – Tues, 4/22/08

Today it felt like I entered a fairytale as I drove around the very charming and quaint villages of Beaujolais. I had been invited to attend the professional tasting event of Rendezvous-Beaujolais (www.rendez-vous-beaujolais.com) which was held at four different castles (chateaux). The weather wasn’t great – mainly cloudy, but it didn’t rain. The drive was only 20 minutes from my hotel, so it was an easy commute.

First stop was Chat. de Pizay which was tasting Morgon (my favorite), as well as Chiroubles, and Chenas. All 4 estates were tasting Beaujolais-Villages and Beaujolais. Each offered a free lunch as well. The whole program was very professionally organized. I was even interviewed for a customer service survey before I left for the day. I tasted (spit) MANY wines and have notes on all of them, but a few that stood out are listed below. There is no way I could have visited all 160 wineries represented.

Next stop was Chat. De Corcelles (see photo) which was tasting Moulin-a-Vent (the famous windmill), Julienas, and Saint Amour. I also had lunch here and fell in love with another cheese (they had at least 10 to sample) from Touraine which was a chevre in a long log with a pole in the middle and sprinkled with gray ash. It melted in your mouth. Lunch was a stand-up affair as is common at professional tastings, but as it was in France, it was quite good – salad, duck, pates, desserts, etc.

I then drove around to see the villages of Morgon, Fleurie (where I stopped at the church to light a candle), Brouilly, and Moulin-a-Vent. The whole area is like stepping into a picture book – rolling hills covered with tiny tightly spaced grapevines and charming villages with friendly people. I want to go back on a sunny day.

The next chateau was des Ravatys with its orangery where they were tasting Brouilly and Cote-de Brouilly. It was here that I was able to really tell the difference between the two. Brouilly is much lighter and fruitier, whereas Cote-de-Brouilly is more intense and concentrated. In fact, I met a lovely gentleman at Chat. De Corcelles who gave me his personal tasting scheme on the Beaujolais Cru which I found to be completely accurate. He classified them into 3 categories:

Level 1: - Light and Fruity. To be enjoyed as a glass of wine without food: Brouilly, Chiroubles, and Regnie
Level 2: Medium intensity with fruit. To be enjoyed alone or with small food bites. Cote de Brouilly, Julienas, Fleurie, Saint-Amour
Level 3: Big, intense, more tannic and earthy. Must drink with food: Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Chenas.

I also found the vintages quite different. 2007 is fruity and concentrated; 2006 is still tight and rather tart (should age well); 2005 is an excellent vintage with complex flavors and a long finish. Many people think Beaujolais will only last 1 to 3 years, but some of the crus I tasted were fermented only semi-carbonic and then fermented in a regular fashion, as well as aged in oak. They were quite different from the bubble-gum Nouveau Beaujolais that is primarily represented in the market. Also tasted some lovely chardonnays and roses.

A few wineries I really enjoyed:
· Chat.de Belleverne (not in US market yet) – offered a fresh, fruity 2007 St Amour, an intensely cherry 07 Julienas, and a wonderful big, highly structured Moulin a Vent 2007.
· Jambon Martine et Guenauel – Morgon, Cote du PY 2006 – big, dusty traditional wine that I loved. Also had some 80 year old semi-carbonic with barrel aging that was huge and concentrated.
· Christian Dix Vin Beaujolais – nice 2007 rose; excellent 2006 Morgon and Chiroubles from old vines with a long finish.
· P. Ferraud et Fils – really liked their 2006 Moulin-a-Vent with good structure, tannins, and long finish.
· Domaine de Bel-Air 2006 Brouilly – a classic with pretty fruit, floral and nice acid. Very feminine and refreshing.
· Chat. Pierreux – 2006 Mommessin – big concentrated Brouilly. Seemed more like the Cote rather than Brouilly.
· Finally, Beaujolais from Cave du Bois d’Oingt where I spoke with the winemaker who introduced me to his range of wines with very attractive labels (at least for the US and UK market). All of the wines were good – from the refreshing and perfumed 2006 chardonnay, to the strawberry-nosed rose to the 2006 La Rose Poupre, which was aged 7 months in oak with complex flavors, spice and a long finish.

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