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On Thursday November 15th (Beaujolais Nouveau Night!?) the ICC WING group met to taste 6 Beaujolais Cru, all from 2015

We tasted wines made by Frédéric Burrier, the sixth Generation of the Burrier family to make wines at Château de Beauregard, which is located in Fuissé. Its vineyards cover 43 hectares and include 22 of Pouilly-Fuissé, 7 of Saint-Véran and 12 of Beaujolais.

Wines made entirely from their own holdings are marketed under the Château name; other wines under the name of their negociant business: Domaine Joseph Burrier.

The Beaujolais wines are all made at their property in Fleurie. The 2 Château wines are Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent. The negociant wines include some grapes from their own sites in Morgon, Saint-Amour and Chiroubles but not the Juliénas (or their Chenas that we did not try).

All wines are made from 40-55 year old Gamay vines and see some aging in ‘Pièces’ (228 l Burgundian oak barrels), usually at least half the wine from 6 – 12 months.

Some of us had tasted this exact range of wines 19 months ago, and I had the impression then that they needed some time, and overall their showing now proved that to be right,

Here are my notes:


CHIROUBLES “SAINT ROCH” (Burrier)   –   14½%   –   Wine Society £15
Nose has herbal hints, then floral, quite heavy (violet?) notes. Palate has light, sweet fruit and a saline minerality but seems even heavier than 19 months ago. Darker, bigger, more brooding than most Bojo, let alone Chiroubles which I think of as a delicate but firm, slightly crisp Cru. Not a bad wine… but Beaujolais???
Ratings:        Quality:  14.5/20   Value:  14.5/20

CHÂTEAU DE BEAUREGARD FLEURIE “PONCIÉ”   –   14%   –   Wine Society £15
This is cooler and relatively restrained, floral elements and a red fruit note. Less drying, more open and supple than previously – with raspberry fruit, a fresh acidity and enjoyably balanced.
Ratings:        Quality:  15.5/20   Value:  15.5/20

SAINT-AMOUR “CÔTE DE BESSET” (Burrier)   –   13½%   –   Wine Society £17
Quite quiet nose at first with blackberry fruit opening out. Soft sweet dark fruit with a lively acidity and opens with time, a mineral dry feel rounds off a balanced, more typically Beaujolais, wine – Good!
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15.5/20

JULIÉNAS “BEAUVERNAY” (Burrier)   –   14½%   –   Wine Society £17
Very dark plummy fruit nose, almost tomato, recalling big alcoholic Grenache. Palate is big, grainy sweet warm fruit, however without counter-point it seems “thick” and a little simple.
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  13.5/20

MORGON “GRAND CRAS” (Burrier)   –   14½%   –   Wine Society £17
Nose has red fruit, with a crunchy, cranberry(?)  quality – later some soft stone fruit too emerges. Palate is structured with berry/cherry acidity and supple tannins, and a soft fruit just hinting at peach… with a velvet, almost Burgundian, fruity texture. Very good, my favourite.
Ratings:        Quality:  16.5/20   Value:  16/20

CHÂTEAU DE BEAUREGARD MOULIN-À-VENT “CLOS DES PÉRELLES”   –   14½%   –   Wine Society £18
Firm nose with dark fruit and a hint of forest floor. Palate is tight at the moment with black fruit and tannins but already pliant, long and still evolving. Good but a little grippy – I imagine the wine would merit another half point or so in a couple of years.
Ratings:        Quality:  16/20   Value:  15.5/20

A very interesting tasting, showing well made, well flavoured wines with qualities above that of most Beaujolais. This was, in a couple of cases (the Chiroubles and the Juliénas), at the expense of typicity – they were very big wines with a hint (or more in the case of the Juliénas ) of “thickness” and little real lifting acidity or structure. This is a pity – especially in the case of the Chiroubles, which should have been the lightest, freshest and shown more delicate charm, in fact it was a heavyweight!

The two Château wines (Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent) had indeed opened up over the last 19 months. The Fleurie was coming into its own, but the latter wine felt as if it needs another 2 or 3 years. The St. Amour and the Morgon won the day IMO: the former on grounds of typicity and charm; the latter on grounds of pleasure and complexity…

The December ICC Tasting in 4 weeks will be the Xmas quiz – so no Theme notes before the Call My Bluff tasting itself…

À Bientôt

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Years ago, the most well-known wine-day to the general (rather than the oenophile) British public was the day that Beaujolais Nouveau was released. The popular press was concerned with reporting, and sponsoring, teams of drivers, pilots and even parachutists to win a race to get the wine to London. The evening was often marked by Beaujolais Nouveau parties. I think I attended one last in the early 1980s, and I recall nothing of that evening, although the next morning is one I haven’t been able to forget….

That date is the 3rd Thursday of November, so this year it’s 15th November 2018 – and (un-)coincidentally the occasion for a Beaujolais tasting for the WING group at the ICC.

The nouveau isn’t that great a wine, frankly – but it has contributed to an image for Beaujolais as light, chillable, wine best consumed young… which is only part of the story…

Red Beaujolias (about 1% of Beaujolais is Chardonnay) is made from the Gamay grape. Gamay is thin-skinned and light in colour giving light-bodied, fruity and aromatic wines. The grapes are typically trained in gobelet (or similar) and hand picking is compulsory. Experiments are done with cordon royat and machine harvest. The soil is mainly granite and limestone clay, with granite proportions increasing the further North you are.

Beaujolais produces pretty close to 100m bottles every year, there are 3 appellation (AOC/AOP) categories and 12 AOC/AOPs:

  • Beaujolais (about 35% of all Beaujolais, a little over half sold as Nouveau)
  • Beaujolais Villages, from 38 villages in the Northern half of the area, but without the village name on the bottle (about 27%, about a third Nouveau)
  • The Beaujolais Cru, 10 village areas on the best sites where the village is mentioned on the label, each with its own AOC/AOP (about 38%, no Nouveau).

These areas are located as shown on this map:


The area, as you can see, is south of the Mâcon vineyards of Burgundy, and the area counts as part of Burgundy for most general description. In fact there are some Chardonnay vineyards that are to the South of the most northerly Gamay vineyards of Beaujolais (e.g. around Saint-Vérand or Chânes where Macon, Saint-Véran, Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages vineyards form a entangled patchwork).

Really the Nouveau is a lower level wine, even if it comes from the Villages area. So a quality proportion is better shown in this Wine Folly graphic…


The issue with Beaujolais is this: while the description of fresh, fruity, chillable and especially youthful wine does fit the bottom tier, and some of the middle tier – it certainly doesn’t fit the Cru wines. They show the qualities of Gamay – freshness, fruit, suppleness… in a much more serious package, varying greatly across the 10 Cru, with wines that improve with age and in some cases last for 7-10 years…

Part of the reason for all this variation is the relatively uncommon method of making the wine called Carbonic Maceration. I say uncommon, meaning in the wine world – but it is a main way of vinifying Gamay in Beaujolais.

Carbonic Maceration does not use yeast to start fermentation. Whole bunches of grapes are placed in vats, which are then sealed and filled with CO2 to remove the oxygen.

This triggers a process within the grapes known as intracellular fermentation. Once alcohol levels reach around 2% abv, the grape skins split and release their juice. Carbonic maceration extracts some colour from the grapes but little tannin, generally creating red wines that are light in colour, low in tannin and which have a soft, fruity character.

Also the process produces esters such as ethyl cinnamate in higher quantities than normal, giving rise to flavours such as raspberry, strawberry, banana and bubblegum…

Wines made in this style include Beaujolais Nouveau and are often best when drunk young and sometimes even lightly chilled.

More serious wines are more likely to be made using semi-carbonic maceration. A similar method which does not include filling the vats with CO2. Here, the vat is filled with the whole bunches, the weight of the grapes on the top crushes the ones below, releasing the juice. Yeast ferments the fruit and releases CO2, kick-starting carbonic maceration in the remaining un-burst grapes.

Both carbonic methods only create a small amount of alcohol, so once it is completed, the grapes are pressed off the skins and yeast completes the fermentation process in the normal way. Again, some more serious makers might use some oak in making the wines.

However for producers of wine in the Cru areas little – if any – of the wine will be produced like this. Instead the wines will be vinified normally, showing the real character of the Gamay grape…

If you look at any source of reference for Beaujolais Cru Wines they will give you a list of the individual characteristics of the 10 Cru. However although there are general similarities they are all a bit different. For example here are four description of typical Chiroubles: “tart cherry, raspberry, rose petal and violet”; “elegant aromas of violets, peony, red currant and cherry”; “violet, orange blossom, peony and raspberry” and “delicate red berry fruit and violet notes”… You get the idea…

So here’s a typical – but not definitive – idea of each of the 10 Cru’s typical character (listed from North to South):

  • Saint-Amour: Elegant aromas of red currant, iris and plum
  • Juliénas: Bold aromas of strawberry, violets, cinnamon, and red currant
  • Chénas: Medium-Bold aromas of rose and peony and spicy woodsy notes with age
  • Moulin-à-Vent: Bold aromas of cherry, violets and black currant
  • Fleurie: Elegant aromas of black currant, peach, iris and violets
  • Chiroubles: Elegant aromas of violets, peony, red currant and cherry
  • Morgon: Bold aromas of cherry, peach, plum and violets
  • Régnié: Medium-Bold aromas of raspberry and black currant with a hint of spiciness
  • Côte de Brouilly: Medium-Bold aromas of iris, plum and fresh grapes
  • Brouilly: Bold raspberry, ripe peach and a touch of soil

In the November Tasting we are going to concentrate only on the Cru Beaujolais. We’ll try 6 all from the same year and producer. Notes will be posted in 5 or 6 days.

À Bientôt

I find myself on-line, for practically the only time in September, in an Internet Café in Saumur! So I thought I might fill the silence with a report (though note a detailed note) of a visit to Domaine de la Charmoise a week ago…

When we think of Loire wines we think, usually, of 4 distinct regions: Nantais; Anjou; Touraine and Centre. The first is famous for Muscadet and the last for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir (Sancerre, Pouilly, Reuilly, Quincy….) and we think of the middle two for Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Anjou covers wines from near Angers itself in the West (Savennières, Bonnezeaux, Coteaux – de Layon, – de l’Aubance etc..) and Saumur and Saumur-Champigny in the East. But what of Touraine?

Most people know the Western border of Touraine – it follows the department border between Maine-et-Loire and Indre-et-Loire, cutting South-North between Bourgueil and Chinon on the right and Saumur on the left. The area, unsurprisingly carries on East, upriver, past Tours to Vouvray and Montlouis – and then what?

If you follow the Loire upstream you’ll start heading North-East to Orleans where the river bends back Southwards to take you to Sancerre, which is on the same latitude as Tours and actually East of the Paris longitude.

The diameter of this semi-circle, on a West-East line, is actually the Cher; and Touraine – and Touraine Wines – extend East along the river about as far as Châtillon-sur-Cher. North of the Cher extending up to the Loire near Blois and Chambord is the Solonge area, and nearby wine areas including Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny.

This is the Eastern end of Touraine and Cabernet Franc and Chenin have petered out to be replaced by Sauvignon Blanc, Côt (the original name for Malbec which originates in this part of the world!) and predominately Gamay (which can actually be found, in smaller quantities, all through Anjou and Touraine).

See original image
At the highest point of the Solonge (near Soings) the climate is more continental yet temperate, with milder winters but cooler summers than Sancerre (for example). The soil is well drained Perruches, composed of flint clay with sand or gravel and larger flints and clay mixes. This is where I visited the Domaine de la Charmoise, to try the wines of Henry Marionnet. 

You can see more about Henri Marionnet’s wines by clicking here.

The Domaine is known for attention to detail and a determination to preserve some older styles. As well as cuvées of Gamay and Sauvignon, they have examples (they call them “Vinifera”) of Sauvignon Blanc and Côt from un-grafted root-stock. In addition there are wines from two very rare old grapes: Romorantin and Gamay de Bouze.

Both these originate in Burgundy.The former arrived at Charmoise in the early 19th Century from Chambord where Francis I had had it planted in the 16th Century, Phylloxera killed off the grapes in 1872, except for one vineyard planted in 1850 at Charmoise. The vineyard is still producing wines at the unsurprising price of over £40 a bottle. However the shoots from those vines have been nurtured and planted – un-grafted – in a neighbouring virgin-soil vineyard to produce a more affordable wine. There is talk of replanting the new vines at Chambord…

Similarly rare is the Gamay de Bouze grape…. Again this is from Burgundy, the village of Bouze-lès-Beaune this is a variety that has red flesh (most red grape flesh is pale and in fact Gamay is often called Gamay noir à jus blanc) and produces a deeper coloured and more black fruit wine than any normal Gamay.

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I tried the Sauvignons, a Gamay and a Gamay de Bouze and the Romorantin. They are all hand-harvested and fermented with no additional yeasts…

I won’t give a tasting note here as I plan to show some of the wines at a tasting next year – but suffice to say all the wines had a very clean acidity and a precision of style that surely reflects their making…

I’m looking forward to a detailed tasting in due course….

There’ll be 4 posts in October – until then…..

A Brexit PS:       as usual I have bought about €500 worth of wine on my September trip to France.
Last year that cost me £380 – this year it’s been £435…. Thanks!
Never mind – that 14.5% inflation will come to all those who voted out too, in due course!
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