Must-Have Wines of the Lunar Year
I can already sense the disbelief from the wine cognoscenti, Beaujolais? How could Beaujolais eclipse Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhone Valley? Surely he can’t be serious!
Well I am, moreover unequivocal in my choice and can genuinely say that these two wines gave me the greatest (French) drinking pleasure of the year, trying them both in a tasting line-up held by Franck Duboeuf, and separately over a meal.
I revisited the Chateau des Capitans Julienas over dinner with legendary UK wine retailer, Noel Young, who agreed the wine was “Such a pleasure to drink” and without question, an extraordinary year. “Not much colour for Beaujolais” Young quipped, as we both held our glasses up looking in amazement at the impenetrable black colour of the wine, generally not associated to Beaujolais’ robe.
It is no secret that the 2009 Beaujolais vintage was exceptional, indeed a phenomenal year that is on par with the legendary 1947 vintage. Georges and Franck Duboeuf, the doyens of the Beaujolais region, have declared it “The Vintage of a Lifetime”.
It was a great privilege to join Franck Duboeuf, in Singapore recently, to taste through a large part of the Georges Duboeuf range, both the signature Flower Series and Cru Beaujolais from single properties, Domaine or Chateau wines.
At this juncture, with most of the 2009 Cru Beaujolais now released, there is unmitigated consensus amongst the international wine press this is a remarkable vintage with wines of unprecedented concentration and depth, fullness and texture, and above all indelible acidity adding a vitality and exceptional length to the wines.
But this is not just about riding the bandwagon of a great vintage, rather the emphasize is on the lack of appreciation and misconceptions here in Asia (or the world wine stage for that matter) of what the Beaujolais region can offer, thus I am also bestowing Beaujolais and its Cru Villages as the Most Underappreciated Wine Region. (See separate article)
And with Asia in mind or more specifically the Chinese and their fascination with auspicious numbers, there is a compelling trend with the exceptional vintages of Beaujolais, both in symmetrical periods and with the reoccurring number 9, which in Chinese culture is recognised as ‘long-lasting’ and historically associated to the Emperor of China, who’s robes were often adorned with nine dragons.
This is about as profound as wine feng shui (www.winefengshui.com) gets and the celestial link between the great years of 1949, 1959, 1969, 1999 and now 2009, all ‘long-living’ vintages is persuasive. Such synergisms in Chinese numerology are not to be ignored, and clearly if one wants to be ‘long-lasting’, then one should buy and drink a lot of 2009 Beaujolais!
It is also interesting that the symmetrical pattern runs for three decades then stops for three decades, returning precisely after 30 years, which would suggest 2019 and 2029 will also be great years. I will have to do more research in to the cosmos and see if there is an influencing planet, star or comet involved!
With the knowledge that many wine consumers in Asia are influenced by wines status or perceived value, that is the more expensive it is, surely the better it is, the challenge here is to impart an appreciation of price/quality rapport and that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars a bottle to find a wine that is of exceptional quality and character.
Equally, there is the challenge of overcoming Beaujolais’ unfashionable image, which is certainly unwarranted and surely even Beaujolais-Villages and Beaujolais Nouveau have their rightful place and uses here in Asia both in compatibility with cuisines and at the communal dining table.
Moreover, there is enormous potential in the Cru Beaujolais, the 38 villages that make up the ten appellations, or villages/areas in the foothills of the Beaujolais Mountains. Beginning at the southern end of Burgundy and reaching to the start of the department of the Rhone Valley, from north to south the Beaujolais Crus are: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.
Each Cru Beaujolais has its individual character, the idiosyncrasies largely related to the divergence in soils; from the molten blue stone of Côte de Brouilly with their more savoury- minerally poise, to the pink granite soils of Fleurie with its pronounced flora aromas and silky textures.
And texture in wine is everything to me – in red wine it’s all about tannin – how the tannins and overall dry extract shape the wine and its purpose with food. In as much as the tannins and firmness of a Bordeaux Classified Growths soften and integrate over many years, or the finer structured tannins and tension of a Premier or Grand Cru Burgundy equates to a more elegant, silkier mouth-feel, Cru Beaujolais is very much in the Burgundy ilk and the gamay grape can be every bit as smooth and complex as the more revered pinot noir.
The Juliénas 2009 Château des Capitans is a great example of this and one of the most silken, sensual, mouth-caressing red wines I encountered all year – from anywhere. It entices every aspect of the senses, both is its captivating bouquet, gorgeously plush and concentrated fruit, and an impeccable balance that makes it so drinkable now, even though it will last for decades.
Equally, it was impossible to ignore the sheer concentration and pinot noir-like attributes of the Morgon 2009 Domaine du Mont Chavy in the tasting line-up, a wine that would be devastate many wine egos in blind tasting as it would assuredly be mistaken for a top Burgundy. Thus I decided it would be a double-award for both these wines are benchmark examples of Cru Beaujolais.
Furthermore, I simply cannot leave out their Moulin à Vent 2009 Tour du Bief in this review as it was arguably the best wine in the tasting, in terms of profoundness and aging quality. Which brings me to the most misconstrued if not maligning aspect of Beaujolais – that the Cru Beaujolais wines are VERY different from Beaujolais-Villages or Nouveau.
That is not to depreciate the qualities and usefulness of the broader appellation wines, but it needs to be recognized that many Cru Beaujolais wines have a significant degree of substance and structure that give them the ability to age – some for many decades, such as Juliénas, Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent.
Not to labour on the point, but the obsession of wine snobs to relegate wines that do not have long-term ageing capabilities is frustrating enough however it is a vinous insult and ignorance to dismiss the unquestionable attributes of Cru Beaujolais.
In terms of price quality/rapport, these wines seriously over-deliver, in fact they over-deliver so much that it is mindboggling that they will sell for around S$45 to S$50 a bottle in Singapore, and feasibly less in lower wine-taxed countries.
These are ‘Must-Have’ wines for your drinking pleasure and cellar, and should be purchased in multiple cases – quickly!
Apart from the quality/value aspects of Cru Beaujolais, it is important to appreciate the compatibility of these wines with all number of Asian cuisines. I have expanded on this in my related article, Beaujolais and its Cru Villages, Most Underappreciated Wine Region of the Year. However, with an emphasis on these three Georges Duboeuf Cru Beaujolais, they have fine texture/tannins yet enough substance and fruit-flavour to go with a wide range of spicy, strong-flavoured Asian dishes, where many other reds would not.
Tried and tested, the Domaine Mont Chavy Morgon 2009 with went brilliantly mutton biryani and yellow dhal from my favourite Indian restaurant in Singapore, Chat Masala Too! Likewise, the Chateau des Capitans Julienas 2009 was on song with Beef Rendang from the legendary Nasi Pang (Zion Road), arguably the best Redang in Singapore with its sweeter, dense sauce are large pieces of chuck steak.
Tasting notes on the three wines are below, and for notes on the entire Georges Duboeuf tasting, see ‘2009 – A Vintage of a Lifetime’ in the ‘Profiled Wineries’.
For more information on Georges Duboeuf, visit www.duboeuf.com and for more on the Beaujolais region, visit www.beaujolais.com
Juliénas 2009 Château des Capitans 100% Gamay
Noticeably rich bouquet exudes blueberry, dark plum and dark cherry, the sweetness accentuated by a floral, rose petal perfume and alluring cinnamon spiciness.
Explosive palate with a rush of dark red berries – blueberry and dark cherry – a real purity to the fruit, fleshing out to deeper, richer poached blood plums, yet decidedly elegant, in a way delicate and extraordinarily silky, smooth in texture with waves of sweet red and black fruits engulfing the mouth and senses, propelled by invigorating steely acidity and lurking cold iron and wet granite minerality.
A real class act and one of the most silken, charming red wines I have had this year, equal favourite of the tasting and also a double-act for my French red wine of the year – Bravo! Dangerously drinkable now but will age well over the next decade – purchase in multiple cases.
Morgon 2009 Domaine du Mont Chavy 100% Gamay
A very rich and alluring bouquet of deep blackberry and cassis, also char-grill-charcoal nuances and roasted beetroot, with lots of mineral and an infusion of dried thyme and scents of Provence. Gorgeous palate, incredibly lush and caressing, layers of creamy textural sweet plumy, black cherry fruit perfectly balanced and cooled by fine black tea tannins and an underlying earthiness, hot black dark clay and graphite flintiness.
A most impressive and full-blooded wine that has the senses calibrating with serious pinot noir – and whilst a real mouthful of enjoyable red now it will cellar for a decade, probably two actually! “The Mother of all Beaujolais” and my equal top wine of the tasting and French red wine of the year! Buy in multiple cases.
Moulin à Vent 2009 Tour du Bief 100% Gamay
Incredible perfume of black cherry and strawberry conserve exuding opulence that builds an image in ones olfactory senses of creaminess and plush textures. The bouquet builds in sweetness and perfume with blood rose petals and a deep, brooding spiciness accented on cinnamon and Indian spic-box and lingering metal, wet graphite minerality.
A rich, viscous palate with intense strawberry and plum compote is checked by fine tannins and crunchy, steely acidity as one comes to the realization the is serious mouthful of wine, unleashing its coiled power and impressive length of flavour, firming up on the back palate with black tea-flavoured tannins and backed earth, warm-rocks – Provence dried herbs nuances.
What a wine! A tour de force for Beaujolais and will assuredly age for decades and an equal to the great 1947 vintage in Moulin à Vent which is still drinking to this day. I placed it second best in the line-up, although it is realistically the best wine in terms of profoundness and aging quality – the King of Beaujolais! Insanely underpriced for what it is, still let’s not dwell on that too much and stick 5 cases in the cellar.
Georges Duboeuf importers:
Tel +65 6654 3680