Regular visitors to the Comments section of this site will be familiar with the varied, and very helpful, insights that Richard Wyndham frequently provides.
Well, today, he extends those insights into a broader and deeper look at wine from a region he knows well – Beaujolais.
After its celebrity status in the final quarter of the last century, Beaujolais wines fell off the radar in spectacular fashion.
Several factors caused this including improved competition from the new world.
Also at work, though, were the almost inevitable quality issues when demand significantly exceeded supply – as it did there.
However, Beaujolais is edging its way back into the spotlight helped by changes in style and by energetic young winemakers,
Further help comes from the realisation that the region can offer kindly priced relief when Burgundy prices rise.
In addition, Richard also gently eases us towards an underappreciated aspect of the region – its white wines.
It always saddens me when Beaujolais chardonnay producers say they sell their wine (perfectly legally) as “White Burgundy” because they get a better price.
So, read on for Richard’s words of wisdom.
As is normal here, pictures and hyperlinks are provided where possible to guide you straight to the right wine on shelf or web page.
Taking a new look at nouveau
“As a serious Beaujolais fan for over 40 years, I had some particularly good experiences at the end of 2023.
Firstly, Beaujolais Nouveau is back! My interest in the 3rd Thursday of November had waned but it looks like producers and customers are re-embracing the event.
I had a bottle of 2023 Domaine Bel Avenir Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau by Cècile Dardanelli – what a lovely, charming wine.
Alongside this I opened a bottle of the 2022 Nouveau from the same producer, and this was still drinking very well – so, Nouveau wines sold off cheaply this side of Christmas, could be worth a punt.
These wines came from the enthusiastic people at Wickham Wines.
Their Zoom tastings are also excellent – they post, typically 6 x100ml wine samples, and you can then join an interactive (if you want!) Zoom session.
They also have an admirable policy of free delivery for orders over £40.
Now for the whites
Secondly, I had an opportunity to attend a tasting of Beaujolais Blanc wines.
These Chardonnay wines are a tiny proportion of the overall Beaujolais production, but seem to be gaining traction and, on the basis of the wines I tasted, they are certainly worth seeking out.
Possibly reflecting that growing interest, The Wine Society’s £12.50 2022 Domaine des Côteaux de Font Curé that I enjoyed, has now completely sold out.
Similarly impressive was the 2022 Château Bellevue Beaujolais Princesse Lieven.
Pineapple, baked apple, touch of honey, lemon peel freshness and tad of oak had given it some creaminess – lovely.
By coincidence, the week before, I was much impressed by the 2021 vintage of the same wine at a Mr Wheeler (“We choose better wines”) tasting.
It is not easy to track down Beaujolais Blanc in the UK but independents such as Alpine Wines and Wickhams stock other examples.
They are good value alternatives to the more widely available Macon whites.
Switching back to reds.
Lastly, as you do, I had a bottle lurking in my wine rack waiting, as the years rolled by, for a “special occasion”.
It was a 2009 Louis Latour Moulin-à-Vent Les Michelons and I decided that one of my elderly cars passing its MOT test was sufficiently special, so cracked the bottle open.
Wow, this was drinking beautifully, no indication that it was past its best – just a lovely Burgundian style red.
In 2019 I had a similar experience drinking another lurker – a 2005 Wine Society's Exhibition Morgon, that was similarly impressive.
So, for some Cru Beaujolais 14 years bottle age seems to hit the spot! Looking forward to sampling 2010 wines during 2024 – I recall it was a good year.”
Thank you, Richard, for such an excellent piece on a region that seldom gets the exposure warranted by the quality it can attain.
Inspired by your conclusions, I also sought out one of the white Beaujolais choices at Wickhams and here are my conclusions.
2020 Clos du Vieux Bourg Beaujolais Blanc (from £16.50 at Wickhams and 12.5% abv):
At its best when allowed to open up, this proves to be a delightfully smooth and very soft example with pear, mango and ripe pear flavours.
Underpinning those flavours are a chalky undercurrent, sharp orange acidity and suggestions of butteriness, mint and toasty caramel.
In short, sophisticated white wine well worth digging a little deeper to secure.
In case that starts you looking for a red
2022 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Quincié (£10.99 – instead of £14.99 until 27 February – at Waitrose and 13%):
This only came on offer yesterday and is slightly unusual in that it is from a Beaujolais Villages commune that adds its name to the label.
Quincié is just to the west of the Brouilly and Regnie Crus.
With a classic Beaujolais fruit centred nose, the wine is based around juicy cherry and raspberry flavours.
In support, there is fresh acidity, a cushioned softness, chocolate hints and those violet elements that the region does so well.
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