2009. Beaujolais. The vintage of a lifetime?


I believe most wine lovers are in the same position as I am. We’re prepared to pay a bit for a wine but still looks at the price tag. Spending hundred euros on a bottle still needs preparation. You know, the psychological barrier one first have to deal with. Therefore we’re always on the search for a great price having in mind it’s tough, at least for the economy, to be a wine passionate.  Fine, I mean: to explain to your better half why we need to buy all these wines….

Sometimes I need to remind myself that, after all, it’s only fermented grape juice – in order not to get carried away. Then the gold digger awakens, trying to track down some great buys. Last summer I had one of those moments which, in a crescendo like manner, ended up in me buying five cases of Beaujolais cru from 2009. I hadn’t tasted more than one bottle from the vintage and yet it just seemed so darn right to keep on spending.

By the way, this is going to be a long post. Looong. Just so you know….

2009 came just when the vintners needed it. Sadly, they were also released when the great man of Beaujolais passed away. Marcel Lapierre was the kind of person the region needed; a man with integrity and passion showing there’s more to the Beaujolais than banana scents and law suits. There’s been a lot of negative attention surrounding Beaujolais the last 10 years. From court cases where the producers sued a local newspaper for the denigration of French products (Yes, such a law exists in France),  attempts of mixing a superior vintage with a lesser one to the last case in 2007 when 600 tonnes of sugar were bought by Beaujolais producers. And according to the lawsuit the sugar wasn’t for the daily coffee or to bake cakes, but used for illegal chaptalization.

Besides the time spent in court rooms, the Beaujolais’ has themselves partly to blame and especially that third Thursday every November. ‘Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!’ is a marketing campaign of great success and a schoolbook example of how you keep your inventory as short time as possible. Money in the bank for the big ones yes, but being a small quality Beaujolais producer won’t make life easy, something that we’ve seen the last years with many family estates not fixing it anymore.

Having all this in mind, it’s easy to forget that there are the likes of Marcel Lapierre. Although I don’t expect others, besides his son, to follow in his footsteps and going natural, it is good 2009 came now, allowing the producers to get the chance to say: “Hey world, we still got it!”

Right. How about tasting some wine? A case of mixed 2009 Beaujolais wines selected. Now, are they really as good as we’ve been reading the last year? Yes, yes, yes! They are absolutely phenomenal! They’re clean with great pure fruit, lots of minerals, ageability, classy acidity and above all, seducers. Who can say no to a 2009 Brouilly, Fleurie, Morgon or Régnié?

In order to help you on the way, take a look at these 10 notes. Yes, I know. Tasting notes are boring so I’ve kept them short. Ok then, I tried. I just want everyone to pick up some ’09 quality, probably the best Beaujolais in the world…

2009 Le Clos Bertrand, Chateau Thivin, Côte de Brouilly, 91-92 p

Claude and Evelyne Geoffay’s single vineyard Le Clos Bertrand is one for the cellar. Delicious now as great wines tend to be in great vintages, but patience will be awarded. This one has a mineral driven taste that fascinates, acidity to complement and a tannin structure I seldomly find in Beaujolais. Forget about Burgundies at £15 a bottle. Buy some Thivin instead and fall in love with the true potential of Gamay!

2009 Les Sept Vignes, Chateau Thivin, Côte de Brouilly, 90-91 p

This is easier to approach than the Bertrand bottling. Wet rocks, raspberries, cherries and some spices. Lead pencil and violets. Slightly restrained taste with good tannin structure, mouth-watering fruit and the acidity to make it an outstanding glass. Strawberries, humus, lead pencil and violets. A food wine! Give it a further two years.

2009 Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes, Alain Chatoux, 88-89 p

This is hard to beat at £8,95 buying a case (£9,95/bottle). 700 meters above sea level, in Sainte Paule, you will find Alain’s vineyards. Considering how many ordinary Beaujolais on the market that demands the same prices it’s easy to shout bargain, bargain! Alain’s old vines are old – averaging 60 years of age – and that is for sure evident in the wine. The red berries, floral notes, humus, lead pencil and slightly yeasty feel on the nose is quite attractive. There’s a good intensity and concentration for an ordinary Beaujolais – if you can call a wine from that old vines ordinary. Good mouth feel with mouthwatering acidity, red berries, banana, a floral note and humus. Although showing plenty of drinkability already there’s no hurry. Fine acidity, tons of fruit and a hint of tannin structure makes this good for short term cellaring, say two or three years.

2009 Fleurie La Roilette Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Metrat, 91-92 p

A small domaine run by Sylvain Métrat and his father-in-law Michel Chevalier. The old vines surrounds the winery and there is a layer of clay on top of the granite soil resulting in a, for many, atypical Fleurie. The Gamay grapes are hand-harvested and has then undergone a short fermentation of seven days (whole bunch fermentation). Then aged in wooden casks for 6-9 months. Seductive nose with hints of cherries, raspberries, oozing mineral, lead pencil, floral notes and sweet root. Man, I love this nose. On the palate the charming continues. Sweet berries, fine tickling acidity and a fat Gamay feel to it which is even more seductive at 14 C serving temperature. Floral and lead pencil again. Just a hint of tannins giving that needed structure. Long taste.

2009 Beaujolais-Villages Combe-aux-Jacques, Louis Jadot, 85-86 p

Made in industrial quantities assuring you can pick it up again. Industrial quantities you think, sounds horrible, but the négociant firm is all about attention to details which in the end result in a most enjoyable Beaujolais-Villages. Youthful crimson red. The aromas of black currants, blueberries, lead pencil, foam candy and a nice floral note fills the glass. On the palate it’s light and fresh showing classic signs of the semi carbonic maceration. Flavours of cherries, lead pencil, smoke and a floral note – with a crisp, quite tannic finish. Not a memorable wine in any means but for a Village it’s delivering over expectation. Probably at its best in a year or so.

2009 Chiroubles, Bernard Metrat, 90-91 p

I have a weak spot for elegance. I have a weak spot for Bernard Metrat’s Chiroubles. Roses, strawberries and wet rocks. Some lead pencil. Seducing. A sniff wine! Oh, this is one of those you define as easy-going but yet with tons of character. Think dusty summer road, wild strawberries, some cherries, dried roses, great presence and fine, fine acidity. Long, quite concentrated and pure. Thank god for a case of this beauty!

2009 Morgon Vieilles Vignes, Chateau Grange Cochard, 91-92 p

James and Sarah Wilding gave up on UK and started producing great Morgon. Believe it or not but this is their debut wine and wow, what a wine it is. Some toasted oak scents, dark cherries, minerals, minerals, minerals and a fine rose scent. Wooh, tannins in my Morgon! Almost Pinot’ish structure and fine acidity backing up. Sweet pure red berries, some wild strawberries actually, enhancing the Burgundy feel, impressive concentration and quite modern in its style. A touch of oak. Long, clean finish. Needs time. Wont harm you if had today.

2008 Moulin-à-Vent, En Brenay, Jean-Paul Dubost, 91-92 p

Lots of things going on here. Darker color than many of the others. Plums, dark cherries, wet rocks, some spices and lead pencil. Again, could trick in a blind tasting. A bit tougher, still delicious, with nice tannin grip for a Gamay, lots of rocks, dark cherries, licorice and roses. Charming and I can’t wait for this to get another two or three years of cellaring. It will embarrass many Burgundy Pinot’s.

2009 Régnié, Julien Sunier, 90-91 p

Adorable! You like floral red wines? Then this is your pick! Beautiful clean scents of summer flowers, humus, red berries, especially dark cherries and raspberries. Sweet, delicious fruit on the palate, lingering acidity, minerals, licorice and so pure. Long. Already ready but will improve and keep a further two or three years. I’m glad my case is in London…

2009 Brouilly, Alain Michaud, 90-91 p

Hello bacon, hello minerality! Perhaps not a crowd-pleaser but oh, this is beautiful. Cherries, plums, wet rocks, smoky meat and some lead pencil. On the palate it’s seductive juice backed up by quite firm tannins for a Beaujolais. Clean fruit, wet rocks, floral notes, fine precision and dark berries. Old vines concentration. Will probably need two years to fully bloom although it will surely keep for much longer. Love this, more food demanding type of wine.

PS. Still waiting for a judgement;  2009 Morgon, Côte du Py, Domaine Louis Claude Desvignes, 2009 Juliénas, Les Paquelets, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Eve Michel Rey and 2009 Moulin a Vent, La Rochelle, Olivier Merlin.

PS.2. All wines purchased at BBR, except the Jadot.