A recent tasting group dinner focused on Cru Beaujolais. It's probably not breaking news to wine lovers that, while the reputation of Beaujolais has suffered due to the boatloads of rather insipid wine sold in mass markets (particularly the Nouveau Beaujolais), there are some outstanding wines made in the region. Frequent columns in newspapers, magazines and online tout the quality and value of the better wines from the region.
While there are some very good wines from the broader appellation (witnes the Yvon Métras Beaujolais VV, for example) most of the top bottlings are what is known as Cru Beaujolais--wines made from vineyards in one of the ten villages entitled to label the wines with only the name of the village or cru.
While memorizing the names of the 10 crus may be something of an exercise in trivia for most people, they are (in order more or less from north to south): Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.
The dominant grape of Beaujolais is gamay. The thin-skinned grape tends to produce wines that have pleasant fruit flavors and relatively light tannins--making them enjoyable young. The gentle carbonic maceration process used in the region enhances those characteristics. While the wines of Moulin-a-Vent, Morgon and Fleurie tend to have more structure than those of the other crus, none are heavy. Solid acidity provides freshness.
So it was with that as background that we sat down to taste five different Cru Beaujolais. We started wtih the 2013 Thivin Côte de Brouilly. A really pleasant, drinkable wine...fresh, lush and delicious. Next was the 2005 Guy Breton Morgon Vielles Vignes. Spectacular! The aromatics leapt from the glass. On the palate it had an elegance that I normally would think more characteristic of Burgundy than Beaujolais (in geographic terms, Beaujolais is the southern-most part of Burgundy, but in wine terms the two are quite different). The best Beaujolais I've ever tasted. I was grateful to find I have two more bottles.
Then the 2013 Métras Fleurie. The aromas were as floral as the name implies...lovely and complex. This is serious wine. I've tasted it a number of times recently--and I always find it interesting and engaging. I'm interested to see how it evolves with time (if I can keep my hands off the relatively few bottles that I have). I think it'll just get more and more complex. We followed it with the 2009 Thibault Liger Belair Moulin-a-Vent Vielles Vignes. Another great producer--though perhaps more famous for Burgundy than Beaujolais. True to the characteristics of the cru, this was a little bigger than the others--but balanced, deep and enjoyable.
We finished with the 2009 Foillard Morgon Cuvée Corcellette. Foillard and Breton are two of those termed the "Gang of Four" by importer Kermit Lynch who have helped resurrect the reputation of Beaujolais. The Corcellette was excellent...rich fruit, with underlying freshness and good complexity.
These wines ranged from $25 to $50 per bottle. Pretty good for wines that had real authenticity and character. Wines that were delicious as well as distinctive. The only downside is that really good Beaujolais seems to be pretty much restricted to the top wine shops. At least in the DC area, to find a good selection, you'll have to go to a shop like McArthur Beverages.