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tasting notes

A pretty region just south of Burgundy, Beaujolais makes fresh, fruity but sometimes rather simple red wines from the Gamay grape. The problem is, Beaujolais is horribly unfashionable these days. It has a 1980s sort of image: un-hip, but not un-hip enough to have turned the corner to be cool again. The use of a winemaking technique called carbonic maceration helps to preserve the fruitiness of the wines. There are three quality levels. First, there's the veritable ocean of AC Beaujolais made each vintage, most of which comes from the flatter land in the southern part of the region (about half of total production). Second, there are the Beaujolais Villages wines, from hillier sites (one-quarter of the wines made). Finally, at the top of the quality tree come the wines from the ten 'crus': Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Regnié and St Amour. These are made from Gamay grown on particularly favoured slopes, and each has its own appellation -- the name Beaujolais will often not be found on the label. And from each of these appellations come a spectrum of styles, from fresh and bright to fairly serious and ageworthy. Although the image of Beaujolais has been somewhat devalued by poor quality Beaujolais Nouveau, at their best these are fun, joy-filled wines for early drinking.

(Prices and stockists in the UK are listed in brackets; as a rough guide £1 = US$1.50. Date of tasting is indicated by month/year at the end of the note.)

See also: Beaujolais: 'the one-night stand of wines'

Christophe Pacalet Chiroubles 2007 Beaujolais, France
Pale-ish colour.
Bright cherryish nose is quite fresh and expressive. The palate is light and fruity. Simple but with nice freshness and purity. 88/100 05/08

Christophe Pacalet Moulin à Vent 2006 Beaujolais, France
Light colour.
Elegant, fresh cherry fruit nose with spicy, earthy notes in the background. The palate is beautifully expressive and elegant with subtle spice under the smooth, pure fruit. 91/100 05/08

Jean-Claude Lapalu Brouilly ‘La Croix des Rameaux’ 2005 Beaujolais
From old vines tended by a terroir-driven producer in conversion to biodynamics. I must confess, my first thoughts about this wine were ‘bretty Beaujolais: doesn’t work’. But after leaving it open for a while, it’s gaining some aromatic complexity, with a pure, smooth, elegant red/black fruit core emerging from the grip of the earthy spiciness of what I suspect to be a bit of brettanomyces. It’s quite tannic and earthy, still, on the palate, but overall I’d say this is a pretty serious effort that I think will end up being one of those wines that just works, whatever the brett police might say. It just gives the impression of being a living wine which will look great on some occasions, and a bit awkward on others. But it’s worth persevering with. 89/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 12/07

Georges Duboeuf Chiroubles 2006 Beaujolais
Slightly confected nose has sweet fruit and a bit of bubblegum character. The palate has a bright red berry fruit presence: it's accessible, juicy and quite fun, with good acidity and a bit of grippy tannin. There's nothing wrong with this at all, and it's better than the majority of Beaujolais I come across, but it lacks any excitement for me. It's the sort of wine I' be happy to drink if there weren't any more exciting options on a wine list, but it wouldn't be my first choice. Very good 84/100 (Waitrose) 05/07

Louis Jadot Rosé 2007 Beaujolais, France
Deep salmon/pink colour, this has a strongly herbal edge to the strawberry fruit, as well as a bit of butteriness. Finishes crisp with high acidity. A bit disjointed. 83/100 (Waitrose) 06/08

Guy Breton Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2004 Beaujolais
With a front label that looks like a back label, this is an unusual, interesting, but less than fully convincing wine. There's some lovely, smooth, pure elegant red fruits, which are complemented by some spicy, minerality, a slightly out-of-place richer fudge and tar edge, and at the end of the palate a bit of earthy, herbal character. Overall, this is a delicious, fresh, easy drinking style of Beaujolais with a real transparency and honesty to it, but all the components don't quite sit together in harmony. I hope that doesn't sound too negative, because this is a very enjoyable wine. Very good+ 88/100 (Les Caves Auge, Paris) 02/07

Jean-Paul Thevenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2005 Beaujolais, France
Hmmm, bretty Beaujolais. Quite fresh, brightly fruited nose with a spicy, medicinal, smoky sort of character. The palate has a meaty, spicy, phenolic character imprinted on the otherwise pure red fruits. Quite enjoyable in a very savoury, spicy, funky sort of way, but it's verging on flawed for me, and I don't really mind brettanomyces too much in the right sort of context. Very good+ 85/100 02/07

Jean Foillard Morgon Cuvee 3,14 2004 Beaujolais, France
Slightly muted cherry fruits nose leads to a savoury palate with some spiciness and smooth, elegant cherryish fruit, together with a turned earth, dark savoury edge. On one level this is a fresh, refreshing easy drinking sort of wine, but on another it has a more serious, brooding side to its personality. The second night it is little changed. Enjoyable but not as alluring as the Cote du Py cuvee he also makes. Very good+ 89/100 (From Caves Auge in Paris) 02/07

Cathy & Jean-Luc Gauthier Domaine du Crêt de Ruyère Morgon Tradition ‘Cuvée Nature’ 2004 Beaujolais, France
Made naturally, with very little intervention and just a small addition of sulphur dioxide at bottling. Palish in colour, this has an elegant, gently aromatic nose of pure cherry fruit with some earthy, mineralic complexity. The palate shows supple, gentle cherryish fruit together with subtle earthy, forest floor notes and a bit of spice. It’s quite pure and elegant; a wine that beguiles rather than bullies, but there’s a danger that its subtlety could end up being overlooked. It tastes natural. 90/100 12/07

Cathy & Jean-Luc Gauthier Domaine du Crêt de Ruyère Morgon Tradition ‘Cuvée Nature’ 2005 Beaujolais, France
With a bit more presence and impact than the 2004, this natural cuvee shows a nose with warm, spicy, earthy notes along with some ripe cherry fruit. The palate is dense, earthy and spicy, with some grippy tannin and ripe, attractive berry and cherry fruit. The earthiness here makes me think of brettanomyces, which is again suggested by the finish, but this is a wine that works quite nicely. There’s a lot of interest and complexity here. 89/100 12/07

Jean Foillard Morgon ‘Côte du Py’ 2004 Beaujolais, France
Red/black colour. Not dense and impenetrable, but quite dark. The nose shows a wonderful sweet, pure fruit character (cherries and blackberries) with a haunting complexity. Initially the fruit is supplemented by spice and some earthy notes; later I’m getting a bit of dark chocolate and herbs. On the palate, there’s a wonderful transparency. Sweet fruit is complemented by a smooth, silky tannic structure and some spice. Elegant, soft, smooth and pure. After a while longer, herb and tea elements begin to emerge. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£12.75 H&H Bancroft Wines) 11/05

Domaine des Coteaux de Cruix 2002 Beaujolais, France
Paul-André and his son have a site whose soil is a mixture of clay and chalk. This wine shows a bright, forward, fruity nose with cherryish fruit. The palate has a chewy, savoury edge. Tasty stuff that is fun and fresh. Very good+ 86/100 (£5.75 Berry Bros) 10/03  

Louis Claude Desvignes Morgon ‘La Voute St-Vincent’ 2000, Beaujolais
Louis-Claude Desvignes, a 7th generation vigneron, has vineyards situated on the Montagne de Py in the centre of Morgon. The wine is vinified by the traditional cru Beaujolais method with a grille to keep the cap submerged. Quite deep coloured. There’s an attractive meaty, spicy edge to the cherry and raspberry fruit on the nose. Savoury, firm palate shows good acidity and some tannin. A satisfying wine that would be good with food. Very good+ (£8.45 Berry Bros) 03/02 

Domaine des Rosiers Moulin à Vent 2000 Beaujolais
Very attractive open nose with a pronounced herbal edge to the cherry fruit. Quite rich. Palate is quite concentrated with some savoury structure and reasonably firm tannins. Verging on the herbaceous? Very attractive structured Beaujolias in a full style. Very good+ 02/03

Domaine H. Vial Fleurie 2001 Beaujolais
(Bottled by negociant Colin Bourisset) Nicely balanced red with sour cherry character to the fruit. Showing good concentration and acidity, this is a juicy, savoury-style Beaujolais. Very good 08/02  

Domaine du Marronnier Rose 2001 Juliénas, Beaujolais
Really pleasant light, fruity Beaujolais with just a hint of bubblegum (a bad thing) on the minerally, cherryish nose. The palate is nicely balanced with good intensity and an attractive savoury streak. A spicy, minerally edge provides interest. Very good (purchased in France) 09/02 

George Duboeuf Régnié Printemps 2001 Beaujolais
Good concentration of juicy primary fruit, with cherries and raspberries dominating. Simple but well made. Very good (£5.99 Majestic) 10/02

Gilles Roux Beaujolais Villages Domaine de la Plaigne 2001
Lovely pure cherry fruit on the nose. The palate shows assertive primary cherry and raspberry fruit on the palate with good acidity. Appealing archetypal Beaujolais. Very good+ (£6.49  Majestic) 10/02

Château Cambon Beaujolais 1999
This is an unchaptalised, unfiltered, unfined, unsulphured wine from Biodynamic Beaujolais producer Marcel Lapierre. A sticker on the bottle warns that this wine must be kept at less than 14 °C: it's a microbiolgical time bomb, and this rules out just about any wine shop in the UK. In fact, this is an appealing wine quite unlike any other Beaujolais I've ever had. A deep re/purple colour, it's slightly cloudy. There's a slightly volatile nose with some complex, cherry-like fruit. On the palate, rather than just simple primary fruit there's earthy, slightly medicinal cherry fruit with good acidity. Interesting and a little odd, I like it. Very good+ (La Vigneronne) 08/01

Tesco Beaujolais 2000
There's a touch of bubblegum to the cherryish nose, which then carries through to the palate. Simple industrial stuff. OK (£3.79 Tesco) 09/01

George Duboeuf Regnie 1999, Beaujolais
Light cherry red colour. An enjoyable wine with plenty of bright cherry/raspberry fruit, a touch of tannin and no rough edges. Good/very good (Sainsbury £5.99) 05/01

Jean Descombes Morgon 1999, Beaujolais
A dense, bright summer-style red with plenty of appeal. The powerful nose of raspberries and summer pudding is followed up by bright, pure fresh fruit on the palate. At first it seems a little one dimensional, but there is plenty of tannin and acid hiding underneath all that fruit. Attractive. Very good (£6.99 Majestic) 1/01

Gilles Roux Beaujolais Villages 1999 Domaine de la Plaigne, Beaujolais, France
A startling, modern styled Beaujolais showing pronounced bubblegum and banana character along with bright cherry and strawberry fruit. Great fun, but not a wine to contemplate. Very good (£5.49 Majestic) 1/01

Juliénas 1999 Vayolette, Domiane du Moulin Berger, Beaujolais
Soft, sweet strawberry and vanilla nose. Balanced on the palate with cherry-like fruit, firm acidity and some tannins. Lively wine, but with some depth also. Good/very good. (£7.99 Oddbins) 10/00

Fleurie 1999, Sapin, Cru Beaujolais
Youthful deep red/purple colour, with a ripe, lifted savoury nose. Fresh, bright cherry fruit abounds on the palate. I like it: it is light and fun, without being confected. Very good (£5.99 Majestic) 10/00

Beaujolais Villages Domaine de la Plaigne 1999, Gilles Roux
Bright purple colour. Sweet, fruity nose. Cherryish and light on the palate. A little bit simple and confected. Good. (Majestic £5.99) 10/00

Morgon 1999, Jean Descombes, Cru Beaujolais
Exotic, almost unbelievably raspberry-like nose. Palate follows through with more bright raspberry fruit. Striking wine. Very good (if you like raspberries). (£6.99 Majestic) 10/00

St Amour, Domaine des Duc 1999, Cru Beaujolais
Deep red/purple colour. Serious but bright, fruity nose. A more substantial style of Beaujolais, with some tannin to match the bright fruit. Good/very good. (Majestic £7.49) 10/00

Domaine des Fines Graves 1997 Moulin à Vent, Cru Beaujolais, Jacky Jadouet
Dark red/purple colour. Nose of herbs and wet stones. Quite structured on the palate with chewy red fruit and herby elements, underpinned with high acidity and firm tannins. Concentrated for a Beaujolais, this is a good food wine and may well develop well in the bottle. Very good. (£7.95, Berry Bros) 5/00