You may not be aware of what's been quietly happening in Beaujolais over the last few years, but to put it plainly: there's been a string of great vintages, at great prices, made by an enthusiastic, up-and-coming generation of talented young winemakers. While the region routinely plays second fiddle to the coveted pinot noirs from the nearby Côte d'Or, the cru gamay expressions and village-labelled wines have recently begun to register on a much larger radar within the wine community. Needless to say, as a wine retailer with a taste for Beaujolais we wanted to get more involved. This past May, Alex Pross and I took a drive down to Beaujolais from Beaune to meet with several exciting winemakers at Chateau de Javernand, looking to potentially purchase straight from the source. Here we tasted over fifty wines from a handful of regional producers in an attempt to expand our horizons and our selection at K&L. Most were 2014 and 2015’s, both outstanding years in general. Having spent the prior month in Bordeaux it was a refreshing change of pace to look at the price lists in Beaujolais where value is definitely the name of the game. Since taking over the Burgundy department, Alex and I have made value and drinkability part of our main focus, hoping to add balance to our fine selection of grand and premier cru Côte d'Or selections. We felt searching out small producers from Beaujolais, from whom we could import directly, might be the best way to add more depth. Many of the wines are fresh, exciting, rustic in style, and genuine; made by small farmers with a serious commitment to quality. We were very happy with what we tasted and we made a number of purchases during our trip. Those wines have now landed just in time for Fall, so it's time to share with you what we purchased, from whom, and why.
Jean-Michel Dupre started with next to nothing: only a farm and a two hectare vineyard left by his father. When the question of succession arose, Jean-Michel could not pass on the opportunity to continue the tradition. He converted an old farm building into a winery and went in search of additional well-located plots in Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages, Morgon, and Régnié. What sets him apart from many other winemakers in the region is the age of his vineyard, which has vines on it that are around 100 years old.
2015 Jean-Michel Dupre "Terre Noire" VV Beaujolais - $10.99 - Located on the Northwest edge of the Beaujolais region, very high in altitude (500 meters), this Beaujolais-Villages has been declassified as a Beaujolais. The vines are around 65 years old and all farming is done sustainable. Talk about a wine that over delivers for the price point, the Terre Noire is loaded with red and dark purple fruits, spice and a fresh lively finish.
2013 Jean-Michel Dupre "1935" Morgon - $14.99 - This a single vineyard wine that was planted in 1935 (obviously), this wine shows lots of classic Gamay flavors of black currant, violets and raspberry. Fairly substantial, this wine should actually age quite well over the next five years and develop some nice complexity.
Les Freres Perroud
Run by two brothers, Michael and Robert Perroud, this estate began as a four acre vineyard in Brouilly. The brothers continued with the replanting of family plots where their grandfather grew grapes. Michel, is the eldest of the duo and after years of working as a civil engineer he joined Robert, the youngest of four siblings, who had taken the over family estate. Perroud practices sustainable farming and organic certified techniques.
2015 Les Freres Perroud "Vieilles Vignes" Brouilly - $14.99 - This 100% Gamay Noir wine comes from a 4 acre vineyard where the average age of the vines are 65 years old. Soil type is clay and red granite sand. This is really a serious Brouilly which shows wonderful fruit, a juicy, lush texture and finishes with spicy ruby red fruits and mineral hints. A nice peak into the quality of the 2015’s!
2014 Les Freres Perroud "Amethyste" Brouilly - $16.99 - The Amethyste from Perroud comes from a 2 acre vineyard which features 75 year old vines that are planted on granite and sandy soils. This wine sees 12 months of aging in neutral barrels. In the mouth the Amethyste shows a rich, broad texture with plenty of deep red and blue fruits. Similar to the Vieilles Vignes, this wine shows a wonderful purity of fruit and freshness that is a pleasure to drink.
2014 Les Freres Perroud Bourgogne Pinot Noir (organic) - $16.99 - Perroud’s straight Bourgogne Pinot Noir over delivers for the price point for sure! The 2014 is made organic, shows lots of upfront fruit with hints of earthy and minerals underneath. A Burgundy quality wine with Beaujolais pricing is a great combination!
Our tastings in Beaujolais were set up here at Chateau Javernand, a small estate that has been family run for five generations dating back to 1917. The château itself dates back to the end of the 18th century. Today it's run by Arthur Fourneau and his cousin Mathilde Pénicaud who care for the sixty hectares of fruit in Chiroubles; Mathilde's husband Pierre Prost also helps with the winemaking. Their goal is to remain faithful to the unique terroir of Chiroubles and continue to preserve that purity for subsequent generations.
2014 Chateau de Javernand "Indigene" Chiroubles - $16.99 - Beautiful and delicate, the 2014 Chateau Javernand Chiroubles “Indigene" is a pretty wine with aromas of violet and candied cherries. The palate is crisp and energetic with flavors of macerated cherries, fresh pomegranate and red licorice nicely buffered by spice and mineral notes. A wine that feels feminine with great structure and surprising depth for a simple Chiroubles.
2014 Chateau de Javernand "Vieilles Vignes" Chiroubles - $14.99 - The 2014 Vieilles Vignes comes from 40 year old plus vines. Half of the fruit is de-stemmed and the other half is whole cluster pressed. This wine shows hints of leather and spice.
Pascal Berthier was unable to attend out tasting but we did run through his wines. Pascal has been working as a winemaker in the region for more than twenty-five years and views his vineyards as an extension of himself. His motto is to never stop listening to the land, as it still holds the legacy of those who worked and cared for it previously. We were unable to pass up his delicious Saint-Amour.
2015 Pascal Berthier "Spirit of Seduction" Saint-Amour - $14.99 - Here is another chance to taste a wine from the tremendous 2015 vintage! The “Spirit of Seduction” is just that. The fruit comes from a 12 acre vineyard where the vines average 50 years old. This wine sees no oak and is aged in concrete vats. The purity of fruit here really shines. It is ripe, fresh and loaded with crunchy red cherry and raspberry fruit that is spicy and bright. If you are a fan of California Pinot Noir and what to jump into a Beaujolais then this would be a great wine to start with.
For those looking for pure, expressive, terroir-driven wines made by real people for reasonable prices, we hope you'll be as thrilled as we are with these fine selections. There's a real youth movement happening in Burgundy's Beaujolais region right now and we're just getting started. The region's many villages hold a number of secrets just waiting to be discovered. Hopefully we can get back soon to find more of them.