I have a deep and profound, yet giddy love of Cru Beaujolais and I reckon I am not alone in this world with this feeling I am sure. I recently sat down with an old friend and Beaujolais lover and some Beaujolais newbies to taste through several Crus and check in on what makes Cru Beaujolais such an awesome thing.
My love for Beaujolais begins with the fact that it drinks well on it’s own be it room temperature or with a slight chill. It also pairs well with any array of foods and can be placed with meals ranging from light to heavy and hold it’s own. It can also be drunk deliciously upon release, or in the case of the better producers, can age very well. In fact, some even say that after time one cannot distinguish it from fine Burgundy!
We tasted five Crus from five different producers and I can say that each was super distinctive not only in sense of place but even more so with regards to wine making and other chemical factors. One of the bottles had the obvious influence of new French oak. It was pretty and very drinkable and harmonious but lacked a real character that made it stand out as a bottle of Beaujolais. One of the bottles was marked by Bret (Brettanomyces) and was funky but the funk faded a bit and was a drinkable wine albeit with some pungent barnyard overtones. And what was supposed to be the finest bottle was somehow off. Very carbon dioxide spritzy and cloudy. I shook the wine up a few times to release the carbon dioxide gas, but the wine remained off. Kind of a bummer.
And then there were two shinning examples of Cru Beaujolais at its finest. Julien Sunier is very quickly rising to the top of my Cru Beaujolais short list, and the 2011 Fleurie was no disappointment; an explosively delicious wine that could only be Cru Beaujolais. And for the first time I was trying wine from famed Beaujolais producer Georges Descombes, the 2011 Brouilly. The wine was tremendous and sang of Cru Beaujolais and was the clear crowd favorite. I learned a lot trying these different wines from different Beaujolais Crus, and I wonder how much wine making style has to play into the character of the individual wines we tried. With things like carbonic maceration/whole cluster fermentation as well as traditional vinification, or some combo of the two (semi carbonic), at play in the Beaujolais region one wonders to what extent these wine making practices contribute to the nature and character of the wines. In fact, it appears that Descombes and Sunier both use carbonic maceration/whole cluster fermentation and perhaps this gives them the fresh fruit character of purity which I can only describe as Beaujolais.
Julien Sunier 2011 Fleurie
Lavender, herbs, mineral, stones, subtle cherry fruit, pepper, sweet liquorish and decent acidity are all at play in the Sunier 2011 Fleurie. It is fresh and gets prettier and prettier every minute in the glass. Nothing not to like about this delicious Beaujolais. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Georges Descombes 2001 Brouilly
Lavender and herbs and cherries and anise all leap from the glass. The 2011 Descombes Brouilly is very pure and very fresh and it is at once subtle and lithe yet gorgeously pretty. As wonderful as it gets from Cru Beaujolais. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED