It's been way too long since I filed my last (and first) B-side report, something I originally intended to be a fairly regular installment here at MFWT. So, when I recently gave the once over to the collection of dead soldiers that had accumulated on my kitchen table and realized that 80% of them were Beaujolais of one ilk or another, I figured it was due time for a return.
The hits—these could've/should've been A-sides (had I been studying in addition to enjoying):
$25 and 22. 12 and 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, CA.
In the wake of Marcel Lapierre's recent death, I'm willing to hazard a guess that more of his wines have been consumed worldwide over the last two months than of any other artisan scale Beaujolais producer. I'd bet the same applies to purchase rates, especially of the 2009, which piles vintage fervor on top of sentimentality. I'd love to buy some more of the '09 while the getting is still good but it's the 2008 that I'd really like to drink today. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the '09—full of bright, ripe fruit, juicy texture and a touch of earth—but it's still wearing a layer of baby fat, not yet ready to reveal its underlying stuffing. The '08, on the other hand, is a perfect example of the old maxim that a great farmer and producer can make wonderful wines in so-called bad vintages. 2008 may have been difficult relative to 2009 but Lapierre's Morgon shows it only in its relative lightness and transparency when compared to the '09 (or good bottles of the '07); at heart, it's pure, elegant and lovely to drink.
$20. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner, New York, NY.
As much as I've been enjoying the Lapierre and any number of other 2009 Beaujolais and Cru Beaujolais, I've yet to find one that represents a better value than Coudert's Fleurie "Clos de la Roilette." It's already received A-side treatment here, albeit in brief, so please allow me to reiterate, even more briefly, that the '09 Roilette is simply delicious. The last couple of bottles I've tried suggest that it may be tightening up a bit but it's still delivering great pleasure. If you haven't tried it, do.
The indie out-takes—throwin' down some funk:
$15. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner, New York, NY.
A recent bottle was my first experience with Damien Coquelet's Beaujolais-Villages. My immediate impressions put it right smack in the middle of the "does method trump terroir?" discussion that's been going on here recently. There's an unmistakably natty, funky character to it that comes close to without entirely dominating the wine's sense of Beaujolais-ness. For now, I can say that it is eminently drinkable, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Moulin-à-Vent, Domaine des Côtes de la Molière 2009 (Isabelle et Bruno Perraud) 2009
$22. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Jeffrey Alpert Selections, New York, NY.
This didn't do nearly as much for me (at least not at first) as did the theoretically simpler "Côtes de Poquelin" from the same estate. In the first couple of days open, I found it to be much more an expression of natural wine making than of Moulin-à-Vent. Mind you, I don't mind finding obvious natty signatures in a wine, just so long as they don't obscure the wine's terroir (sound familiar?). Going back to the wine after at least seven days (my gut tells me it was closer to ten but I didn't keep exact track), though, it was showing a good deal better. Still not the most profound example of Moulin-à-Vent, but a much clearer expression of cru Beaujolais than in its first days. The "Poquelin," it should be noted, also performed really well over the course of several days, providing solid evidence, especially when combined with this experience, that sans soufre wines are not always as fragile as they're made out to be.
The misses—if I were still a music director, these might not have made the playlist:
$16. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Beaujolais-Villages "Tracot," Domaine DuBost (Jean-Paul Dubost) 2009
$16. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Two more new wines from producers who are new to me. If I'd tasted these blind, I think I'd have pegged them both as being from 2008 rather than 2009 as they showed attributes that suggested the not so great side of the '08 vintage: lean texture, tangy, confected fruit, and slightly green acidity. The Gelin started out at that candied end of the spectrum but improved somewhat on day two. DuBost's "Tracot," on the other hand, showed its best right out of the gates, all but falling apart by the next day. DuBost has been getting decent traction of "natural-leaning" wine lists of late but this effort leaves me wondering why. I wouldn't rule out revisiting other wines from these two estates but will not be inclined to plunk down $16 again on either of these particular bottlings.
The jury's still out—put them away for a while, bring them back later for another hearing :
Jean-Marc Burgaud 2008
$16. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Free Run, Seattle, WA.
Here's a wine that shows the '08 vintage character in spades—lean, taut, somewhat unyielding—yet all the components are in place. Jean-Marc Burgaud's Morgon "Côte du Py" is yet to show the elegance already displayed by Lapierre's Morgon but it's also not showing any of the unattractive characteristics of under-ripeness or chaptalization so common in the 2008 vintage in Beaujolais. I've somewhat accidentally amassed a three-year vertical ('07-'09), so I'll give this a rest and give them all a revisit at a later date.
Château Thivin (Claude Geoffray) 2007
$39. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, CA.
Côte de Brouilly "Cuvée les Ambassades," Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes 2009
$19. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Vintage '59, Washington, DC.
I may be comparing apples to oranges in the vintage department with this pairing but we're definitely talking oranges to oranges when it comes to the wines. Both showed intense concentration and the kind of scale, in terms of body, color and texture, that one does not typically associate with Beaujolais. Both also show a marked oak influence, especially Thivin's "Cuvée Zaccharie," which sees 10% new barrique and isn't shy about it. These are unquestionably well made wines but their, I'll say it again, intense concentration is hard for me to get my arms around. These are both wines that, if I had unlimited space (and budget, in the case of the Thivin), I'd like to put away not just for a little while but for a few years. But I don't....
PS: In spite of the poor color rendering in my photos of the labels from Château Thivin and Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes, it's hard not to notice that they look practically identical. The intertwined history of the two estates is a typically French story of marriage, inheritance, birth, death and separation; it's not easy to follow but you'll find a good telling of the story on the Vintage '59 website.