French #Winophiles head to the Beaujolais Crus
We’re going to the land of Gamay cru this Beaujolais month with our Grapevine Experiences host Cindy Rynning. Stick around to the end of my article where you’re sure to find a wine and recipe you’ll like from others in the group!
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There is so much good happening in Beaujolais that it’s worth revealing. A 140-kilometer wine route, breathtaking landscapes, gastronomy galore and outdoor activities abound and just 30 minutes north of Lyon. The natural wine movement is certainly present too, with a younger group of gals and guys involved. And then there are the ten crus.
It’s hard to pick a particular cru. They all have their own personalities and it depends on your mood. But I’ve decided to take you to Fleurie.
The Woman in Red
Fleurie is one of the ten Beaujolais crus. Each cru is its own appellation (AOC) and all are located in northern half of the larger Beaujolais region.
Having the ‘cru’ status indicates the wine is produced on a geographically restricted area where each cru (AOC) must comply with particular specifications.
And each of the crus are historically known for their wine reputation or more precisely for their wine style and quality given by the terroir (the environmental factors that effect grapevines: location, soil, climate, and human factors) and the winemaking style (carbonic maceration).
Given these inputs, wine folks describe Fleurie like this: carmine in color, producing the most aromatic wines with a delicate personality, fruity and floral notes, complex yet softly elegant, and some are age worthy. They also call her the queen. I call her the woman in red.
This generalization is based on years of people tasting and reviewing Fleurie wines. It’s a good place to start but as with all wines, differences in specific vineyard sites and winemaking methods can alter the aromatics and structure of a wine.
Carbonic maceration is a winemaking method invented in Beaujolais that propelled Beaujolais Nouveau into stardom. It was a blessing and a curse that’s happily evaporating. The crus are indeed evidence.
Wine made via this method certainly has distinct markers- ebullient fruitiness (raspberries, strawberries, cherries) with non-sweet bubble gum thrown in, purple and red flowers, and an earthy substrate sometimes with vanilla and cinnamon. It makes red wine accessible and fruity fun to drink, and is partly where some of the cru personality traits came from.
There’s one hundred percent carbonic maceration and semi-carbonic, the later practiced worldwide depending on what style the winemaker wants. Some of the now trendy glou-glou wines are made this way.
Given how Beaujolais and carbonic maceration tend to be joined at the hip, and that a large percent of Beaujolais from the larger regional Beaujolais AOC to the crus are made via semi-carbonic maceration, one could ask what a Beaujolais cru is like when not made via this method. Does it have more than a personality? Perhaps an identity?
To find out I went to a Fleurie Cru tasting at restaurant Le Mordant in Paris right before lockdown.
Dégustation du Cru Fleurie (Tasting Fleurie Crus)
The topography: rolling hills and steep slopes up to 400 meters above sea level.
The soil: mostly pink granite, with some clay and sand in the form of saprolite.
The vineyards: goblet, single cordon and double guyot vine training systems, mostly hand-harvesting, environmentally respectful viticulture is common including organic and the French terre-vitis certification, plus more.
And of course tasting many wines, not one displeasing! Below are highlights of a few particularly enjoyed. Note none went through 100% carbonic maceration but a few saw semi-carbonic.
Clos de Mez is owned and run by the gracious Marie-Elodie Zighera Confuron who returned to her roots in 2006 and set her business up on the family’s vineyard land in Fleurie. The winery is organic.
Clos de Mez Mademoiselle M Fleurie 2018 (15€/$16.75) and La Dot Fleurie 2017 (23€/$25), both from the Grand Pré .
Château des Bachelards owner Alexandra de Vazeilles (pictured below) stepped onto this Fleurie soil in 2014 and became certified biodynamic in 2015. She has 12 hectares (29 acres)
Fleurie Bachelards 2016– 24€ / $27
Alexandra has sheep, bees, practices permaculture and agroforesty, and makes her own biodynamic herbal teas for vineyard treatments.
Grapes are destemmed, 28 day maceration, indigenous yeast fermentation in concrete vats followed by 24 months aging in 3,000 liter barrels.
An expressive bouquet of violet and iris, red fruits, and black plum.
The palate is dense yet silky, elegant and long.
One of the fullest bodied wines tasted during the evening with definite aging potential.
Domaine Grand Fers 1890 owner Christian Bernard (below) greeted me with a huge smile. Bernard owns parcels in several different locations in the Fleurie AOC and vinifies them separately before final mixing. Interesting to note he works with only his best wines and sells the rest on the bulk market.
Christian Bernard Gamay Originel 2018 – €12/$13.50 and Les Roches 2015 – €23/$25
Domaine des Marrans has a 4 hectare Fleurie vineyard at 310 meters (1,000 feet), the plot is named Le Pavillion. Tasting their 2005 from magnum (photo below) was one of the evening highlights. An absolutely beautiful wine- violet, macerated strawberries, black plum and earthy spice hints gave way to a soft and silky yet beautifully structured wine with a lingering finish.
Domaine de la Bouronière The same family has farmed the land since the 18th century. Located on 11 hectares (27 acres) and certified Terre-Vitis sustainable. Their Fleurie princess is below.
Domaine de la Bouronière – Cuvée Princess 2017 – Les Labourons – €20/$22
Shy aromas of red and black berries, iris and violets, and faint spices then the wine explodes on the palate in a balanced, silky tannin, easy to drink way.
Beaujolais crus are having a moment. The ten named villages are providing serious value for cost compared to their Burgundy Côte d’Or neighbors, I’m continually amazed. As lockdown lifts in France and around the world, I’m reaching for serious fun in Fleurie Beaujolais.
Château de Fleurie is in the heart of the Fleurie appellation.
Château de Fleurie – La Madone 2018 – 17€ / $18.50
Berries de-stemmed, crushed, extended fermentation of 15 days, aged 9 months in large wooden vats (foudres) then bottled.
Aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry, rose, licorice and cinnamon; medium-bodied, lively acidity and fine silky tannins on the lengthy finish.
~ ~ ~ My Fleurie conclusion? I mostly agree. She can be a soft and subtle princess who on occasion is sprightly, or sometimes a bold and elegant queen. I bet Dillinger and his woman in red would have loved her.
More Beaujolais Cru Adventures from the #Winophiles
Here’s what the French #Winophiles crew discovered on their Beaujolais cru virtual adventure! And Join the conversation on Twitter at 11am ET, Saturday, May 16 using hashtag #Winophiles
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm experiences A Casual COVID-19 Visit with Charcuterie and Chateau de Poncie Le Pre Roi Fleurie.
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla pairs Tuna Pâté + Joseph Drouhin Hospices De Belleville Brouilly 2016.
- Jill at L’Occasion explores Soil + Wind: Tasting Cru Beaujolais with Château du Moulin-à-Vent.
- Payal of Keep the Peas is Welcoming Summer with a Berry Delicious Brouilly.
- Here at Savor the Harvest I honor Fleurie – The Queen of Beaujolais Crus.
- Jane at Always Ravenous explores Cru Beaujolais: Tasting and Food Pairings.
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! enjoys Cru Beaujolais at the Grill.
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares Flowers for Julien –Beaujolais in May.
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass discovers Gamay and Granite – ABeaujolais Love Story.
- Susannah Gold at Avvinare finds Cru Beaujolais – An Endless Discovery.
- Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairing discovers Cru Beaujolais –Cedric Lathuiliere Fleurie Paired with Frog Legs.
- Nicole at Somms Table explains Julien Sunier Régnié and a Focaccia Fail.
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish meets Morgon de Jean-Pau Thévenet, One of the Beaujolais Gang of Four.
- Kat at The Corkscrew Concierge is Exploring the Differences & Pairing Versatility of Cru Beaujolais.
- Martin at Enofylz Wine Blog considers A Taste of Chénas, Beaujolais’ Rarest Cru.
- Terri of Our Good Life pairs Cru Beaujolais with Rustic Foods.
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator is Comparing Louis Tete’s 2016 Brouilly and Morgan Gamay from Beaujolais With Pairings.
- Over at Grape Experiences, Cindy is loving The Wines of Fleurie – An Enchanting Introduction to Cru Beaujolais.