Every Tuesday evening I get together with fellow wine industry folks, wine lovers, etc to learn and blind taste together.  I have gotten in the habit of creating and sharing notes on our tasting theme.  They insisted that I post them somewhere. Where better than my blog that is all together lacking my attention…

A couple of weeks ago we focused on the 10 Villages of Beaujolais strictly from 2009.  Here’s the scoop:

Beaujolais… Fun to say, even more fun to drink.  Beaujolais Nouveau is the region’s young wine released every November, fresh off the press, literally. It’s known for its bubble gummy-ness, banana and artificial aromas, lots of ethyl acetate, and vibrant magenta color.  Often described as kool-aid wine, it’s the region’s very successful cash cow.  While Beaujolais Nouveau is of the Gamay grape, it is a whole other world from the fine wines of the ten “Cru” villages that make high quality wine of Gamay.  If you’ve never had it, try it come November.  Throw some ice cubes in it and sip it with a straw. Then go back to Fleurie or Moulin-a-Vent…

Now, onto some specs regarding Cru Beauj and the 2009 vintage…

The ten villages are located in the northern part of the Beaujolais region that stretches 34 miles north to south, the northern part very close to Macon, the southern portion very close to Lyon.  The southern portion of the region is quite flat with limestone soils; lesser quality wines come from there.  There are a variety of soil types around the area vary greatly but a significant characteristic is the underlying granite left from ancient volcanoes in the north.  The styles of wine from the 10 villages definitely vary, but there are some similar vini techniques that are common throughout, number one being semi-carbonic maceration.  This is a winemaking process which involves a short carbonic maceration phase followed by a normal alcoholic fermentation.  Not familiar with carbonic?  Also known as intercellular fermentation, whole grapes are thrown into a big, air tight vat.  Co2 is pumped in, just to displace any O2.  The weight of the grapes on top slowly crush the grapes at the bottom, there is some ambient yeast in there too, so fermentation gets a-going, natural co2 is created and the atmosphere is just right for the unbroken grapes on to but begin fermenting inside of themselves without added yeast.  CRAZY!  This process results in wines that are more bright and fruit-forward than they would be had they undergone “regular” fermentation.  Also – more villages are utilizing barrel maturation = there can be lots of similarities to red Burgundy.  Fun for blind tasting, ay?

The villages from north to south and some details:

St.-Amour: more famous for its Macon wines than for its Cru Beajolais wines. The village derives its name from St.-Amateur – a Roman soldier who was converted to Christianity and founded a monastery and then made wine. These wines are very fragrant, very fruity.

Juliénas: named after Julius Caesar, so they say.  Likely the first village to have vineyards planted.  The wines are spicy rich, chunky in their youth, but become satin-smooth with age.

Chénas: This is the smallest village of the 10.  It is located in the slopes above Moulin-a-Vent and used to be covered in oak trees, so the name is derived from “chene” meaning oak.

Moulin-a-Vent: Said to be the King of Beauj by some.  These wines are big and have great longevity.  It is in part due to the high manganese content in the soil.  When these wines age, they can be easily confused with red Burgundy.

Fleurie: The quintessential Beauj.  These wines are fresh, floral & fragrant.  The aromas are strong, the palate is silky.

Chiroubles: located high in the hills.  This is the most fragrant of the bunch but the wines are delicate.  It is the prettiest village and produces the prettiest wines.

Régnié: Some claim that this was the first planted in Beaj.  There are two distinct styles from here (grrrreat): light and fragrant vs. full and meaty.  The top soil here is sandy, so the wines are a bit softer than other villages.

Morgon: These wines rank right there with Moulin-a-Vent (but isn’t there usually just one king??).  These wines are more sturdy though.  The fruit is very compact, the bouquet is penetrating.  There is a high content of manganese in the soil here too, so that’s where some of the similarity comes from.

Côte de Brouilly: These wines are full, rich and flavorsome, vivid and intense. More fruit, less earth.

Brouilly: To contrast, these wines have a bit of earthiness but the quality and style is a bit variable.

2009 in general: (I got this info from the best vintage resource out there: bbr.com)

Overall, a fine and warm summer with lots of sunlight allowing the grown to warm significantly.  2009 is a good vintage, maybe great and is comparable to 1999, 1990, but most of all, 1959.  It is perceived as superior to 2007 and 2008 because temperatures were too inconsistent for the ground to warm fully in those years.  This pleasing season resulted in grapes that were fully ripe, but had ripened rather slowly so maintained a balanced acidity which is crucial to developing into rich yet fresh wines.  It was very popular to vinify whole clusters and to include the stems.

My generalities on Gamay: small – medium sized berries that are very purple. They are relatively hardy in the vineyard. Thrives in granite, sand and clay. Wines from gamay are medium garnet to bright fuchsia. On the nose you will find aromas of flowers, candy, red fruit, earth, stone, cranberry, beets, rhubarb, did I say candy?  On the palate it is medium – high in acidity, the tannins are low, sometimes medium, the body is light and there is a medium amount of alcohol.