What’s your first thought when you think of Gamay? If it’s Beaujolais Nouveau then welcome to the popular majority. The third Thursday of each November is sanctioned as the official release of this global marketing event initially created by famed vintner Georges Duboeuf. Over the years, the commercial appeal for Beaujolais Nouveau has diminished in favor to the more serious wine consumers, who target their palates to fuller bodied reds. This shift has virtually advanced the Gamay grape into obscurity. However, when one considers the heightened interest for value driven wines today, Gamay Beaujolais can and should be top of mind if one knows how to navigate among the quality levels.
Beaujolais is an AC region in France located just south of the Mâconnais region where Burgundy’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes yield their limestone based soils to a granite and manganese strata, which is ideal for Gamay. Beaujolais has variant levels of quality starting with basic Beaujolais AC and Beaujolais Superiore (additional alcohol boost ) . The neighboring villages (39) are the collective source for the most popular Beaujolais Villages level, which is what we commonly see within most wine lists and wine shops. It is however, within the top level of “crus” where Gamay’s finest expression exists. There are ten of these individual communes named crus which run from north to south and carry their own A.O.C. ( Apellation d’origin Contrôllée). Each portray a distinct set of defining yet subtle characteristics and are labeled as such on the bottle. Due to the popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau and Beaujolais Villages, the cru level often gets over looked but it is here that I would like to grab your attention.
Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc is characteristically a light to medium bodied wine that grows vigorously and abundantly. It’s natural higher acidity level can be enjoyed when given a slight chill to 60-65 degrees F. This heightens the red fruit aromas as a perfect warm weather red to accompany outdoor grilled foods and picnics. Typically, most Beaujolais is produced by means of an aggressive fermentation known as carbonic maceration. This method is preferred for adjusting the high acid levels and creating a tropical, banana like aroma typical for entry level Beaujolais AC and Villages levels. When producing the best Beaujolais from the 10 crus, there is generally a less aggressive and slower fermenting method which involves whole berry maceration to extract more color and concentration. This enables the resulting wines to be enjoyed over time with more ageing ability.
Having been afforded an opportunity to recently taste the newly released 2008s I was intrigued by four crus that stood out from vigneron Georges Duboeuf
Below were my tasting notes after which I assessed from a blind tasting format with their suggested retail pricing.
Georges Duboeuf Brouilly ’08 $13.99
This wine exhibited bright notes of blue fruits (blueberries and blackberry) which were centered amongst a slight mineral and earthy core. The sour cherry flavors on the palate yielded to a medium plus body and texture which suggested elegance, supple and richness. Hints of black pepper and licorice provided a lingering finish.
George Duboeuf Morgon ’08 $ 13.99
Impressive color for this wine. Youthful with hints of purple amongst the ruby red tones. This presented a blend of youthful red and black fruits which were highly perfumed as evident of floral notes from violets and daffodils. Hints of tropical peach mixed with rhubarb pie and baked raspberry were elegantly structured within a silky texture.
Georges Duboeuf Chénas ’08 $13.99
Of all the four wines this had the most powerful aromatic profile. Very expressive aromas of violets and wild roses. The darker cherry and black raspberry notes yielded a medium plus body with assertive tannin. A wine which is drinking beautifully but can stand to age a few years. Very impressive.
Georges Duboeuf Moulin-à-Vent ’08 $15.99
This wine was very similar to the previous (Chénas) in terms of power and richness. I found the wine to suggest more of a baked red fruit profile with cherries, strawberry licorice, candied quince paste (membrillo) and plums. Hints of toasted marsh mellow suggested more wood contact than the previous examples. A beautifully structured wine with generous acidity and earthy character and not shy in tannin. This wine needs some time in the bottle but is really showing tremendous appeal at this stage.