As the autumnal months advance, the excitement starts to surface for what is one of the most notorious wine festivals. Light-bodied, frivolous, with flavours of bubblegum and strawberry, Beaujolais Nouveau has somewhat of an infamous following. After a laborious harvest, winemakers race against the clock to vinify, bottle and ship their wines worldwide in time for the third Thursday of November. Despite its insatiable popularity on this one Thursday, the rest of the year Beaujolais Nouveau carries negative connotations of rushed winemaking, making for easy-drinking juice with no ageing potential. Unfortunately, this has become an entrenched opinion against the region which needs to be enlightened. There is a lot more to the region of Beaujolais than just its Nouveau.
Oh it’s so nouveau!
As with all other French wine regions, there are established AOPs (Appellation d'Origine Protégée) which guarantee origin and production method. The starting-level AOP Beaujolais produces Gamay and occasionally Pinot Noir on a granite predominant terroir. It is responsible for over 50% of the total Beaujolais production, a large portion of this being the Beaujolais Nouveau. As a step up, AOP Beaujolais Villages takes its grapes from any of the 39 villages of the Haut Beajolais. Owing to its varied topography and the influence of schist, it is considered more qualitative than the simple AOP Beaujolais. Winemakers can also choose to harvest their “Villages” grapes for the Nouveau. However, they would usually reserve these better grapes for longer-aged cuvées.
Join the Cru
A glou-glou (yummy) AOP Beaujolais among friends can be a magical aperitif. On the other hand, if you are looking for a little more depth and complexity, turn your palette to one of the 10 Beaujolais Crus: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. In comparison to the pricey crus of Burgundy, those in Beaujolais can offer some appealing price-quality alternatives. With the ability to age, they range from the very elegant and delicately tannic reds of Brouilly, to the deep and velvety fruit-forward Moulin-à-Vent. The Crus of Beaujolais stand as individual pillars of excellent winemaking, each one representing a different style and expression of terroir.
Domaine de la Côte de Berne
The wines of Domaine de la Côte de Berne represent a myriad of what Beaujolais has to offer, with plots across several of the cru villages. They call on their five generations of savoir-faire to produce both elegant classics and some unexpected surprises, all the while protecting the natural environment to which they owe their livelihood. The following outlines some of their stand-out wines!
As the largest cru in Beaujolais, AOP Brouilly is the only cru where it is permitted to cultivate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Aligoté and Melon de Bourgogne, as well as the dominant Gamay. The schist and granite terroir gives a slight smoked minerality to their delicate and fragrant wines. Full of ripe fruit aromas of red cherry, raspberry and peony, it brings an earthy fruit and bright acidity to a spicy tuna steak.
As we move through the repertoire of Domaine de la Côte de Berne, we jump to what is considered the three fuller-bodied crus of Beaujolais, giving a tannic structure to age. Named after the Roman leader Julius Caesar, Juliénas wines are known for their rich texture and tender fruit aromas. Winner of the gold medal at the Concours des Burgondia 2018, this cuvée reveals itself in aromas of cinnamon-spiced strawberry coulis, delicious with a roasted guinea fowl and honey-glazed carrots.
Morgon Grand Cras 2018
With a terroir expressive of iron oxide and manganese, AOP Morgon produces some of the most concentrated wines of Beaujolais in both colour and flavour. Whilst being one of the bolder wines the domain has to offer, its silky tannins and full fruit express aromas of juicy plum, apricot and aromatic peach. This wine can be enjoyed now, or left to age in the cellar for another 5-7 years. Either way this is a statement wine to pair with a braised leg of spring lamb, infused with fresh anise and fennel.
Moulin à Vent 2017
With their reduced-yield production across granite and manganese-rich soils, Moulin à Vent produces the most intense and tannic Gamays of Beaujolais. However, even with this full-bodied, meaty structure, this 2017 example from Domaine de la Côte de Berne offers an aromatic vivacity of nectarine, violets and blackcurrents to refresh the palette. This wine is certainly capable of ageing at least 5-7 years, and will brighten any table served with a seared duck breast with cherry confit.
Even more than Nouveau…
When we think Beaujolais, we think Nouveau or at the very least a Gamay-based red still wine. However, there are some unexpected surprises to be discovered…
Beaujolais Blanc 2018
Although as little as 1% of the Beaujolais annual production consists of white wine, they are increasingly becoming interesting alternatives to the Chardonnay of Burgundy. Achieving, a fruitier ripeness and rounder texture, the Chardonnay of Beaujolais pairs perfectly with food. This ambrosial cuvée from Domaine de la Côte de Berne is ideal for an Indian-summer picnic. Aromas of magnolia, mirabelle plum, and apricot would liven any picnic blanket alongside a pitta bread filled with curried roast chicken.
Pét-Nat for the Party!
When the Romans first planted vines in the region of Beaujolais, they probably didn’t think that one day their grapes would sparkle! Pét-Nat or Pétillant Naturel is an alternative form of sparkling wine to the well-known Champagne. Its textural mousse and intense character profile, can make any weekday dinner with friends a festive occasion. Domaine de la Côte de Berne are going beyond the norm to share the essence of Beaujolais, and this is evident in their Pét-Nat cuvée. Exuding aromas of candied strawberry, red currents and pink grapefruit zest, this wine may trigger the next craze in Beaujolais!
Harriett Gifford is a freelance English writer based in Paris, France. A classicist, graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and a lover of natural wine.
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