2009 Cru Beaujolais   Leave a comment

Perhaps “Compelling Beaujolais” is an oxymoron.  Let’s see.

Recently, Jancis Robinson, wine critic of the Financial Times, noted that the 2009 Beaujolais vintage is the best in recent memory.  In her words,  “… how about delicious 2009s that are stuffed full of fruit, cost well under £15 a bottle and are actually delicious to drink? Now.” 

Given that, by and large, these wines are at the more affordable end of the spectrum, I decided to invite some friends over for a late spring Beaujolais dinner on Saturday evening to check out the 2009 Cru Beaujolais.  Not only did we taste some good wine, but most importantly we had a great evening filled with silliness, laughter and a little bit of dancing.  That, in the final analysis, is what Beaujolais is really all about!

Let me say that I am not a huge fan of Beaujolais.  That probably goes back to the few bottles of uninspired and/or Bad Beaujolais I have drunk over the years– mostly Beaujolais Villages.  But not much Cru Beaujolais.  Is there a difference?  You bet your sweet bippy! 

Where does one start to look for a Bippy, anyway?

We all remember the boom of Beaujolais Nouveau– though perhaps better to forget.  But remember the best of these had a ripeness, freshness and acidity that made them perfect for easy Thanksgiving drinking.  No small accident that the wines typically arrive in the third week of November each year?  Actually, a 1951 French government decree proscribes the release of the wines before November 15th of the vintage year.  You tell me. 

A lot of Beaujolais Nouveau comes from the green part of the Beaujolais map, below.  Then there is Beaujolais Villages which comes from a hillier section of Beaujolais.  A step up, though the wines do share a characteristic freshness with the Nouveau. 

And at the top of the food chain, we have Cru Beaujolais which are ten communes the wines of which are considered to be so distinctive as to merit their own appellation. 

So why are the wines getting attention now?  It seems that the prior years were not so good.  Was there a lack of focus?  Or a sacrificing of quality in pursuit of profit?  Perhaps complacency set in after the heady days of Beaujolais Nouveau in the 1980’s.  I can’t really say.  And then in 2009, the growing season was exceptionally good with the gamay ripening much earlier than normal and, according to Mrs. Robinson, harvest starting in late August. 

Based on last night’s tasting, the 2009 Cru Beaujolais are worth pursuing and drinking now and for the next few years.

Can one speak of Beaujolais without mentioning the varietal that makes it all happen: Gamay?  Gamay produces a fruity wine with a purply-pink color.  Acidity keeps the fruit fresh and lively on the palate.  If you add a little barrel aging, then you start to get somewhere. 

Beaujolais is located on the southernmost end of Burgundy.  It is bordered on the east by the Saone.  Beaujolais wines tend to get better and are of greater repute in the northern part of Beaujolais.  Thus, generally, the best place is the 10 Cru Beaujolais which are reputed to have the most distinctive production.   One note about shopping for Cru Beaujolais.  The bottles usually highlight the commune of origin, rather than prominently identify the wine as being Beaujolais.  

Although we did not obtain Cru Beaujolais from each of the 10 Villages, we had a representative sampling from 6 of them from North to South as follows:

  • Juliénas 
  • Moulin-à-Vent
  • Chiroubles
  • Morgon
  • Regniè
  • Brouilly

Here in order tasted are the wines we had last night.  Please note, that as there were only 7 of us tasting, we had lots of leftovers which gave me a chance to retaste earlier today.

1.  Henry Fessy Chateau des Reyssiers Regnie 2009: Good nose indicating floral almost lavender-like notes, but the palate did not follow through and the finish seemed a little out of balance.  Rated **

2.  Paul Cinquin Domaine des Braves Regnie 2009: More characteristic Beaujolais nose, delivers a nicely balanced package of fruit.  Rated **1/2

3.  Georges Duboeuf Morgon Jean Descombes 2009: Decent fruit with  minerally quality that established structure throughout.  Rated **

4.  Chateau de Pizay Morgon-2009: Aromas of cherries and kirsch, with a consistent palate that contains a minerally edge (though not as pronounced as the Georges Duboeuf Morgon Jean Descombes) and finishing with fine tannins.  This feels like it can age for a few more years in the bottle would be even better.  **1/2

5.  Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Village 2009: Not a Cru Beaujolais, but it snuck into the tasting.  Fruit-filled nose, palate did not really deliver, and finished off with acid and tannins that were a little intense.   Rated *1/2

6.  Louis Jadot Moulin à Vent Château des Jacques 2009: Inviting nose with floral components, red fruit balanced by acidity and tannin.  After tasting No. 5, this one really sang.  This was the first bottle emptied for the evening.  ** 1/2

7.  Domaine de la Chapelle des Bois Chiroubles-2009   Very attractive all around and good structure on the finish.  Rated **1/2

8.  Terres Dorees L’Ancien Beaujolais (Jean-Paul Brun) 2009 : another non-Cru Beaujolais that snuck into the tasting.  The palate has an attractive dustiness to it that translates into a mouthful of red fruit (think raspberries).  Done in a lighter style, it does not have the same level of concentration as the Cru Beaujolais in the tasting, but it was quite food friendly Rated **

9.  Henry Fessy Moulin à Vent 2009: Fine nose with a palate that showed good concentration.  This is quite comparable to the  Louis Jadot Moulin à Vent Château des Jacques and is another bottle that was drunk quite quickly by last night’s participants.  Rated **1/2

10.  Georges Duboeuf Brouilly 2009: A fruity nose on this wine from the southernmost of the Cru Beaujolais.  It is a very approachable wine that was the softest of the wines tasted.  Soft blueberry like flavors, soft acidity lending a roundness to the wine, and soft tannins.  An enjoyable style.  Rated **1/2

11.  Henry Fessy Julienas 2009: From the northernmost of the Cru Beaujolais at this tasting, this wine had a heavier body and darker appearance than many of the others save for the two wines from Moulin à Vent.  It gets going with a hint of earth on the nose, which if I didn’t know better, could be mistaken for syrah.  But of course, this is Gamay.  On the palate, starts off sweetly but then turns down an acidic alley and delivers a punch of dark fruit and tannins.  What is this– a bad movie from the 70’s?  No it is a good wine that can definitely can be aged for a couple more years without harming it one bit.  It’s a shame this one was opened so late in the evening, as none of us really appreciated it as well as I did in the sip and spit session this morning.  Ah, the joys of leftovers!  Rated **1/2

As for the food last night, I prepared a menu that I thought would marry well with the wines:

Asiago Gougeres

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with Radicchio Chiffonade Salad

Spaghetti Glicine (with Shallots, Parsley and Vine Ripened Tomatoes)

Grilled Rib Eye with Garlic Mushrooms & Spinach

The Pan-seared scallops were the best.  Not only was the dish tasty, but it was also the most beautiful with colors of purple and green to balance the carmelized seared scallops.  My mouth is watering just thing about this.  Yours will too… I promise.  

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with Radicchio Chiffonade Salad ©

  • 2 lbs. Sea Scallops
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • One Head of Red Radicchio cut in a chiffonade (long thin strips)
  • 4 Scallions cross-cut on an angle yielding very thin strips of the white and green parts
 For the dressing:  The key to the dressing is to have enough sweetness to balance the bitterness of the radicchio and the acidity of the vinegar.  This is not an exact science and the flavor you get will depend on your ingredients.  Therefore, you should feel free to play with the measurements to obtain the right balance of flavors for you.  
  • 3 Tbsp of Champagne Vinegar (white wine vinegar can be substituted)
  • 1 Tbsp Pomegranate Molasses (this is a specialty that is worth searching for.  but if not available, more honey can be added)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I prefer Kalamata olive oil)
  1. Prepare the scallops by removing and discarding the tough side muscle from each scallop
  2. Wash the scallops in cold water in a colander, pat dry and lay out on a cutting board or plate
  3. Season the scallops with salt & pepper
  4. Combine the almonds and the minced garlic and place on top of the scallops and set aside
  5. Combine the first 3 of the dressing ingredients in a bowl.  Drizzle the EVOO while whisking the dressing.  Adjust the flavors to your liking.  Right before scallops are to be cooked,  dress the salad coating all of the shredded pieces evenly.  Arrange the salad in the center of your serving platter or individual serving plates
  6. Heat up a large frying pan until is very hot
  7. Add 2 Tbsps. of EVOO
  8. When oil is just starting to smoke, place the scallops almond/garlic side down and cook at high heat until they take on a light golden brown color (about 2-3 minutes depending on your stove).  Turn once and cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes.  Do not overcook these as they will lose their tenderness) 
  9. Arrange the scallops around the previously plated radicchio salad.
  10. Any of the garlic/almond crumbs that remain in the pan can be gathered up with a spoon and sprinkled on top of the salad.

Makes 8 appetizer sized servings or 4 entrée sized servings.

© Sybarite Sauvage

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Posted May 29, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

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