Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Moulin à Vent - a distinctive terroir?

These notes are from last week's themed tasting at the Nottingham Wine Circle, hosted by my good friend and Beaujolais aficionado Peter Bamford. The title is Peter's, not mine, and whilst a definitive answer to the question may be hard to pin down, the line-up included a fair few wines showing real finesse and complexity.

I've got a luverly bunch of Beaujolais - Peter Bamford (right)

1.  Yvon Métras 2010
A pale-ish colour, like a light Pinot. The nose displays noticable volatile acidity, in almost Musar-like proportions. But it also offers plenty of sweet raspberry and redcurrant fruit aromas, along with a hint of tangy rhubarb, which almost puts me in mind of a Joseph Swan Pinot. The palate is quite earthy, but again really fruity, with flavours of cherries, redcurrants, some spicy/peppery notes and a welcome touch of stalky tannin, making for a wine of real charm and some complexity. I took the bottle home with me and the last half-glass, tasted 24 hours later, was still lovely - and that VA had almost disappeared. A lovely wine.

2.  Domaine des Terres Dorées Jean-Paul Brun 2009
By contrast, this has a very deep colour and a quite tarry/extracted nose. There is plenty going on, though, with aromas of dark cherry, rhubarb and custard, cedar and forest floor - serious Beaujolais, with a good deal of complexity. The palate seems very young and perhaps a little disjointed at present, with stalky tannins and sharp acidity, but plenty of dark fruit flavours and real minerality and structure, suggesting a wine to keep for a few years. Excellent wine, with a very promising future. I believe this wine can be had for around £12, which makes it a fabulous bargain in my book.

3.  Domaine Gay-Coperet Vieilles Vignes 2009
Another sweet red fruit nose - ripe strawberries and cherries. This is perhaps rounder and more together than the Terre Dorées, but lacks the structure and sheer vivacity of that wine. That's not to write it off completely, but this one is merely a decent quaffer in comparison.

4.  Thibault Liger-Belair La Roche 2009
Another deep-coloured wine, with a gloriously complex nose of sous-bois, herbs, spices, dark fruits with red fruit nuances, beetroot, a touch of tar and well-judged oak. It is amost Italian in style, insofar as it has bags of beautifully ripe sweet and sour cherry fruit and excellent underlying acidity. For me, this has real potential - it is utterly delicious right now, but I can see it ageing and evolving for a good few years yet.

5.  Chateau des Jacques Clos de Rochegres Louis Jadot 2009
Deeply coloured again, with a tarry nose hiding what is obviously some big, dark, extracted fruit. The palate is rather un-Beaujolais-like in its richness, intensity and sheer extraction. Some suggested Rhone, though it puts me more in mind of a SuperTuscan blend. That said, it has bags of fruit and excellent structure, and could potentially be excellent in another 5 to 10 years. One to age.

6.  Jean-Paul Dubost 2008
This is the third bottle I have tasted of this wine and each time it has been lovely. It is light in colour and actually slightly cloudy, with a quirky mix of aromas ranging from cranberry and redcurrant at the fruity end to Marmite and Cheddars at the savoury end. The palate is remarkably fresh, with delightful acidity, a mix of fresh and crystallised red fruit flavours and soft, unobtrusive tannins. It really is quite delicious. The problem is, I fear it needs drinking fairly quickly, because of an almost beer-like quality which - whilst making it thoroughly enjoyable to drink now - betrays its "natural" (i.e. non-interventionist and non-sulphur) origins. That said, I could be wrong (it has been known!), for the remainder of the bottle, finished the following evening, was still enjoyable - and the mere fact that it had not yet turned to vinegar indicated that it is perhaps stable enough to last another year or two. But if you have some, you could do worse than drink it now, for it is a lovely wine and I can't see it getting any better.

7.  Domaine du Moulin d'Eole Selection par Union des Viticulteurs 2007
This reeks of fennel and Calvados - not a good sign in my book, at least for a Beaujolais. It tastes of alcohol, too, with harsh, stalky tannins and overextracted fruit. It is one-dimensional, with a harsh/hot finish. I'm not sure whether it is a faulty bottle or just the result of bad winemaking - either way, it isn't a pleasant drink.

8.  Clos du Tremblay Paul Janin et Fils 2006
An unusual nose - yeast/bread, meat and Marmite, with a touch of coal fire thrown in for good measure. Earthy stuff, an really quite complex. The palate is big and with not a little structure, but perhaps seems a bit too rich and extracted (and perhaps even jammy) for my liking. It currently lacks elegance and acidity, which may (or may not) emerge in time.

9.  Chateau de Beauregard Clos des Perelles 2005
Goodness me this is a class act! Classy oak, too, but don't let that put you off, for this is a wine of real complexity, with fabulous red fruit and exotic spice aromas and flavours, with savoury notes and earthy minerality. Admittedly, the oak needs a little time to integrate, but the almost Pinot-esque fruit is so bright and delicious, it is a joy to drink now. There are a good few Burgundy nuts in this tasting group and a few of them were gurning and gritting their teeth when I dared to suggest that this stood comparison to a top Village or even 1er Cru from the Cote de Nuits, but I would challenge anyone to pick it out, if placed as a ringer in a Burgundy tasting. An absolutely top-notch Moulin à Vent, which whilst wonderful now, also has a glorious future ahead of it.

10.  Domaine Gay-Coperet Vieilles Vignes 2005
This is quite a decent drink, but is all a bit "after the Lord Mayor's Show". Decent structure, with good acidity and grip, but suffers in comparison to what went before it.

11.  Chateau des Jacques, “La Roche”, Louis Jadot 2003
Aromas of raspberry compote, tar and smoke, with a hint of typical 2003 overripeness, which comes across as Pepsi. That said, it does have some charm and is actually rather good for a 2003 - rich, opulent, perhaps even a touch jammy, but with what I suspect is a rather good structure, which may well emerge properly after another 5 to 10 years in bottle. If you have some, I suggest you tuck it away for a few years. A promising wine.

12.  Chateau des Jacques, “Clos de Rochegres”, Louis Jadot 2002
I was expecting good things from this wine, since 2002 was a pretty decent vintage in Burgundy and Beaujolais, but it was a real let-down. The aromas and flavours were dominated by mushroom, forest floor, damp earth, pickled cabbage and eau de vie - and not much in the way of freshness or fruit. For some reason, it put me in mind of a badly-made SuperTuscan wine from a hot year. Either it is simply past its best or (more likely) just a bad bottle.

13.  Chateau des Jacques, “La Roche”, Louis Jadot 2000
Ah, now this is more like it! Really lovely, with almost Pinot-esque fruit and secondary aromas of sous-bois and polished wood. And there's plenty of life left in it too, with deliciously fresh raspberry, cherry and strawberry flavours and touch of spice and earthiness. Another utterly delicious wine, and I would again challenge anyone to pick this out as an interloper in a blind tasting of fine red Burgundies.

14.  Union des Viticulteurs 1999
This smells a touch tarry and vegetal (in a red cabbage sort of way) but the palate is delightful - still juicy and mouth-watering, with some discernible strawberry fruit, cracking acidity and loads of tertiary aromas and flavours. It is amazing how a 12 year-old Beaujolais can be stylistically similar to a 20 year-old Burgundy. Lovely stuff........ Oh dear, that is the third time in one tasting that I have compared a Moulin à Vent to a Burgundy - I can almost hear the purists' teeth gnashing as I type!

15.  L. Charvet 1972
This was an "extra", kindly brought by David Selby (whose fabulous cellar - and generosity in sharing some of its contents - I have mentioned many times before). I won't bore you with any more Burg comparisons (and let's face it, there's always a fair chance that some older wines from Beaujolais and Burgundy in general could contain a fair dollop of southern Rhone grapes!) but this was simply wonderful and so alive. Not so much fresh, of course, but delightfully complex, even quite rich, and full of fruit, albeit 40 year-old fruit. I was just so taken by its sheer lovliness - and at this rate, it would probably still be lovely in another 10 or 20 years. A remarkable bottle, sadly now empty, but proudly sitting amongst my other "hall of fame" bottles on the welsh dresser behind me.

So what of the title of this post - is Moulin à Vent a distinctive terroir? Well, to be honest, it is hard to say, although it certainly seems rather distinct from most (if not all) of the other Beaujolais crus. Of course, if you are enough of a wine geek to be reading this blog, you will be aware that all red Beaujolais is made from Gamay, not Pinot Noir. But there is no denying that the really good ones have a Pinot-like quality and character. In the younger ones, this may be accentuated by the oak regime, but in the older ones, where the influence of the oak is minimal and therefore the "winemaking" is less of an issue, the similarity can be even more marked. In some ways, it is quite unfair to compare Moulin à Vent to wines from a completely different grape variety, and from another (more highly-esteemed) region. But one thing I can say for sure is that - on this showing - Moulin à Vent is undoubtedly the best terroir in Beaujolais and the source of some mightily impressive wines. And I will certainly be seeking a few to tuck away for the future.


AlanM said...

I think that's a slight generalisation Leon. I like MaV as all Beaujolais, having spent a lot of time in the region. For me Fleurie, Margon and, to a lesser extent, Chénas are all worthy competitors for attention. The structure you write about in some of these wines is certainly true in Margon Cote de Py wines. Fleurie has lots of good producers and my favourite producer in the region is based in Chénas. I envy you what sounds a fabulous tasting but would stand up for other crus.

GuyD said...

Really interesting blog post, not least because it reflects on the ageworthiness of cru beaujo... an interesting subject. I had a series of 07 cru beaujos recently, and felt them to be a bit half-way between fruity youth and something else.... which they hadn't really reached yet. they were a little inert. it's good to read that perhaps they simply need more time to pinoette. i've also been impressed with Beauregard, and nothing like as expensive as Jadot's top cru Beaujos are now.