Earlier this week I was invited to take part in a Twitter tasting with several other wine writers to taste two types of Beaujolais wine. We were sent the wines in advance and were given a date and time to collectively taste them. But I messed up. Yikes!! I put it down on my calendar for Thursday, but it was actually on Tuesday. Whoops. It’s very much unlike me to miss something like this, but I guess it proves that I’m human. I feel bad for missing the event too — it was one I was looking forward to.
But just because I missed the Twitter tasting, doesn’t mean I’m not going to try the wines. And writing my thoughts here will ultimately get a lot more visibility than anything I put on Twitter, which is about as impacting as a fart in the wind.
A Brief Background on Beaujolais
Beaujolais is a French wine from a particular part of Burgundy and is made from a specific grape – gamay, which by many is not considered to be one of the better grapes for wine making. But it can produce some interesting wines. That said, there are certainly plenty of critics when it comes to gamay.
You may have heard of Beaujolais Nouveau, which comes out in the fall as the first release of the year’s wine. It’s very young and fruity, and usually not very good in my opinion. But there is lot’s of marketing behind it so people drink it up and pretend that it’s good. The wines in this review is much better than Beaujolais Nouveau, but they are also made from gamay.
There are different appellations of Beaujolais — as there are with all French wines.
- Beaujolais AOC is the lowest grade and much of the Beaujolais Nouveau comes from this appellation.
- Beaujolais-Villages AOC is a step up and is a designation given to Beaujolais from specific villages considered to produce better quality grapes.
- Cru Beaujolais is the cream of the crop when it comes to Beaujolais and these wines are named for the specific appellations from which they are produced. Moulin-a-Vent is one of those Cru appellations, and is considered by many to be the best.
While most Beaujolais is consumed young, that from Moulin-a-Vent is oaked and aged for a couple years before being released. And it can be aged for 20+ years. Well-aged Moulin-a-Vent is said to take on characteristics similar to aged Pinot Noir.
About The Ratings
This is actually an interesting type of wine to rate as it raises a philosophical dilemma — aside from the whole debate about numbered ratings, which I’m not even going to debate today. The dilemma is, should the rating of a wine suffer from weaknesses inherent in the grape variety?
One of the lenses I use when rating any wine is “varietal correctness.” For example, is the color of the wine correct for the variety? Are the aromas correct for the variety? Etc. Using that lens, any variety could theoretically be a 100 point wine if it is overwhelmingly exceptional for that variety. While at the same time, that 100 point wine may not be nearly as enjoyable to most consumers as an 85 point wine of another variety.
However, consumers don’t necessarily look at wine ratings with the lens of varietal correctness. Many consumers would expect that a 100 point wine must be “better” – or more enjoyable to them – than an 85 point wine regardless of the fact that they are different varieties.
Ultimately, any wine review is subjective at some level. It’s hard to taste a wine with weaknesses inherent to the variety and see through it well enough to score it without some bias.
If, as a reviewer, you’re going to use numbers, I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. While I cannot see “punishing” a wine for characteristics inherent to the variety, I also can’t see ignoring those characteristics if they diminish the enjoyability of a wine. So, while varietal correctness is used as a lens for part of the score, the “overall impression” of the wine is an important factor and it must be impressive to garner a solid rating.
This also highlights the importance of looking beyond the numbers and getting more context. This is why I try to not just provide a rating, but give you a description of the wines we review. The numbers may be OK as a general guide, but don’t let them be the sole basis for your wine buying decisions.
I should also note that although we taste most wines blind, these ones were not. I didn’t really see a reason to taste them blind as I didn’t have any bias for the brands. I do have some bias when it comes to gamay as a grape variety, but there was no way to taste these without knowing they are gamay. And although I have a bias against gamay, you may be surprised when you see the ratings. I really did enjoy these wines.
This wine is a beautiful, purple color and while it is on the light side the color is deeper than I expected it would be. On the nose the aromas are mostly strawberry and banana, kind of like strawberry-banana jello. It also shows some cherry. The intensity is pretty good and it’s enjoyable to smell this wine.
On the palate it’s strawberry flavors galore. There are some other red fruit notes too, like red plum. The acidity is adequate, but not over the top. And while Gamay is generally not a very tannic wine, I’m getting some tannins on the palate. The finish is relatively quick and fruity. It’s nice, light wine with a fresh quality to it.
Wine: Georges Duboeuf
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This is a light, purple-red colored wine. The aromas are raspberry, cherry and some floral notes, but the intensity on the nose is a little soft. The flavors are consistent with the aromas, with raspberry and cherry being the story to tell. It has nice, crisp acidity. The finish is fairly long with lingering raspberry flavors. It’s pleasant wine but the lack of depth on the palate leaves me wanting something with more concentration.
Wine: Louis Jadot
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Domaine de la Tour de Bief, Moulin-a-Vent
The color is much lighter and more red than the Beaujolais-Villages. The nose has some really interesting spice notes, like orange peel and black pepper. It’s a bit herbal/earthy too, and wild cherry aromas fill it out. I’d even say the aromas are a bit Nebbiolo-esque, which means I dig it. And when I say that I don’t mean like a Barolo, but like a young, non-DOC Nebbiolo. I know to some of you I’m really going out on a limb with that description, but that’s how it’s striking me.
The flavors are nice, but a bit thin — not that surprising from a Beaujolais. It’s cherry flavors up front with a pop of raspberry on the finish, which is quite long. The acidity and tannins are great. It’s a good wine.
Wine: Georges Duboeuf, Domaine de la Tour de Bief
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Chateau des Jacques, Moulin-a-Vent
This wine is brick red in color with medium opacity. I’m finding some really fun and exciting spices on the nose of this wine, like cedar, cola and mint. The palate is pure cherry with good tannins and acidity. The finish is medium in length with cherry and spice flavors. It’s a nice wine and I expect it would be better with a couple more years in the bottle.
Wine: Louis Jadot, Chateau des Jacques
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Disclosure: These wines were received as a sample.