Everyone loves Beaujolais. Now come on, don’t be like that! Of course they do! I’m not talking about ropey old Beaujolais Nouveau, that vin ordinaire — vin very ordinaire — of 1980s notoriety; I’m talking about the pukka, old-vine, low-yield, top-notch Beaujolais from one of the ten crus of the region.
At their best, these wines from Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour are an absolute joy and delight. Produced from 100 per cent Gamay, they’re fresh, ripe, vibrant, juicy, silky, racy, moreish and about as thirst-quenchingly drinkable as any wine you’ll find.
There’s no doubt that the region’s wines are better than ever and it’s wonderful to see them being taken more seriously at last. Winemakers from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône have recently been falling over themselves to come and make wine in the region and everyone has upped their game as a result.
The wines of Beaujolais are a fraction of the cost of similar quality Burgundy and, although designed to be drunk young, age surprisingly well. Indeed, I enjoyed a bottle of 20-year-old Morgon only the other day at the house of a friend in the wine trade and was expecting it to be shot to pieces. On the contrary, it was soft, supple and mellow, and if I hadn’t known what it was, I would have marked it down as a pretty decent Beaune, so mushroomy, truffly and earthy was it. It was also delectably complex, which might come as a surprise to many new to Beaujolais.
One of the finest producers of all is Domaine Henry Fessy, part of the mighty Maison Louis Latour empire. DHF was founded in 1888 and has never been in better shape than today, with the extremely gifted winemaker Laurent Chevalier at the helm. It is fortunate, too, in having 70 hectares of vineyards spread throughout Beaujolais and is thus able to produce wines in all ten crus. Nobody else has such extensive reach in the region.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit the domaine and was struck not only by the age of the vines (around 50 years on average), but also by how each one of the crus boasts slightly different microclimates, slightly different soils and slightly different vineyard aspects. This means, of course, that there are intriguing distinctions and nuances to the wines themselves, despite the identical grapes and methods of production.
As well as wines from the ten crus, DHF produces a very tasty Beaujolais-Villages and an extremely fine Beaujolais Blanc made from 100 per cent Chardonnay. It’s a rare wine too, this, since white wine comprises just 1 per cent of the region’s production.
Readers gifted at mental arithmetic will have worked out that ten plus two equals twelve. This means that, thanks to our partners at Mr Wheeler, we are able to offer here a box of all 12 of the above wines (one bottle of each) plus a box of six wines I selected from the 12 (two bottles of each).
Mr W’s Mark Cronshaw assures me that since they ship direct from Henry Fessy and get their best possible price, readers won’t find a better deal anywhere else. These wines really are hugely enjoyable and I urge you to get stuck in.
So, just to recap: there are two mixed cases, both heavily discounted and both giving a perfect snapshot of region and vintages. The first contains one bottle of each wine and the second contains two bottles each of the six wines marked by asterisks below. Delivery, as ever, is free.