Forget Beaujolais Nouveau – this corner of Burgundy has gotten serious

So true. Although it is worth pointing out that the B-word is often not mentioned at all when discussing such wines. Beaujolais can also be difficult to find on the label. Instead, the wine is referred to by the name of its cru. There are 10 in total, located in a contiguous block in the north of the region. Saint-Amour is the northernmost, located just 12 km southwest of the town of Maçon. Going south, with a few small meanders to the west, we would pass in the order Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon and Régnié to then arrive at Brouilly which on a map looks like a beignet with Côte de Brouilly in the middle.

Beaujolais crus have already infiltrated the lists of gourmet restaurants and wine shops, and some are achieving impressive critical scores. At the time of this writing, broker Fine+Rare has 42 listings for Beaujolais, almost all crus, including Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly Les Sept Vignes 2015 (£347 a case, excluding duties and VAT), which has been scored by Vinous critic Neal Martin at 94 points on a 100-point scale.

“Among those interested in wine, it’s this triangle of Moulin-à-Vent, Morgon and Fleurie that seems to be the one people are looking for and asking for,” says Devaney. “And I think the general public is also becoming more aware.”

Moulin-à-Vent – ​​one of the first appellations in France to obtain its AOC, in 1936 – and Morgon are the two crus that give the most full-bodied and structured wines. Fleurie is known for its slightly floral smell, but it also often has a hint of graphite.

The forerunners of the current renaissance were natural winegrowers such as Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Jean-Paul Thévenet and Guy Breton, who, working in a minimally interventionist manner, using wild yeasts, avoiding additives and minimizing the use of chemicals and technology, has made wines that have captured the interest of the international hipster wine crowd and sommeliers in restaurants from Manhattan to London.

The next development has been the emergence of producers – some with high reputations in more salubrious parts of Burgundy – who are not necessarily part of the natural wine movement. These players have a demanding and detailed approach to the terroir of great wines. For example, Thibault Liger-Belair is a well-respected winemaker who operates an old family property in Nuits-Saint-Georges and started buying land in Beaujolais in 2007, investing in several parcels of vines in Moulin-à-Vent. He is fully aware that in the not too distant past, this part of the world was more famous; in the accounts of the family trading business, he found a trace indicating that in 1911 a Romanèche-Thorins (the former name of Moulin-à-Vent) was sold at the same price as a wine from Vosne-Romanée, the stellar commune that is the home of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

Liger-Belair brings a Burgundian sensibility to Moulin-à-Vent, making racy and refined wines with minerality and sinew, each one closely reflecting the plot on which they are grown. Tasted blind, the wines are difficult to place. A drinker’s Burgundy? The Beaujolais of a thinking man? It’s hard to say.

Similarly, at Château du Moulin-à-Vent, we make a generic Moulin-à-Vent, using grapes from wherever you like in the appellation, but we also bottle wines whose grapes do not come from than one of the 69 specific localities (lieus-dits) within the 630 hectares of the cru, differentiated according to exposure to the sun and wind, the presence of granitic sands and silica in the soil, etc.

About Michael Brafford

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