Bojo! Yum! One of my favourites … and one of my favourite domaines, too (I visited the Coudert family at Clos de la Roilette in March 2016 ).
Sadly, tonight I’m missing out, as I’m off pouring Champagne (yeah, I know, right?) at The Wine Gang’s Champagne & Sparkling Wine Spring Festival, so I’m putting the blurb up now for your perusal.
A gnarled old vine as a wine rack at Clos de la Roilette. (Image: yours truly)
At its best, there is little that can match Beaujolais’ fragrant, sappy, fruity flavours. Beaujolais tends to be a delight to drink upon release; indeed, extolling the wines’ youthful virtues has been hugely successful.
Away from Beaujolais Nouveau, another kind of Beaujolais continued to be made, often using very traditional methods of production and reflecting a complexity of terroir that still comes as something of a surprise.
Beaujolais lies between the towns of Mâcon and Lyon with most of the vineyard confusingly coming into the département du Rhône. The vast majority of the region’s 18,500 hectares is planted with a single red grape: gamay, or to be more precise, gamay noir à jus blanc. Often densely planted to help control the vines vigour, and therefore yields, trained low and pruned hard, they are need at least a short spell of real heat to ripen properly. In terms of soil, gamay does not do well on sedimentary rock types. Much of Beaujolais is granite with outcrops of schist in part of Morgon or Andesites in the Cote de Brouilly.
Below is a list of the appellations, but it is worth mentioning that the most important factor in the wines’ quality is the grower.
Beaujolais: Mostly from the south where the soils are often of a limestone called pierres dorées, which makes excellent building material. But there are granites as well and a great many styles of wine possible though a major part of the productions continues to be made as Nouveau.
Beaujolais-Villages: These wines come from the north and are set among the ten crus and planted on the same granitic soils. 38 parishes are allowed to produce Beaujolais-Villages. They offer a midway point between generic Beaujolais and the greater complexity of the crus.
The ten crus, from north to south, are: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. Each have their own unique variation on the local geology and topography, climatic conditions and character; from the light, fragrant Chiroubles to the richer, more concentrated Moulin-à-Vent with its ability to age and comparison in great years with top Burgundies.
Map courtesy of vinepair.com
Within these crus are specific vineyards, or climats, with deserved reputations for high-quality, such as Poncié in Fleurie or Côte du Py in Morgon. For a more thorough examination of all these crus and their characteristic traits please see our How to Buy Beaujolais guide, where Fleurie is described thus:
Prettily named, the wines of Fleurie are a delight to the senses: fragrant, floral, silky and charming.
Fleurie comprises 890ha. Vineyards closest to Morgon or Moulin-à-Vent are fuller-flavoured while those around the village itself are often more floral.
Vineyard names or climats are much in use. Some of the best ones are Poncié, la Roilette, Chapelle des Bois and Clos des Moriers. The best known is probably La Madonne with its little Chapel perched above the village.
Chapelle de la Madonne, Fleurie. Beaujolais (Image: Clos de la Roilette)
Same viewed from the other side - Sneaujolais (Image: yours truly)
Good Fleurie ages quite well but few producers make the effort to make serious wine. The restaurant le Cep, run by the mildly eccentric Mme Chagny, is an excellent place to explore the cru.
So where are we in France?
The wines we’re tasting tonight are made by Alain Coudert. When I visited with Toby Morrhall, the then buyer of Beaujolais, we were asked about our plans by another grower the night before.
“Are you going to see Alain in the morning or the afternoon?”
“The afternoon,” we replied. “Our last appointment.”
“Good, because Alain likes to talk, and you’d be late to your next appointment!”
He does like to talk, but I could listen to him all day long, whether he be talking about his family, the history of the area, his winemaking, … a truly passionate winemaker and an amazing ambassador for his appellation of Fleurie.
Alain Coudert (Image: Clos de la Roilette)
The Clos de la Roilette is 9 ha of east-facing vineyard right on the border with Moulin-à-Vent …
… producing wines that flourish both in youth and with some age, Alain’s father bought the estate in 1967 from a Mr Crozet, whose prized thoroughbred race horse, Roilette, is featured on the label.
Alain joined his father in the business in 1979, and became ‘le patron in 1991’, running things with his sister. They use sustainable methods, with minimal intervention in the vineyards.
They vinify using the traditional Beaujolais method of semi-carbonic maceration, then pumping over. The soils have more clay than the rest of the Fleurie appellation, resulting in a more structured wine, somewhere between a Fleurie and a Moulin-à-Vent.
Cuvée Tardive (or ‘late cuvée’) is not vendange tardive – the lateness in the name applies to the fact that you can drink it later, due to the concentration of fruit provided from the older vines.
Of the Clos de la Roilette 2017 Alain says (my translation):
This cuvée is characterised by a very pretty red/ruby/purplish carmine colour. The nose is fine and reserved, very fruity, slowly developing with aromas of violets and raspberry with discreet notes of grilled spices and leather. The attack is joyously and pleasantly lively and rasping, with an elegant rounded structure, nicely chewy – delicate, voluptuous, warming and nicely integrated. This wine goes beautifully with stewed meats and garden vegetables
Of the Cuvée Tardive 2014 version he says:
This cuvée is a selection of old vines (over 60-years-old) planted on more clay-based soils, giving more concentration and fruit intensity. Ruby/grenadine colour laced with violet. The nose, that has a fine aromatic development, combines fruit, spice and smoke. In the mouth the attack is fine and even, with subtle chewiness but no harshness – distinguished. Can be drunk young, but also worth sticking some away. Aged, it goes well with beef dishes.
So enjoy tonight - I wish you a happy tasting, as indeed do Odile, Alexis and Alain Coudert. Santé!
(Image: yours truly)