Now it’s time to BBB …
Bien Boire en Beaujolais (drink well in Beaujolais)
We’re off to …
On the map we can remind ourselves that Beaujolais is in eastern central France, south of Mâcon and north of Lyon, on the right bank (west side) of the Saône …
And drilling down further we can see that it is in the middle of the Beaujolais region …
Map via winefolly.com
… between Chiroubles (the lightest of the 10 crus) and Moulin-à-Vent (the most substantial).
The grape variety (as for all red wines from Beaujolais) is gamay noir. Did you know that gamay dates back to the Middle Ages and is a natural crossing of pinot noir and gouais blanc? Well you do now!
Did you also know that the grape was banned from Burgundy in the 14th century? On 31st July 1395 the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe la Hardi (Philip the Bold), decided that the grape wasn’t fit for his dukedom and banned it.
Philip the Bold
Text from the decree included: “… a very bad and disloyal variety called Gaamez, from which come abundant quantities of wine … And this wine of Gaamez is of such a kind that it is very harmful to human creatures, so much so that may people who had it in the past were infested by serious diseases, as we’ve heard; because said wine from said plant of said nature is full of significant and horrible bitterness. For this reason we solemnly command you … all who have said vines of said Gaamez to cut them down or have them cut down, wherever they may be in our country, within five months.”
(I love the fact that a grape variety can be deemed as disloyal!)
The vines were ‘evicted’ to Beaujolais where, happily, the granite and schist soils proved to be the perfect match for the variety and it has flourished ever since, although there were further attempts to ban it, notably in 1567, 1725 and 1731.
If you want to full lowdown on how to buy Beaujolais, then you should maybe read our extensive ‘How To Buy Beaujolais’ guide …
So where do we source this wine from?
Les Vins Aujoux has been the source of the bulk of The Society’s Beaujolais since the mid-60s. (We also work with them to create our bestselling white wine, The Society’s White Burgundy, sourced from the Mâcon.)
Dealing with a négociant allows The Wine Society to pick and choose, often blending together from different estates in order to end up with a wine that is better than any of its parts.
Négoces have had a huge part to play in the recent history of Beaujolais, some of it not so good but some of it very positive. For all its apparent simplicity, Beaujolais is a complicated region geologically, with the more-than-rolling countryside providing all sorts of micro-climates. Late frosts and hail can make it a risky place to grow grapes.
The one name that stands out for us is Dépagneux: Jean Dépagneux was the last of this illustrious merchant family who, with his partners, bought up a list of ailing names such as Aujoux, which had made its name selling Beaujolais to the once profitable Swiss market. Jean retired about a dozen years ago and his place was taken by a young and talented oenologist from Viré called Jean-Marc Darbon.
Jean-Marc Darbon (left) and our then Beaujolais buyer Toby Morrhall blending The Society’s Beaujolais-Villages 2015
The Society’s Exhibition Fleurie first emerged from the 2003 vintage, when Marcel Orford Williams was the Beaujolais buyer, and we’ve since had one from 03, ‘05, ‘06, ‘07, ‘09, ‘11, ‘13, ‘15 and now 2016.
Sneaujolais - a dusting of snow on the vineyards of Fleurie in March 2016
This 2016 version of our Exhibition Fleurie was blended by Jean-Marc and our current Beaujolais buyer Tim Sykes. It’s intensely perfumed (Fleurie does have a tendency to live up to its name and be floral on the nose), and the palate is unmistakably gamay – ripe and fresh.