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Last week Harpers Wine & Spirit, in conjunction with InterBeaujolais, invited a handful of leading independent wine merchants to go out to Beaujolais and discover the wines for themselves.
With the days of Beaujolais Nouveau long gone and Beaujolais’ 10 crus now recognised as the best the region has to offer, the trip aimed to increased listings in the independent sector.
Among the merchants was Meirion Williams from Yapp Brothers in Mere, Wiltshire. Below he shares a teaser of his experiences – for his full report on the trip, along with write-ups from the other independent buyers, check out the February 24 issue of Harpers.
It’s Beaujolais, Jim – but not as we know it: You may expect that, given the title, these musings will be full of subtle enterprising mentions of Bones, Spock, Kirk and boldly going where no man has been before, but actually, that is pretty much the extent of my trekkie knowledge. However, by courtesy of a wonderful offer by Westbury Communications, Inter Beaujolais and Harpers Wine & Spirit, I was beamed (by British Airways actually, not Scottie) into a virgin visit to the scenic hills of Beaujolais, a few kilometres north of Lyon.
If you happen to ask a random passer-by (remember, children don’t speak to strangers) to name three French wine regions, they would probably come up with Champagne and Bordeaux and, quite possibly, Beaujolais as their third one. Therefore, the area is certainly famous as a wine-producing region but, for the majority, their perception of a wine from Beaujolais will be one that is light and fruity, uncomplicated and easy-drinking and predominantly red. Certainly, the region does have those wines in abundance, but a lot more besides. Beaujolais certainly has some youthful, red-berry, fruit-forward wines but the unexpected surprise for me during my visit was the variation and quality of the whites as well as the depth and elegance of the some of the Cru reds.
During the three-day visit, we were welcomed by no less than nine producers at their domaines, and were given an in-depth analysis of their vinification techniques, soil structure and specific terroirs followed by comprehensive tastings that covered the whole range of wines that Beaujolais has to offer.
Among the winemakers we met I was soon aware of an intense collective expectancy and eagerness for the future, and a very real feeling of the re-awakening and re-branding of this historic region. Most still use semi-carbonic maceration, with whole bunches, along with varying degrees of de-stemming, and often a longer, cooler fermentation.
Yields in Beaujolais are set by the AOC at 52 hectoliters per hectare but several domaine’s were generally harvesting at much lower than that, with even one old vine cuvee coming in at 10 hl/ha. Many have come to the conclusion that organic or bio-dynamic methods are the way forward, not only for wine quality but for the well-being of the soil, along with the minimal use of sulphates. Following the trip I’m looking forward to promoting Beaujolais wines and enlightening our customers to the delights of a New Beaujolais as opposed to Beaujolais Nouveau. But please, don’t take my word for it.
Blog by Laura Heywood, Features Editor. Harpers.
Courtesy of Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review