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2014 was a difficult vintage for much of France as cool weather and abundant rains in the spring and mid-summer had growers working hard in the vines and worrying that a disaster was in the making. Happily, in mid to late august, depending on the region, sunny, dry weather arrived and continued through the harvests, enabling growers to bring in mature fruit with moderate alcohol levels and beautiful balance. A great vintage for Loire Valley reds, we feel that it was a great vintage for Beaujolais as well, as the wines are complex, ripe and pretty, with alcohol averaging about 12.5% while retaining a lovely freshness that enhances the subtle charms of great Beaujolais. One of our most favorite producers is Georges Descombes and we have been eagerly awaiting his three Vieilles Vignes cuvées from Regnié, Chiroubles and Morgon. Sadly, the 2014 Regnié VV was delayed, but the Chiroubles and Morgon have arrived - they are beautiful wines that are delicious now and that will repay cellaring of five to eight years or more.
2015 in Beaujolais has been widely praised in the press, and the wines certainly show terrific ripeness and supple textures. Alcohol levels at many estates, however are at 14% and more, bringing a bit of heat to the wines and a more one-dimensional character to the fruit. While there are some impressive wines that should cellar well (from Alain Coudert, for instance) many seem a bit awkward and unbalanced compared to the lovely 2014s. Which brings us back to Georges Descombes whose 2015 "regular" cuvées have recently arrived as well. These are always among the prettiest of Beaujolais, as Descombes' great farming and superb low or zero-sulfur vinifications consistently produce pure and immensely enjoyable wines. His three 2015s weigh in at 13% alcohol, and while they show a riper, more black fruit character than normal, they are well-balanced, supple and quite delicious and will provide happy drinking over the next five years.
We have previously praised the 2014 Cedric Chignard Juliénas "Beauvernay," from a south-facing slope of high-density 60 year-old vines on blue volcanic soil. The wine is simply delicious - a real joy to drink, with gorgeous, complex fruit, moderate alcohol, great balance and wonderful stony density that foretells excellent mid-term aging. Now joined by the equally delicious 2014 Chignard Fleurie "les Moriers," these are beautiful examples of this lovely vintage for Beaujolais and they belong on your table and in your cellar.
While we are appreciating great Beaujolais from 2014, we are happy to again offer the superb 2014 Morgon Vieilles Vignes from Jean-Claude Thevenet. This estate consistently produces beautiful Morgon from 4.75 hectares near Le Clachet, from vines averaging 70 years of age, with some planted before World War One. About 2,000 cases are produced. Vineyard work is biodynamic, fermentation is with wild yeasts at a moderately low temperature (10 - 13 degrees C). Aging is mostly in old barrels from DRC with minimal extraction. This is always one of the most elegant natural wines of Beaujolais and is highly recommended, especially from this excellent vintage. The wines of Jean-Paul Brun at Domaine des Terres Dorées are also favorites of ours every year. Jean-Paul vinifies in the normal Burgundy method, rather than with the carbonic-maceration prevalent in Beaujolais, giving the wines a bit more structure and ageability, as well as different aromatic and fruit profiles. His 2015s remained balanced and elegant in this ripe vintage, particularly the delicious Côte de Brouilly and Morgon offered today.
And finally, for lovers of true "natural" wines, there is no finer example than the Christian Ducroux "Exspectatia," a product of unparalleled biodynamic farming and meticulous vinifications with zero added sulfur. Ducroux' 5 hectare estate has been certified organic and biodynamic since 1985, and has operated as a nearly self-sufficient farm, producing its own fertilzer and compost, and plowing and harvesting almost entirely without machinery. The vines average over 60 years of age and are replaced by massale selection, giving extremely low yields. The 2015 Exspectatia shows beautifully, with remarkable complexity, intense aromas of ripe blackberry, violet, musk, pepper, licorice and earth, that continue with a dense, earthy texture on the palate. (12.5% alcohol, zero added SO2) Really a profound wine of terroir that expresses the incredilble farming and winemaking of Christian Ducroux - certainly one of the finest natural wines of France. (Decanting advised, no added sulfur - consume on the day opened)
Be Happy - Drink More Beaujolais!
This is an extremely pretty Morgon, showing subtle high-toned black raspberry and tart cherry aromas with plum, violet, citrus and brown spice, really lovely. The black and red fruits continue on the palate with complex notes of blood orange, earth, mint and spice. The wine is dense and structured but bright and balanced, finishing with refreshing acidity and mineral flavors. Delicious now, this should be superb in three to five years, and should drink well till 2027. DL
The Vieilles Vignes bottlings from Georges Descombes are always among our favorite Beaujolais, and we're very happy to finally have the lovely 2014s in the store! A difficult growing season that was saved by good weather at the end of summer, 2014 produced beautifully balanced and very expressive wines in Beaujolais. The Chiroubles Vieilles Vignes shows floral, spiced strawberry and blackberry fruit, with hints of graphite, earth and citrus. Bright plum, strawberry and black fruits on the palate with rose and citrus, textured and mineral with nice length of berry fruits, bright acidity and earth in the finish. This is a lovely, beautifully balanced Chiroubles, at 12.5% alcohol, that is delicious now, best perhaps 2020 - 2025. DL
Georges Descombes, one of the finest producers in Beaujolais, captured the lush fruit of the 2015 vintage with moderate alcohol (13%), lovely aromas and silky, supple fruit on the palate. Blackberry, red currant and violet aromas with hints of meat and chocolate; the palate is quite ripe and pretty with nice balancing acidity and freshness - we miss the more delicate, complex fruit of the 2014, but this is a delicious Morgon in a riper style that will drink beautifully over the next five years. Serve with charcuterie, grilled pork and roast chicken, slightly chilled. DL
This delicious Regnié shows a vivid red/black color and lush aromas of blackberry liqueur with hints of violet, bitter chocolate and citrus. Ripe, supple berry fruits coat the palate, which is quite well-balanced for a 2015, blackberry and black cherry with lovely length of fruit lingering in the finish which is lifted by firm acidity. This is a great success for the vintage and will provide joyful drinking for the next five years! DL
The 2015 Descombes Brouilly shows a deep red/black color, with aromas of ripe blackberry and strawberry liqueur, with violet, black pepper and citrus - quite lush and pretty. Dark and earthy black fruits on the supple, velvety palate, with good length of sappy fruit that is balanced by refreshing acidity in the finish. This is certainly one of the prettiest and most balanced of the 2015s, really quite delicious in the riper style of the vintage. DL
This is an outstanding Beaujolais from the Chignard family, better known for their lovely Fleurie "Les Moriers." Possessing the lovely fruit and balance of the 2014 vintage in Beaujolais, the Julienas "Beauvernay" shows a pretty red/black color, with elegant aromas of blackberry and red currant with violet, blood orange, earth and stone. It's ripe and sapid but with lively acidity and perfectly proportioned at 12.5% alcohol. Morello cherry and red currant fruit with saline minerals, earth and spice coat the palate and continue in the earthy finish. Quite lovely now, this should become a beautiful mature wine with three to five years of aging, drink till 2023-2025. Highly recommended. DL
The Chignard Fleurie "Les Moriers" is consistently one of our favorite Beaujolais, coming from a high-density vineyard of 60+ year-old vines adjacent to Moulin-a-Vent. The wine is always quite elegant, even a bit austere in it's youth, due to the less extractive winemaking of the Chignards. The 2014 is a bit more expressive and full-bodied on opening, showing intriguing aromas of ripe strawberry, blackberry, plum, citrus and earth with hints of white pepper and spice - really lovely. There is fairly dense blackberry fruit on the palate with earth and mineral notes and firm acidity with berry fruits and mineral notes lingering in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. This is a potentially great mature Fleurie, best perhaps 2019 to 2025. Hats off to Cédric Chignard for his two beautiful 2014s!
(We're getting to the end of Ducroux's complex and supernatural Exspectatia 2015 - be sure to grab some before it disapears. Happily we have 2015 Patience and 2016 Exspectatia on the way.) Christian Ducroux' 5 hectare estate has been certified organic and biodynamic since 1985, and has operated as a nearly self-sufficient farm, producing its own fertilizer and compost, and plowing and harvesting almost entirely without machinery. The vines average over 60 years of age and are replaced by massale selection, giving extremely low yields. The 2015 Exspectatia (the wine formerly known as Regnié) shows a deep opaque red/black color. Slight reduction, then vivid aromas of blackberry liqueur, blood orange, rose, black pepper, brown spices, earth and licorice. On the palate the wine is very complex with blackberry and red currant fruit, earth, spice and citrus with a long intense finish of black fruits and earth that lingers on the palate. Only 12.5% alcohol, even in this very ripe vintage. Bravo to Christian Ducroux for his beautiful farming and for this complex, expressive natural wine! Re-tasted in October 2016, the wine showed beautifully, with remarkable complexity, intense aromas of ripe blackberry, violet, musk, pepper, licorice and earth, that continue with a dense, earthy texture on the palate. This is a living, changeable and profound wine of terroir that expresses the incredible farming and winemaking of Christian Ducroux - certainly one of the finest natural wines of France.(Decanting advised, no added sulfur - consume on the day opened.)
Julien Guillot's 2014 Les Pierres Bleues is a gorgeous Beaujolais-Villages combining elegance and structure with beautiful fruit, for current drinking and medium-term cellaring. The vines are more than 100 years old located in the commune of Bully on an ancient volcanic rift. The subsoil is limestone with sandy clay and dark blue metamorphic rocks, giving a strong salinity to the wine. The vineyard is in organic/biodynamic farming and the wine is produced in the Vignes du Maynes carbonic method with zero sulfur added. The wine shows deep red/black color, with aromas of spicy blackberry, black cherry, ripe strawberry and violet with hints of blood orange, graphite and chocolate. The palate is well-structured with chalky acidity supporting dense, earthy red and black fruits and a nice mineral core. The finish is long with ripe fruits, earth and bright acidity. This is a lovely natural wine that should be decanted or opened in advance and will benefit from 3 to 5 years of aging. David Lillie
Always one of the greatest of Beaujolais. From 4.75 hectares near Le Clachet, from vines averaging 70 years of age, with some planted before World War One. About 2,000 cases are produced. Vineyard work is biodynamic, fermentation is with wild yeasts at a moderately low temperature (10 - 13 degrees Celsius). Aging is mostly in old barrels from DRC with minimal extraction. 2014 was a classic vintage for Beaujolais, as poor early weather gave way to sunshine from mid-August, producing well-balanced wines with good ripeness and firm acidity. The 2014 Thevenet shows reduction, then complex aromas of red currant, strawberry, earth, violet, blood orange, spice and licorice.The palate shows bright red currant and berry liqueur with mineral, citrus, rose and spice. The finish is firm with fruit and mineral flavors with good density and length. Decant if drinking now, this superb Morgon will be best from 2020 to 2025 and beyond.
Jean-Paul Brun's Côte de Brouilly, from Domaine des Terres Dorées, is always a lovely wine, showing unique and very pretty aromas in a medium-bodied style. In the very ripe vintage of 2015, the wine shows elegant red currant, tart cherry and blackberry aromas with hints of earth, meat, citrus and pepper. Blackberry and black cherry fruit continue on the very earthy and mineral palate. Jean-Paul's Burgundy vinification seems to have suited the vintage, as the wine is well balanced, though certainly darker and more structured than usual. Serve cool with a steak or grilled pork and lamb, or cellar for three to five years as the wine will definitely benefit from aging. DL
From one hectare of old vines on sandy soils over decomposed granite ("gorhe") in the lieu-dit "Grand Cras." A high spot with southern exposition, similar to Corcelette but the soil is more porous, and suffers a little from dryness. In 2015 the wine is remarkably elegant and balanced and at 12.5%, not showing the excessive alcohol sometimes found in this vintage. The palate shows lovely deep strawberry/cherry fruit that continues on the long finish - delicious now and will be lovely with three to five years (or more) of aging.