Beaujolais Cru: Better Than Bourgogne Rouge?

The best value wine in Burgundy may not be Bourgogne Rouge. Not even those made by such great producers as Fontaine-Gagnard, Ponsot, Daniel Rion or Lignier-Michelot. Don’t get me wrong, these are all very well-made wines that always over-perform as bargain Pinot… but I think I may have found better. After a rigorous amount of tasting (it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta to do it), my favorite value wine in Burgundy is actually a Beaujolais Cru, specifically the Domaine des Grands Fers Fleurie 2000 ($24.99), found in the southern most region of Burgundy called Beaujolais.

 

The picturesque town of Fleurie.

 

Honestly, I know it is a tough to tempt Burgundy lovers to switch their tastes to a less than glorified region, let alone a different varietal entirely. And come on….who has ever had ten year old Beaujolais? Truth be told, in the contemporary American market, most Beaujolais is sold for early consumption. These wines are mainly produced in the southern part of the region on the alluvial plain of the River Saone, and sold as either Beaujolais AC or Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais is made from Gamay and often vinified using a technique called carbonic maceration.  This vinification process uses whole clusters of grapes extracting color, flavors, but very little tannin. It also imparts odd flavors of bubblegum, banana and kirsch.

On the other hand, in the north and west of the region, traditional winemaking dominates. There are ten Beaujolais Crus , where vineyards are planted on a series of rolling hills, some 1,000 ft in elevation, where the soils are predominately granitic schist. In this case, the word “cru” refers to 10 specific villages in Beaujolais, not ten different vineyard sites, like it would in the Cote d’Or. The Gamay grape has an affinity to granite, giving wines of greater character here than on the sandy soils to the south. The wines are denser and more expressive from this part of the region. Some are also aged in oak. These “Burgundy style” wines only make up only a quarter of the total production in the region.

It is in this part of the region that the Domaine des Grands Fers Fleurie produces an amazing example of Gamay that can be aged for up to fifteen years. The 2000 vintage is no exception. Christian Bernard, winemaker at Grands Fers, is a staunch traditionalist and will only release his wine when he feels it is ready. For example, the 2008 will not be on the American market for at least another six years. Upon your first waft from the glass you will notice so much more than red fruit and spice. There is that smell of dried strawberries, raspberries and cinnamon sticks, however there is a nuance of earth, sweet tobacco, and game that is more reminiscent of a Cote du Nuits Burgundy more than anything else. Fleurie has always been considered one of the most feminine and elegant of the Beaujolais Crus, and also one of the most long-lived.

I’ll say it again, for $24.99, there is no other Bourgogne Rouge that comes close to its complexity. Come try for yourself!

– Wes Kirk

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2 Comments »

  1. BillC said

    I really like this wine. We opened one last night, and vibrancy of the fruit on the palate for a Gamay of this age is surprising–and welcome. Although I would not decant it (for fear of losing that fruit), it does have some sediment so you need to be careful when you get to the bottom of the bottle.

    • amantivinoblog said

      The Grand Fer is beautifully unfiltered. Most winemakers would argue that filtering robs their wine of some character. Those that are more commercially driven, or worried about certain issues that can occur after bottling, will filter. In my mind, the less a wine is tinkered with the better but it can be unpleasant to get a mouthful of sediment. Thanks so much for reading.

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