Motley Cru: Beaujolais Winemakers Are Crazy

10/28/2009 4:00 AM |

Even within the realm of cru Beaujolais, however, flavors vary immensely. Most of the red wines are made with Gamay grapes grown in granite-rich soil, although each vineyard’s location in the hills has an effect on the eventual flavor of the wine. Some of the wines at the tasting were spicy, some were fresh tasting, some had a burnt quality, some were slightly carbonated, and some were toasted like popcorn. One taster remarked that a 2007 Morgon from Domaine Marcel Lapierre tasted, “like dirt.” Domaine des Terres Dorres even offered an unusual white Beaujolais made with Chardonnay grapes.

There’s no denying that the vintners care as much for their product as they do about their own family. At Domaine Paul Janin et Fils, each of the winery’s 25 acres is harvested and processed only by a husband and wife and their son. The Clos de Haute Combe winery has been in the same family since 1835, and produces grapes with vines that are 50-80 years old. Gillaume de Castelnau even described his 2007 Morgon as, “A boy! Strong and hearty with large tannins,” and his 2007 Moulin-a-Vent as, “a charming girl.”

It was impossible to ignore the immense pride bursting from each winemaker, an intensity of feeling comparable to fierce patriotism: indeed, they also seemed like they couldn’t care less about a wine that wasn’t produced in France, or even French wines that jeopardized longstanding traditions. The Beaujolais family may be eccentric, but they’re not going to take shit from anyone. Maybe this year, the public will finally go nuts for the more complicated Beaujolais.