Georges Duboeuf has been an ambassador of Beaujolais since he was a teenager in the 1950s, when he began selling his familiy’s Pouilly-Fuissé to neighboring restaurants from the back of his bicycle. (The neighboring restaurants happened include the Michelin-starred establishments of Paul Bpcuse, Georges Blanc and Claude Troisgos) He went on to found Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, one of the largest and best-known wine merchants in France.
Most consumers associate Beaujolais with Beaujolais Nouveau, the first wine pressed from the grapes of the current year. What began as a French harvest tradition has become an international marketing sensation and now every third Thursday of November is “Beaujolais Nouveau Day,” a day Georges himself launched nearly single handedly. But the success of Beaujolais Nouveau, has often overshadowed the rest of the wines of the region which offer some of the most pleasurable and best value drinking there is. So when Georges and his son Franck Duboeuf were in NYC recently we took the opportunity to taste through the 2012 vintage of the Beaujolais Crus with the master.
Beaujolais wines are a generally made from 100 percent Gamay grapes and the Crus come from top tier of vineyards and harvest in the Beaujolais region. There are 10 Crus in Beaujolais: Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour. Most of the Crus are named after the village from which they are grown and harvested — although Moulin-à-Vent takes its name from a local windmill.
Gamay is a thin-skinned grape, which lends itself to juicy wines with fresh tart acids and a light-to-medium body. The tannins are gentle and in general, Beaujolais wines are defined by their distinct fruit and berry flavors and are very food friendly.
“2012 was a bit of a difficult vintage, and the smallest in volume that I have experienced in my life” George Duboeuf lamented. It was all about the weather “with lots of storms and hailstones, several times early during the growing season. But by August the weather was stunning, allowing for great ripening aand by harvest, while the quantity was not there, the quality certainly was. The 2012 vintage has great acidity and balance, and is fleshy, juicy and fruit forward.”
What we tasted and what we — and the Duboeufs —thought
Mâcon-Villages 2012 ($13.49)
Golden hued, with intense floral and citrus notes. Round and soft with bright, fresh finish.
Mâcon-Villages Domaine Les Chenevières 2012 ($14.99)
“They are meticulous wine growers” explained Georges Duboeuf “this is is the third generation, and the fruit this year was beautiful Chardonnay, with good acidity.” The resulting wine is pale gold with a nose of orange and pear. Duboeuf called it “A perfect expression of Chardonnay.
Pouilly-Fuissé 2012 ($27.49)
The 2012 still needs some time before it is bottled, so we got a preview from the barrel. It was clear and gold, with hints of flowers and honey.
Pouilly-Fuissé Emile Beranger 2012 ($27.99)
Another barrel sample, this one was a golden hue with pale green highlights, with toasted brioche on the nose and hazelnut on the finish. Simultaneously rich and bright. Georges Duboeuf also found “subtle notes of toasted almonds.”
Beaujolais-Villages 2012 ($12.49)
Deep carmine in color, this wine is all red berries and black currents on the nose and palate. Round, full and fruity, Duboeuf called it “a great expression of Gamay, it is the pure expression of Beaujolais Village, what you are looking for in Beaujolais Villages, that lushness.”
Chiroubles 2012 ($16.99)
Crimson in color, with aromas of red fruits and white flowers
Brouilly 2012 ($16.99)
Deep red, this barrel sample was already showing delicacy and elegance, with floral and cherry notes, solid tannins, and delicate minerality.
Brouilly Château de Nervers 2012 ($17.99)
All ripe plum and racy tannins, Duboeuf recommends serving this wine in a carafe to truly appreciate this “sober Brouilly.”
Morgon 2012 ($16.99)
Another barrel sample, this liquid was garnet colored with rich, firm tannins and notes of cherries, kirsch and rich spices. Duboeuf says that this wine has great aging potential and will reveal itself further in the bottle.
Morgon Domaine Jean-Ernest Descombes 2012 ($18.99)
This barrel sample was already elegant and smooth, showing a nearly purple color, with notes of violet and roses. Duboeuf has a special affinity for this house, explaining that Jean-Ernest Descombes was “the most extraordinary person I ever met. He really knew how to make people feel welcome, but his speciality was his vines. Preparing for harvest was his thing, often sleeping only two or three hours a night. His daughter is now in charge and she is also kind and intelligent.”
Fleurie 2012 ($16.99)
Another sneak peak from the barrel, the Fleurie showed finesse and great tannin structure, with carmine colors and berry/cherry notes.
Fleurie Domaine des Quatres Vents 2012 ($19.49)
10% of this cuvee is aged in oak to create subtle woody notes with smooth tannins. This barrel sample was redolent of violets.
Moulin-à-Vent 2012 ($19.49)
This barrel sample was deeply purple, balanced with lots of dark fruit on the nose and palate.
Moulin-à-Vent Domaine des Rosiers 2012 ($20.49)
30% of this cuvee has been aged in French oak and this barrel sample offered up a deep violet hue and notes of coffee, spices and black fruits.
Juliénas 2012 ($15.99)
Juliénas , “imperial wine” was named after Julius Caesar. This full and fleshy barrel sample had a deep garnet color, great tannins, and lots of peony and black pepper on the nose.
Juliénas Château des Capitan 2012 ($19.99)
This barrel sample showed a deep carmine in color with, pepper and dark fruits on the nose, black tea and dark chocolate on the palate and lots of racy tannins.