We don’t do “Top 10” lists or any other rankings of our offers, but as 2018 nears its end and we look back through a year’s worth of work, there’s no question that Cru Beaujolais is the wine ‘category’ of the year.
We were already knee-deep in distinctive, great-value wines from the region when we arrived there last March, and after a few days of inspiring winery visits (as well as one very late-night rave in the village of Régnié attended by just about every new-generation vigneron on the block) it was abundantly clear: Beaujolais is where it’s at right now. It’s great to see, and if it means a gem like Jacky Gauthier’s Domaine de Colette finds a wider audience, I’ll be extra happy. I’ve tasted annual releases from this family-run property for about a decade now, and I can’t remember the wines ever striking an off note—or, for that matter, increasing appreciably in price. It’s no surprise that today’s 2017 once again delivers more wine for the money than anyone has a right to expect. Biodynamically grown in the pink granite soils of Fleurie, this is classic Cru Beaujolais through and through, sporting a deep, dark wave of wild-berry fruit and a refreshing mineral twang. It’s a polished, well-made red but it’s also blessed with just the right amount of rusticity—an authentic sense of place, not flaws masquerading as ‘terroir.’ Yes, we’ve offered a few Fleuries recently, but this one, at this price, would not be denied. Once again, we’re not merely pleased by a Cru Beaujolais wine but compelled to put it in front of you; the value-for-dollar simply cannot be beat!
Domaine de Colette, based in the village of Lantignié (west of Villé-Morgon and Régnié-Durette), has traditionally been known best for its Régnié wines, although proprietors Evelyne and Jacky Gauthier have expanded their vineyard holdings to include sites in the Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent crus. Overall, they farm 14 hectares of vineyards, continuing to grow the reputation of the domaine Jacky’s father, René, founded in 1953. This is the archetypal small-scale family affair (the Gauthiers’ son, Pierre Alexandre, studied viticulture and enology and has joined the team). They describe their farming philosophy as “integrated vine-growing,” wherein chemical fertilizers are forbidden and only organic treatments and occasional plowing are utilized to control weeds and pests. Their methods in the cellar are classic, Old School Beaujolais, with a full ‘carbonic’ fermentation followed by aging in large, used oak foudres and/or cement vats before bottling without filtration.
Today’s 2017 comes from 50-year-old vines in a southeast-facing parcel at the foot of Fleurie’s landmark Chapelle de la Madone (“Chapel of our Lady”)—where most of the village’s greatest vineyards are situated. It aged just six months in vats before bottling, resulting in a wine of great purity, freshness, and soft tannins. It’s pure joy to drink right from the jump, displaying a deep ruby core with magenta and pink highlights in the glass and a rush of perfectly ripe fruits on the nose: fresh-picked blackberry, purple plum, and raspberry are accentuated by notes of violet, lavender, black pepper, and crushed stones. It is medium-bodied, juicy, aromatic…just spot-on Cru Beaujolais of the lip-smacking, bistro-ready Old School. Enjoy this wine now and over the next 2-3 years at 60-65 degrees (or chillier) in Burgundy stems with just about any meal you can think of—it will pair seamlessly with just about anything you throw at it, but as I think back to our visit to Beaujolais and its relatively rustic, laid-back feel in comparison to some of the fancier towns in Burgundy, I’m thinking of some country paté, some good bread, and a few friends. And I’ll be sure to have multiple bottles on hand, because they’ll get drained quickly. You’d be wise to do the same—enjoy!