Tom Cannavan tastes the best of Beaujolais

This tasting demonstrated what a fantastic variety of styles exists within this region, from the bright and breezy, to seriously structured examples with the character of red Burgundy. Like many wine lovers, I will happily ackowledge that when Beaujolais is good it is very good, yet somehow I rarely buy Beaujolais, or make the effort to track down the best examples. One thing is for sure, this tasting, plus other fine recent wines from Château des Jacques, Georges Dubeouf and others, has made me take a long, hard, second look at what this region has to offer, often at very moderate prices.

Domaine Chatelus Beaujolais 2001 “Cuvée Terroir”
This has a vibrant crimson/cherry colour and a fine nose with a little banana and bubblegummy note, but plenty of crisp cranberry and raspberry jam fruitiness. On the palate it has a smooth texture and silky fruit quality of fine, crisp, elegant red fruit and supple tannins. There is a nice edge of acidity, though it is really quite creamy on the palate, and it has lovely purity. Very good indeed and a fine “basic” Beaujolais to win over any sceptic. £6.25.

Vincent Lacondemine Beaujolais Villages Tradition 2001
Light, zippy cherry colour. Very summery, bright, cheerful raspberry and cherry fruit, with notes of cherry blossom and confectionery. On the palate this is silky and full of finesse, with very nice fruit and acididity and only gentle background tannins to freshen the finish. There’s an almost liquoricy hint of concentration though, and is a very nicely made, elegant wine. Very good indeed. £6.50

Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais Villages “Le Perréon” 2000
This is the Fûts de Chêne (oak-aged) version of this wine. It is quite a deep crimson in colour, and the nose is also quite dark and plummy, with more savoury depth than the previous wine and a much more serious feel, with notes of cherry and briar. Lovely crisp mouthful of fruit, it is certainly dry and structured, and there is good acidity and plenty of concentration, but I found a rather tart, slightly metallic edge detracted just a little. Very good. £7.55

Domaine Bernard Santé Chénas 2000 Fûts de Chêne
This wine spends six months in small oak barrels. It is crimson coloured, and has an immediately alluring nose of creamy strawberry sundae and raspberry, with a svelte, luxurious suggestion of earthier, deep, old polished wood. On the palate this is a rounded, robust, fruit-filled wine with full-body and plenty of muscular tannins framing rich, earthy, berry fruit. The barrel influence adds a creamy, lightly cedary quality to the wine rather than anything overtly “oaky”. Substantial and full on the mid palate, this finishes with balanced acidity and good length. It will also age I would guess. Excellent. £8.95

Domaine des Champs Grillés Saint-Amour 2001
From one of the 10 top villages of the entire region, “cru” Beuajolais are effectively the region’s “Grands Crus” and most will age gracefully over several years. This medium-ruby coloured wine has a delicate, aromatic nose of rose-hip and raspberry, with just a suggestion of earthiness. On the palate it is clean and focused with raspberry and slightly tart red fruit. It has a nice tannic bite, spicy undertone and good acidity. This is an elegant and savoury wine, which perhaps lacks a little fruit, but which I enjoyed with some poached salmon pasta. Very good. £9.75

Domaine Fernand Gravallon Morgon 2001 Cuvée Vieilles Vignes
Well the best is definitely saved for last here. This is one of the most complete, structured, but deliciously-fruited Beaujolais I have ever tasted, rivalling the great Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vents of Louis Jadot. The colour is deep and intense, and the nose offers up dramatically sweet, damp, earthy aromas of truffle and sous-bois, with a rich redcurrant fruit and hints of smoky, tobacco-tinged warmth. On the palate this mouthfilling wine has a raft of cherry fruit, with ripe, deep plum-pie nuances, all supported by polished tannins and a lovely acid framework. Terrific purity of fruit here, and a touch of spice perks things up into a long, long finish. Excellent, possibly even outstanding within its class, made from 70-year-old vines. £10.50