Marcel Lapierre with a bottle of his great Beaujolais cru Morgon.
This is not your supermarket’s Beaujolais Dinner!
Wednesday November 6, 2013: 6:30 reception, 7:00 Dinner $55 per guest
Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen 1526 Walnut St. Kansas City, Missouri
Reservations 816-842-2660 or email email@example.com
Menu: Beaujolais Dinner
If you already love great Beaujolais this is the dinner for you. If you don’t already love great Beaujolais then you absolutely must join us for this dinner where we’ll explore the region in all of it’s diversity (juicy reds, structured reds, brilliant Chardonnays, dry sparkling wines, off dry sparkling wines, rose!).
Chef Brian will release the menu in the next couple of weeks for what we believe will be one of the most enjoyable events we’ll host all year. Expect the menu to be one part Lyonaise, one part Thanksgiving and all parts Brian Aaron. Beaujolais wines grow in the heart of a great cuisine culture and are an ideal beverage for lots of food.
So what’s the hangup with Beaujolais? The region has long stood in the shadow of the great wines produced to the north in the Burgundy region. Until June of 1395, both regions grew Gamay and Pinot Noir; but in that year the Duke of Burgundy, Phillipe the Bold, banned Gamay from Burgundy, essentially relegating it to Beaujolais. 60 Years later, Phillipe the Good felt it again necessary to ban the poor grape. Although they are neighbors, Burgundy and Beaujolais have different microclimates and very different soils. Burgundy has limestone soils which seem beyond perfect for Pinot Noir: Beaujolais has granite on which Gamay thrives, as does Syrah further south in the Rhone Valley. Regardless, Beaujolais has never shared the wealth of its northern neighbors and the growers here have always struggled to promote the commercial culture of this great region.
Jean-Paul Brun, of Domaine des Terres Dorees, showcases the thriving diversity of Beaujolais grown on both Granite and Limestone and made from Gamay, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Then Georges Duboeuf arrived. Mr. Duboeuf revitalized the commercial side of Beaujolais, perhaps even saving the regions as a viable wine industry. In the process; however, he sacrificed the traditional style and methods that people loved about the local Beaujolais wines. His novel and ingenious promotion of Beaujolais Nouveau mimicked the traditional harvest celebrations; however, in order to make a large scale wine that was rushed around the world just weeks after the harvest, Mr. Duboeuf had to resort to some degree of trickery in the winery. Most notorious about his Nouveaus is their use of the commercial yeast strain 71B, which is great for zipping the wine quickly through its alcoholic fermentation but also has the side effect of making the wine smell and taste oddly like bananas.
I’ll admit to being a late adopted in terms of my love for the great wines of Beaujolais. Until recently the American market was dominated by large scale producers like Duboeuf. Not that being a large producer is bad: we happy offer a Cru Beaujolais from Louis Jadot, a large negociant who’s Beaujolais Villages seems to be perpetually on sale at my neighborhood supermarket for 9.99 and really is ten dollars well spent on a good bottle of red. But my interests lean towards small family domaines that produce traditional, artisan wines.
Then a bottle from Marcel Lapierre arrived and was to bring a Beaujolais conversion for me, now I’m an advocate. Even before Lapierre, the legendary Jules Chauvet was making Beaujolais of brilliance by all accounts but I’ve never had the opportunity to try a bottle. Lapierre’s wine, from the great Cru of Morgon, was different than other Beaujolais I’d tasted before. It was pure and expressive rather than muddy and odd such as other Beaujolais I’d tasted: and it tasted absolutely vibrant and alive. And it was absolutely delicious. As I’ve experienced many times since, when Beaujolais isn’t too tampered with it is one of the greatest pure fruit experiences in the world. So started a quest to find more great Beaujolais, which really isn’t too hard if you know where to look and certainly isn’t too expensive as these wines remain among the greatest values on the planet. Both of these producers worked very naturally and have influenced top wine growers around the globe to do the same. They are true heroes in the wine world. Both have unfortunately passed on. Marcel Lapierre’s son Mattheiu continues the work of his father alongside numerous peers who make great, natural Beaujolais today.
Jules Chauvet, an absolute legend in the wine world.
The classic red Beaujolais are made with two contrasting methods, as well as hybrids of the two and a few techniques that fall within the metaphorical spectrum between these two poles. Best known in the region is a fermentation called Carbonic Maceration. Carbonic is a method of fermenting whole grapes in a carbon dioxide rich environment (typically stainless steel which provides the best seal against oxygen) so that the berries begin fermenting from within. The results are wines that are typically quite fruity, silky and low in tannin. At the other pole are some quite low interventionist producers who allow the wine to ferment with native yeasts from the vineyard. This is more akin to how the great red Burgundies of the Cote d’Or are made. Like those other great Burgundies, Beaujolais made in the fashion gains in complexity, texture and character what it loses in fruitiness and silkiness. This is how the top wines are made in the best villages such as Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin-a-Vent.
It’s easy to underestimate Gamay’s ability to age gracefully and gain complexity. The French actually have a word for this, they say Gamay “Pinotizes” as it matures in bottle, that is that it develops flavors that we commonly associate with its Pinot Noir based neighbors. I wonder what Phillipe the Bold and Phillipe the Good would have to say about that! I can vouch for our French contemporaries’ take, having recently tracked down bottles of Chateau Thivin’s Cote du Brouilly, a brilliant and long-lived Cru, that were nearly two decades old and really brilliant bottles of mature Burgundy.
At the dinner we’ll be showcasing multiple styles from multiple producers, villages and importers. The wines will come from top growers who make traditional, site-specific wines including whites, roses and reds.
Nicole Chanrion makes wonderful wines in the Cote du Brouilly