Blog » Beaujolais
"N" Marks the Spot: 2021 Lapierre Morgon
I will always beat the drum for Lapierre's Morgon, but when the non-sulfured cuvée is available in California, I'm on cloud nine. No producer in Beaujolais surpasses this Gamay's bright strawberry fruit and granitic mineral core without any restraints.
In some years, the fruit is deemed ideal to exclude sulfur additions during each phase from harvest through fermentation, aging, and bottling—such wines are marked with an "N" meaning they are non-sulfured. Proposing no sulfur is risky for others, but Lapierre has mastered it over the years. This estate's Morgon is the model of soundness with an ultra-delicate framework.
After taking over the family domaine in 1973, Marcel's encounter with Jules Chauvet in 1981 launched the shift toward natural viticulture and winemaking in Beaujolais. Along with Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, and Jean-Paul Thévenet, the Gang of Four's practices spread quickly and made clear that the natural route yielded wines of authenticity and joie de vivre (joy of life). Since 2010, Marcel's children, Matthieu and Camille, have carried on the same natural approach that placed their father in the hearts of winemakers and enthusiasts across the globe.
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Vin de Garde Bojo: Anne-Sophie Dubois
When the Gang of Four brought attention to Beaujolais, many vignerons from Burgundy and elsewhere descended upon the region. One of the most exciting newcomers is Anne-Sophie Dubois.
Dubois's work in Volnay and fondness for the wines of the revered Henri Jayer greatly influence her winemaking approach. Most Cru Beaujolais producers utilize whole clusters and semi-carbonic fermentation—a method that instills tell-tale fruity and bouncy qualities. Although I adore the wines of Foillard, Lapierre, and Métras, something about Dubois grasps you differently.
Compared to the traditional method, Dubois's approach (de-stemmed Gamay and traditional Burgundian fermentation) provides more structure and definition than the norm. If Fleurie is the Queen of Beaujolais, then Dubois shows it through a lens of rigor, discipline, and depth. This Vin de Garde Cru Beaujolais shows obvious potential in the cellar but also offers some joy for immediate drinking.
L'Alchemiste is from 40-plus-year-old vines traditionally vinified with no carbonic maceration. The aging occurs in a combination of cement and used oak. Always bottled unfined and unfiltered. Les Labourons is from the best grapes from the same lieu-dit (Bottled as Clepsydre in the past). These are Dubois's oldest vines up to 70 years old. 100% destemmed and aged in used barrel for 12 months.
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Beaujolais in Blue: 2021 Château Thivin
Thivin's Côte de Brouilly has been a staple in our Cru Beaujolais category since day one. The value at $32 per bottle is always refreshing, as top producers in the region continue to climb. These 50-year-old vines are situated on blue volcanic soil and an unusually steep 48% grade slope. There's a blue-fruited quality to the Gamay that leads one to believe terroir can impart an undeniable sense of place.
Château Thivin’s roots date back to the 15th century, though it was in 1877 when Zaccharie Geoffrey purchased the two-hectare estate at auction that it began as we know it today. Geoffrey's grandson, Claude, was pivotal in creating the Côte de Brouilly appellation during the great depression, and the family has continued the production of this benchmark Côte de Brouilly. Kermit Lynch visited the domaine during his first trip on the wine route with Richard Olney in 1976.
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Dutraive's Bright Light: Clos de la Grand Cour
Jean-Louis Dutraive's entire stable of wines falls into the elite category of Cru Beaujolais. While he has various parcels in Fleurie, the Clos de la Grand Cour always thrills me for its lightness and ethereal pitch.
The Clos de la Grand Cour is a true walled-in vineyard, with up to 80-year-old vines growing on almost pure granite with a thin topsoil. The wine ages in 35% in stainless steel, 30% in fûts de chêne, and 30% foudres for 9 to 12 months. Lifted spices meet fresh raspberry and cherry to give a delicate wine with deep texture and a long finish.
Compared to other titans of Beaujolais, I find Dutraive's wines are often lighter in color, with more lifted spice and a wild, natural element that stands out due to a low sulfur protocol. I try to wait several years after release to tap into these top cuvées. Aged Dutraive is pure magic when fruit begins to fall to the background, and exotic spices become more prominent.
Fleurie Rising: 2020 Yann Bertrand
Cru Beaujolais has been a cornerstone of our selection from the start. While Foillard, Métras, Lapierre, and Dutraive represent the foundation for the greatest value reds in France, the younger generation is now clearly making its mark. Yann may be separated from the aforementioned because of age, but when you line up his wines, it's crystal clear these are commanding interpretations of terroir.
Yann grew up in Fleurie, but after studying commerce in school and traveling through the Alps, he never expected to circle back to become its generation's brightest talent. He found himself working in a wine shop, and surrounded by passionate people, the flames of curiosity were stoked. He spent time working under perhaps the region's most revered names: Yvon Métras and Jean Foillard. Like them, Yann knew that organic farming and traditional methods in the cellar would be his path forward.
In 1992, Yann's family purchased vineyards and slowly converted them to organic farming. Yann took a more active role in leading the domaine in 2013, and he began applying what he had soaked up from his apprenticeships. Similarly, Yann's style is one of elegance, silken texture, and laser focus, expressing each unique terroir in the Famille Bertrand stable.
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