Jean-Claude Lapalu's 100% Gamay wines stand out from the usual suspects' style largely because of his early influences. Although he idolized Jules Chauvet like all natural-minded Beaujolais producers, the wines that initially pulled him in were those such as Domaine Gramenon in Southern France.
In many ways, the domaine's positioning at the southern "Gateway to the Crus" harnesses the warmth and spirit endowed from the Rhone and Provence. Lapalu's entire range highlights those tell-tale Southern Cru Beaujolais lavender accents along with ripe cherry, plum, and an iron-inflected mineral finish.
Extraction through carbonic and semi-carbonic fermentation is kept modest. Aging vessels here range from glass-lined tanks to concrete, used barrique, and tonneaux. And sulfur is used very sparingly, often only in small amounts at bottling. These ultra-limited production cuvées may be difficult to source, but the pricing delivers a welcomed relief given their stellar quality!
Of all the glou-glou wines in France, Lapierre's Raisins Gaulois perfectly suits this funny badge. Glou-glou is the sound of wine leaving the bottleneck when poured rapidly, and also for the sound of one's gulping. Lapierre may turn out dead serious Morgon, but this Beaujolais from young vines is released early to harness all of the plump and delicious Gamay fruit with pricing that makes it easy to stock up on.
Nearly all of the vines tapped for Raisins Gaulois comes from within the esteemed cru of Morgon, with small amounts of fruit from the larger Beaujolais appellation. Like all Lapierre wines, this is from organically farmed land, fermented with native yeasts and whole clusters. These young vines provide that fruit-forward, rambunctious, and unctuous Gamay grapey personality (Yes, that's an apt descriptor).
Marcel took over his father's domaine in 1973. Then, his encounter with Jules Chauvet in 1981 launched a 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, yielding wines of authenticity and joie de vivre. Since 2010, Marcel's children Matthieu and Camille have carried on the natural approach that placed their father in the hearts of winemakers and enthusiasts across the globe.
From release through decades in bottle, no Cru Beaujolais producer consistently thrills like Jean Foillard. Young producers, like Yann Bertrand, call him a mentor, and other contemporaries call him the Morgon Master. Regardless of where your preferences lie within the unparalleled values found in Cru Beaujolais, Foillard is the benchmark.
Yes, Foillard's wines are breathtaking after decades in bottle, but the true gift of Cru Beaujolais is its unrivaled approachability upon release. These top cuvées will improve and transform with time, but for those who don't care to wait so long, the silky, harmonious, and pure-fruited elements and perfect focus from day one are how Foillard earned his fame. He offers the best of both worlds!
Pierre Cotton is a name in Beaujolais that deserves a close look from Cru Beaujolais purists and the ultra natural-focused crowd alike. The Wine Advocate's William Kelley once dubbed Cotton's wines as "carnal," an apt descriptor for these unique wines that have pushed the limits of how raw Gamay can be.
Pierre and Marine jumped at the chance to acquire La Chapelle, a small parcel at the very top of the Côte de Brouilly; this is the highest elevation vineyard in the appellation, located just before the small chapel at the top of the hill in Odenas. It is a supremely elegant Gamay with the same unique blue diorite terroir found in Les Grilles but at a higher altitude.
The wines are raw and feral yet exhibit the same satin texture and layered complexity you're likely to find in a bottle of Foillard or Lapierre. Alongside Yann Bertrand and Alex Foillard, Pierre Cotton is leading the new generation of Cru Beaujolais vignerons.
If 2009 was the watershed moment for Cru Beaujolais, then 2019 is a fitting vintage to compare to, now, ten years later. 2009's hot growing season naturally brought forward a bold, full, and ripe personality to the wines. This style pulled in many new Bojo drinkers, myself included.
Today, Cru Bojo fans are crossing their fingers annually in hopes of a relatively cool growing season that results in wild herbs, snappy, tart red fruit, and a pronounced mineral spine. Moving forward, 2019 is as good as it gets, folks. It was a hot growing season, but vignerons are much better-suited today to handle the threats from drought and burn. What stands out here versus recent vintages is a real sense of underlying tension that gives these a crisp form.
If you have to pick one producer who nailed this vintage's cooler-side-of-the-pillow potential, it is Guy Breton. Home to arguably the most graceful style of the region, Guy, better known as P'tit Max by his friends, is always one to pick on the earlier side and limit extraction, ensuring levity and freshness are the prime markers of his wines.
While some love the bursting Beaujolais style, the below producers are my favorites in 2019, having dug deep to find the most classic examples of the vintage!