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My thesis for the current year has been Beaujolais, dedicating most of my allotted B-time in wine studies to Gamay… by learning all of its intricacies, from Cru to carbonic maceration. My love affair with this French red started a couple years ago but came to a head last Christmas when my parents purchased a case of Morgon from Marcel Lapierre—his last vintage—as a gift for me. That bottle changed the way I viewed Beaujolais forever and has been a guiding moment I hope to recapture. I have been so taken with Beaujolais, that I often try to orchestrate countless tastings amongst my wine groups and random friends around this star, championing the wine for its subtle complexities while maintaining a nonchalant deportment—as if I weren’t sad to be overruled! It’s a wine that I can count on to fit for most occasions like lighter poultry dishes, charcuterie (goat cheeses and cured meats) or even, sans food, as a drink sidekick with a good group of friends. Last week was no exception; I decided to host a group event, tasting through a flight of Beaujolais in the hopes of better understanding the Gamay grape and cinching up any loose bolts in my argument.

As a precursor to the tasting, I had purchased a bottle of 2009 Dupeuble Beaujolais (#148) to enjoy just days before my group would meet. Whetting my appetite, the wine was silky in texture and replete with red fruits and earthen characteristics. To pass the time, I read about Morgon and the legendary Côte du Py, a site geologically comprised of decomposed rock on a hillside within the greater appellation of Morgon—one of ten Cru appellations inside Beaujolais—the better to confidently present the wines I would be serving.

After the pleasurable amount of prepping I felt ready, nearly mastering my appellation, with knowledge just shy of a vigneron in Morgon, I was ready to say something about my selections. My choices fell safely under the umbrella of Kermit Lynch and his impressive catalog of Beaujolais producers that read like an all-star lineup. I was ready, until I learned that someone would be bringing a wine that might overlap with one of my selections. I amended the list on the fly, going with a preordained backup, this time from a different importer.

The day had arrived and the tasting commenced with a slight hiccup, one of the members had to cancel just prior to the event (this seems slight but when the group is comprised of three people it is kind of a big deal). We carried on, opening all the wines we had and ready/conferring on the drinking order. Beginning the night was a wine from Chenas, specifically a seven-fifty of 2009 Potel Aviron (#147). The red wine was extracted and deep, with candied fruit and cherry up front. The wine packed moderate tannins, boosted by medium body (deeper and fuller than expected), a little oak and long finish of cherry. It was an excellent bottle of wine and the most affordable of the set.

The following Beaujolais hailed from Morgon. A bottle of 2010 Jean Paul Thévenet’s Vielle Vignes (#146) was a little lighter than the previous Chenas in all senses of the term. The coloring was a transparent ruby that yielded dusty notes of licorice, leather, and hints of red fruit. On the palate there was a bit of curve, vibrant cherry appeared unannounced, jolting our palates. The wine was softer, less extracted with a light body and softer tannins, moderate oak and a lasting finish of Bing cherries. The previous bottle of Chenas dwarfed the body of the Morgon, leaving us a little underwhelmed and illustrating how crucial the tasting order can be.

Very quickly we transitioned into our final Beaujolais for the night, from the 2009 vintage (the heralded vendange) but sharing terroir. Bottled by Dominque Piron, sourcing the fruit from the mystical Côte du Py (#145) inside Morgon.  The wine poured a deeper garnet in the glass and had a limited amount of aromatics. In the mouth though, the wine was much more expressive, yielding a blend of strawberry and minerals, with firm (gripping) tannins, moderate acidity and leaving a long finish.

I learned that there was a noticeable difference in concentration between vintages; both 2009s shared richer, fuller palates that the 2010 did not wield. It is not to say that the 09s were so much better but it would definitely be easier to make a case for cellaring them. I was ecstatic about the showing of each Beaujolais, but then that was to be expected. Before the night finished, as was customary, I had ordered Thai food to serve with a chilled bottle of 2009 Bollig-Lehnert Kabinett Riesling (#144). The Thai carton contents were consistent and delicious for take-out—not quite Sapp Coffee Shop good—nevertheless, it was an enjoyable meal. The Riesling, though not the focus, was a destined partner for the spicy Thai food, the bracing acidity meshed brilliantly with the capsaicin, and the apple and mineral flavors chimed brightly on the palate to provide a refreshing surge after each bite of spicy shrimp in black bean sauce. A great segue.

The Cru wines had worn their stripes proudly, showing their finesse and structure, manifested into variegated notes of dusty fruits and earthier tones. The tasting provided a lesson on vintage, easily being able to discern the differences between the two younger years. As the holidays approach, Beaujolais becomes sine qua non of my (any) Thanksgiving dinner and while I am not yet to ready to close the books on my research I can tell you that these affordable Cru wines will continue to appear on the countdown.

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