The Age of Serious Cru Beaujolais Has Arrived – Tasting Chateau de Poncie Fleurie 2015…

It’s certainly Beaujolais’ moment in the spotlight with more and more Côte d’Or growers buying vineyards in the top Cru villages. As they invest in vineyards and production, the wines are getting more and more serious.

Chateau de Poncie is the latest reincarnation of Villa Ponciago, the estate in Fleurie bought by Champagne Henriot, who coincidently also own brands like Bouchard Pere et Fils. With Joseph Bouchard now actively involved in the Fleurie operations, quality seems to get better and better every vintage that passes.

The la Salomine vineyard is situated on a sloping hillside with a southeast exposure with very well draining soils composed of a pink granitic crystalline rock and quartz as well as a small proportion of clay. Cultivation of the vines is exclusively manual, due to the steep slope. Heavy natural soil erosion is checked by grassing over and mulching. Yields are naturally limited by the terroir to less than 35hl/ha.

After harvest, cold maceration takes place with one part whole bunches and one part with destalked bunches, followed by a fermentation of 10 to 15 days. Maturation is vintage dependant with 40% to 60% of wine aged in oak barrels, 100% of which are mature oak barrels of 1 to 4 years old. The remainder is matured for 12 to 13 months in small tanks to preserve freshness.

Chateau de Poncie Cru Fleurie 2015 La Salomine, 14 Abv.

Another blockbuster year, this is a bold Beaujolais with Pinot Noir depth and complexity. Gamay stepping up to the plate. Deep, dark dense nose of wood smoke, black berry, bramble fruits and dusty granitic mineral graphite lift. Palate is full, broad, expansive, features big bold concentrated flavours of fraises des bois, black cherry, blue berry crumble and opulent sweet supple tannins. Acids melt into the rich black fruit and just tickle your palate, keeping the finish vibrant, fresh and quite mouth watering. Very polished, accomplished wine making raising Beaujolais quality up a few notches (which will appeal to Pinot Noir lovers struggling with Burgundy’s eye watering red wine prices). Buy now, drink now… or cellar for 3 to 8 years for extra complexity.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Weddings and Fine Wine In the Heart of Burgundy’s Cru Beaujolais…

One of the great rewards of working in the wine trade are the diverse international friendships that are formed while tasting, buying and selling fine wine. This past weekend my wife and I packed our bags and boarded the Eurostar to attend the wedding of my Beaujolais buddy, Geoffray Benat. 


I recently wrote a post about Geoffray’s amazing bistro restaurant Cepages in Westbourne Park Road in Nottinghill, which you can read here…

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2016/11/21/cepages-wine-bistro-a-fantastic-new-addition-to-londons-food-and-wine-scene/

Geoffray and Erika

While Geoffray and his wife Erika now run their successful restaurant together, it was in one of his previous wine sales jobs many years ago that I first made my acquaintance with Geoffray. Of course, the fact that Geoffray’s father owned and ran the excellent Julienas estate of Domaine de Cotoyon was an added extra, and before very long, I was not only buying an array of Languedoc wines from Geoffray but also the superb wines of his father Frederic Benat, produced in Julienas and St Amour. Fast forward 6 or 7 years and finally it was time to visit Geoffray at home in Julienas to celebrate his wedding.

The family winery Domaine de Cotoyon


Vignerons are of course spoiled for choice for wedding wine selections when not only your own family make great wines, but also your best man and several of your close friends also attending the wedding. 

A double rainbow – a fortuitous good luck sign for the couple.
For those travelling from afar, we attended a lovely welcome dinner on the Friday evening at Geoffray’s parent’s house. This was a wonderfully casual family affair gathering outside in a marquee for dinner. The evening proved to be a very useful opportunity to meet all the extended friends and family. 

With Geoffray Benat at home the night before the wedding.
Frederic’s oak aged Julienas 2013
One of the best man’s wines …


Saturday the 1st of July was the big wedding day at the local Mairie or town hall, followed by a most impressively well planned celebratory dinner for 150 people at the local Chateau de Pruzilly.  

But first, an afternoon Vin d’Honneur in the Parc of Chateau Pruzilly followed, where a wider group of friends and family, not just those invited for the dinner, had the opportunity to congratulate the bride and groom with a glass or two of wine… in this case, the lovely Cuvee Reservee Methode Traditionnelle Sparking wine also made by Geoffray’s family. 


6.00pm signalled Champagne, Cocktails, and pre-dinner Canapés in the courtyard of Chateau Pruzilly before the grand banquet officially kicked off at 8pm. Once again, we were plied with never ending amounts of fine Champagne, white Burgundy made by Geoffray’s friends in the Maconnais, and of course magnums of Frederic Benat’s fantastic Cru Julienas 2015 Beaujolais. 

All the tables were named after the Cru’s of Beaujolais

Another prestige Cuvee from the best man.


What a wonderful event celebrating the marriage of a really lovely couple. Also encouraging to see how the whole local vigneron community of friends came out to support the Benat family in celebrating this happy union. 

Friday night quaffing with Frederic Benat
 

All good things must come to an end and so on Sunday we started the long trek back to Paris. A big thank you to Geoffray and Erika and the whole Benat family for your wonderfully welcoming hospitality. I look forward to visiting Beaujolais again soon! 

Alternative Burgundy Masterclass With Claire Naudin-Ferrand at London’s Cabotte Restaurant…

It all started 26 years ago when Claire, a Montpellier graduate, first started making wine. Her winery is located between the Cotes de Beaune and Cotes de Nuits, 9kms away from each. Claire has always focused on very minimalist intervention winemaking and only adds a very small amount of sulphur before bottling.

A sufferer of migraines, Claire first started experimenting with no sulphur winemaking in 2001, experimenting with Aligote. In 2002, she started to also make her reds without sulphur additions during winemaking. In 2016 she lost 70% of her fruit to frost, prompting her to start buying in Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes from St Pourcain. 


Bottled wines now typically contain 35ppm total SO2, with minimal amounts being added after Malolactic in reds. “Sulphur additions end the wine feeding itself off its lees and compacts the lees.” Long, slow 3 hour pressings allows the juice to oxidise, resulting in very stable wines. 


1 Le Clou 2015 (Patois for Clos)

Aligote 55-60 year old vines, 12.5 Abv. – Rich, honied white citrus, lemon blossom, and biscuits and pithy yellow peach and white toast complexity despite no oak use. Palate is taught, pithy, stony, and fresh with real vibrance but also density, ripeness and fleshy depth without losing its pithy, mineral saline briney edge. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


2 La Plante d’a Cote 2016

(Name of a young vine) 11 Abv. – Whole cluster fermentation with natural yeast. Rich perfumed nose of talc, musk, Parma violets, strawberry confit and smokey, chalky, sappy, minerality. Bottled early in Feb 2017, after ageing in fibreglass. Super sappy, saline, perfumed with a light textural touch, elegance and sleek, feminine purity and bright, stony, red cherry and red plum low alcohol vibrancy. Real ‘vin de soif’ drinkability. 

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


3 Le Gamay de L’Allie 2016

Aged in stainless steel, show lovely plummy, savoury red fruits, hints of reduction, cassis and black cherry nuances. Palate is pristine and pure, showing cherry sherbet, pink musk sweets, tantalising acids and wonderful uplifting freshness. Such an energising joy to drink.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


4 Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, Orchis Mascula 2014 – Beautiful dusty, fragrant melange, wet river pebbles, chalk board duster and stemmy sappy spice. Real lift and energy, cherry blossom, red apples, and tart red cherries. Texture is very polished and pristine, pinpoint tannins, and seductive smokey, chalky, crunchy red berry fruits. Very impressive interpretation of Pinot Noir.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


5 Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, Myosotis Arvensis 2013 – The 2013 is a more savoury, earthy expression, showing red currant, cured meats, strawberry compote and a complexing sappy, mineral limestone vein. Palate is dense and fleshy, broader and more leesy, savoury than the crunchy ’14. Lovely salty, saline hints of red cherry and salted strawberries, and smokey minerality linger on the long, sensual finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


6 Nuits-St-Georges Les Damodes 1er Cru 2012 – Dark dense wine instantly showing the Nuits power. Nose is packed full of black damson plum, red apple purée, raspberry confit, savoury frais de bois and hints of sap and cured meats with dusty wet river pebble minerality. Palate is vibrant, crunchy and super saline, with perfumed black fruits and chalky, limestone notes. The texture is super suave, the balance intense, pure and harmonious with a chalky, dry powdery tannin finish. A masculine styled wine with a feminine touch.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

With Claire at Cabotte Restaurant

The talented Cabotte head chef
Fellow revellers, Ruth Spivey and David Clawson from the Remedy Wine Bar.

Domaine de Botheland from Remi & Laurence Dufaitre ~ Another Impressive Cru Beaujolais Red…

This is an exciting domaine managed by Remi and his wife Laurence Dufaitre. They farm around 11 hectares of Gamay naturally, with Remi shunning the use of innoculated yeasts and the use of SO2 in around 2010. 


Jean Foillard, 15 minutes away down the road, has had a big influence on Remi and they see each other almost daily. In 2014 they produced 450 hectolitres of wine from 60 year old average aged Gamay vines. 


L & R Dufaitre Brouilly Cru Beaujolais 2015, 13 Abv. 

Tasting Note: This 2015 has a rich dark seductive opaque red – black plum colour. The nose is so effusive, bursting with liquid strawberry coulis, strawberry jam, ground black pepper corns, and a complex undertone of cognac wood spice, mulled oranges and dried orange citrus peel. With such an alluring nose, there was no doubting that the palate packed a Gamay punch. It’s beautifully dense, fleshy, and mouth filling. All the cognac spice notes are there, with graphite, wild forest frais de bois, black current, grey slate and soft acids, pithy peppery mineral tannins and a long, rich, concentrated finish that goes on and on. This a lovely wine from a smashing Bojo vintage. Serious kit! (Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Burgundy… but not as you know it – The Beaujolais Revival 2016

I read last week that Beaujolais shipments to the UK had risen +18% year-on-year signalling a mini tidal wave of producer tastings, producer visits and generic body promotions. 

In reality, the reason for this growth is surely no more than wine lovers realising that Beaujolais is actually part of Burgundy and that it’s signature red grape Gamay, is one of the most delicious varieties known to man… at a steal of a price!

Then of course there is the on going battle Burgundians face in pricing their minuscule production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay every year. Demand has long outstripped supply and prices have had to go in one inevitable direction… upwards.


But old vine Gamay, in the hands of a fanatical producer, and the ranks are growing, can produce absolute wines of wonder. With Cru Beaujolais from top producers like Yvon Metras, Lapalu, Lafarge, Ligier-Belair, Foillard, and Lapierre etc., you can easily drink 80-100 year old vieilles vignes Cru Gamay wines with the weight and concentration of 1er Cru Burgundy, and that show similar minerality, tension and complexity.

We all fear change. But in actual fact, life is based on change. We are born, we become adults, grow old and then depart for greener pastures. At every stage of our lives we are confronted with change. The wine world too is evolving and changing yearly. Fashions change, consumers migrate between styles, and unloved regions suddenly become hip as drinkers discover their quality offerings. 


What is certain, is that now is the best time to immerse yourself into the world of fine Grower Cru Beaujolais, because like all things of quality, it’s popularity will reach an apex soon and then prices will have to rise. But at least you will be able to say you had drunk your fill!