When Laura Staley began organizing a French wine tasting for her guests at Island Creek Oyster Bar in Burlington, she had Beaujolais — and the gamay grape — in mind.
“One of the things I find most remarkable is to see producers [there] making so many different styles,” enthuses the restaurant’s wine director. “It’s one grape done in so many different ways. It’s incredible.”
Staley knows that when people hear Beaujolais, many think of Beaujolais Nouveau, the freshly vinified, tutti-frutti-scented pour released on the third Thursday of November. While that young wine is in frenzied demand every year, the hype, she says, feels “played out.” The wine pro is passionate about Cru Beaujolais: 100 percent gamay wines that hail from 10 villages in the northern half of the region between Burgundy and the city of Lyon.
Last month, on a Sunday afternoon at the restaurant, Staley and her team hosted “Beaujolais Soirée,” showcasing more than 30 wines from all 10 crus: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. Nearly a hundred enthusiastic attendees, glasses in hand, circulated among tables. Stylish chalk maps indicated the cru being poured at each. Staley’s industry colleagues — including a few from New York — poured wine and chatted with guests.
Pourers talked animatedly about soils and growing conditions that make each subregion distinct. In Chiroubles, for example, granite and gorrhe soils — combined with cool temperatures because of higher elevations — result in lighter, more delicate wines. Brouilly, the southernmost cru with volcanic rock soils, experiences more warmth. Its wines taste sunny and generous. Attendees appreciated the opportunity to make side-by-side comparisons and experience the differences between appellations.
While it’s common for the crus to retail in the $30 to $40 range, delicious bottles — like those featured below — are priced in the $20s. Each is distinct — and offers an intriguing glimpse into its respective cru.
Domaine de Colette “Le Mont” Moulin-à-Vent 2015 Fourth-generation winemaker Jacky Gauthier owns Domaine de Colette with his wife, Evelyne, crafting pours from several cru villages, including Moulin-à-Vent. Savory, meaty notes combine with roses and violets, leading to a structured dark fruit palate with appealing weight. Around $20. At The Spirited Gourmet, Belmont, 617-489-9463; Bauer Wine & Spirits, Back Bay, 617-262-0363.
Anne-Sophie Dubois “Clepsydre” Fleurie 2016 Anne-Sophie Dubois is making her mark as a next-generation winegrower in Beaujolais. Born in Champagne, she learned to make wine in Burgundy, and now calls Fleurie home. Aromatically enticing with saffron, fennel frond, and dried violets, her “Clepsydre” — named for an ancient water clock — is lithe and bright, full of plush red fruits and warm spices. Around $27. At West Concord Liquors, Concord, 978-369-3872; The Spirited Gourmet.
Domaine de Bellevue “Les Charmes” Morgon 2014 When fourth-generation winemaker Raphael Saint Cyr took over the family estate at the southern edge of Beaujolais, he set his sights on acquiring plots among the cru villages farther north. His Morgon, from the climat of Les Charmes, is pure and inviting, full of crunchy red plum and savory white pepper notes. Around $25. At Berman’s Fine Wines & Spirits, Lexington, 781-862-0515; Art’s Specialties, Belmont, 617-484-0435.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.