|Big red: Artisanal serves a 1997 Clos de Thorins by the glass.
After three decades during which oversweet, unserious, bubblegum-flavored Beaujolais virtually flooded the American market, we're finally being treated to a renaissance from this most beautiful area of Burgundy. The excellent 1999 and 2000 vintages are proof of just how good the wines of Beaujolais really can be. (Two-thousand-one has proven to be something of a disaster climatically, so you'll want to snap up the best of these while you still can.)
My wish list begins with wines from the ever-growing number of committed small growers, many of them represented in the U.S. by that fine importer Alain Junguenet. Most of these folks own land in one or more of the ten crus of Beaujolais Morgon, Fleurie, and the like. Some also produce Beaujolais and
|2000 Beaujolais-Villages (Joel Rochette)
One of the best and most consistent Junguenet growers. His wines are light, elegant, pure, and long on the finish. $8.
2000 Chiroubles (Dom. Cheysson)
My favorite Chiroubles: Very light, very fine. Drink now. $13.
1999 Brouilly "Vieilles Vignes" (Dom. Ruet)
Old vine fruit from a fine domaine: blueberries, this time. $14.
1999 St-Amour (Dom. des Champs Grillés/ Revillon)
Lush, ripe, beautifully balanced. Redolent of red fruits and cocoa. $13.
2000 Morgon "Charmes" (Dom. Vincent
From J.J. Vincent, the greatest name in Pouilly-Fuissé, comes this super-duper Charmes. Chocolate and spice. $13.
2000 Fleurie "Clos de la Roilette" (Dom. Coudert)
Always one of my favorite Fleuries, this is already charming. Lilting, stylish wine.
2000 Morgon (Ch. de Belleville/ Jadot)
Another Jadot wine, though not from the Ch. des Jacques. It's not quite in that league either, but full of crunchy spiced fruit. $14.
1999 Brouilly "Pisse-Vieille" (Joel Rochette)
Yeah, it means what it says: "Go take a piss, Old Lady!" But it's damned good. Light, flottant (as the French say), and tobacco-y. $11.
1999/2000 Moulin-à-Vent (Joseph Drouhin)
Drouhin is one of the few Beaune-based shippers to make really good crus. This is tip-top stuff. Cocoa and spice. Will age too. $15.
1999 Moulin-à-Vent (Dom. des Terres Dorées/ Jean-Paul Brun)
This needs time, as usual with this excellent estate. The wine is dense, chewy, and impressive. $15.
Beaujolais-Villages. Before you dismiss these out of hand as "mere" Beaujolais, consider: In the hands of superb small growers like St-Amour's Jean-Guy Revillon, even the minor appellations will astonish you with the purity of their fruit. Just try Revillon's Beaujolais-Villages (about $10) - it's like a mouthful of ripe blueberries. You'll be shocked.
At the very top of the heap, though, are the very grand wines of the Chateau des Jacques in Moulin-à-Vent. Under the inspired ownership of Louis Jadot, the Ch. des Jacques has in the past few years gone from strength to strength. There's a good, if not exceptional, Beaujolais blanc, "Grand Clos de Loyse," and, of course, the usual, extremely consistent red blend that's simply labeled "Ch. des Jacques" and sells for about $17. But there are also five individual vineyard plots that are bottled separately. These are essentially restaurant wines -- and damnably hard to find otherwise -- but they are truly the greatest wines of the Beaujolais region, and they age remarkably.
The Ch. des Jacques quintet includes (in rough order of quality, climbing the ladder): "Clos de Champ de Cour," "Clos du Grand Carquelin," "Clos des Thorins," "Grand Clos de Rochegrès," and the often spectacular "Clos la Roche."
The restaurant Artisanal happened to be pouring the 1997 "Clos des Thorins" ($10 a glass) just the other day. It was brilliant. Any number of other three- and four-star restaurants also pour these wines or else offer them on the wine list. Retail, they'd sell for about $25 a bottle. Expect to spend $40 and up at table. And, oh, yes, expect to be astonished as well.