Putting the Beau in Beaujolais: Tasting the 2015 vintage

27 April 2017

After a string of difficult vintages, there’s real excitement in Beaujolais about the 2015s. But are they worth the hype? Clinton Cawood joins a team of sommeliers to find out


While some may still remember some of the more questionable style decisions perpetrated by winemakers in Beaujolais over the years, these are no longer a reflection of what this region can do.
The seemingly delicate and demure Gamay reveals a surprisingly broad range of styles throughout the region, from elegant Fleurie to the more muscular, tannic Moulin-à-Vent, so you end up with a range of wines with incredibly diverse food-matching potential.

And while prices in nearby regions continue to soar – we’re looking at you, Burgundy – Beaujolais’ output remains comparatively affordable – sometimes extraordinarily so.The net result is a region that ticks a lot of the boxes for a lot of the on-trade, with options for everywhere from gastropubs to fine-dining wine lists.

Combine this with an unseasonably warm 2015, giving the wines more ripeness than previous years, and you’ve got the makings of an optimistic panel of sommeliers, ready to explore this underappreciated region. They weren’t disappointed.


Panel

Maxwell Allwood, Alimentum; Massimo Cappai, Vinoteca; Clinton Cawood, Imbibe; Tamas Nemeth, Bread Street Kitchen; Charles Pashby-Taylor, Dabbous;
Yohann Pinol, Wiltons; Mattia Scarpazza, Petersham Nursery


How it works

We asked UK agents to submit Beaujolais 2015 from their portfolios – anything from Beaujolais-Villages upwards. Wines were evaluated blind, with tasters aware of each wine’s cru and price. Each was scored out of 20, taking value for money into account. Scores were then collated to obtain a percentage score. All prices listed are ex-VAT trade.


Results

Beaujolais-Villages

77 Louis Jadot, Combe aux Jacques Beaujolais-Villages 2015
‘Lots of ripe fruit, as well as a preserved cherry note and a touch of forest floor. Clean, bright cherry fruit follows on the palate, with some elegant tannins and some light citrus notes too, very food friendly,’ CC. ‘A pronounced nose, with cherry, raspberry and kirsch, leading to a powerful palate. This has the structure to be paired with red meat,’ MC.
£9.05, Matthew Clark, 0344 844 3910

76 Jean Loron, Château de la Pierre Beaujolais-Villages 2015
‘Easy-drinking and fruit forward, with some fresh acidity. This would be a great by-the-glass option in a wine bar,’ TN. ‘A deep, ruby wine, with red fruit and some light spicy notes. A very pleasant, entry-level wine, and good value too,’ YP.
£6.88, Hayward Bros Wines, 020 7237 0576

76 Olivier Ravier, Beaujolais-Villages 2015
‘Subtle at first, with some floral undertones, as well as some raspberry. High acidity and tannins are joined by some fresh fruit. A lovely, welcoming wine,’ MS. ‘A very aromatic wine, with lovely berry notes. Full of fresh fruit flavours with some elegant tannins,’ YP.
£8.79, Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines, 01582 722538

74 Jean-Marc Burgaud, Les Vignes de Thulon Beaujolais Villages 2015
‘Ripe fruit on the nose, with an appealing vegetal note too. A palate packed with juicy red fruit – redcurrants in particular – as well as some bracing acidity, and all at a great price,’ CC. ‘Ripe fruit – especially raspberries. There’s freshness on the palate, with silky tannins and a good finish. Suitable for fish dishes.’ MS.
£8.50, Fields, Morris & Verdin, 020 7819 0360

74 Nicolas Potel, Beaujolais Villages 2015
‘Lots of dark fruit on the nose here, leading to a light and fruity palate, with medium acidity. This would work with white meat or rich fish dishes,’ TN. ‘Some straightforward raspberry aromas are joined by some cinnamon spice. I’d have this slightly chilled as an aperitif,’ MC.
£7.58, Charles Taylor Wines, 020 7821 1772

Brouilly

91 Domaine de Botheland, Laurence & Rémi Dufaitre Brouilly 2015
‘Ripe cherries on the nose lead to an even fruitier palate, with more cherries and a touch of savouriness. Quite dry overall, with some good acidity, and a finish characterised by plum and cinnamon,’ TN. ‘Kirsch and cinnamon join red fruit on the nose, leading to a juicy, mouth-watering palate. A great match for slow-cooked rabbit,’ MC.
£15.30, Les Caves de Pyrene, 01483 538820

90 Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu, Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2015
‘A velvet-smooth nose, with great depth and a pencil-shaving note. This is continued onto the palate, with both voluptuousness and finesse. Worth paying the extra few pounds for,’ CP. ‘There’s an abundance of both herbal and fruity notes on both nose and palate, but the most appealing element is a distinct minerality on the palate. A very nicely made wine,’ CC.
£14.63, Les Caves de Pyrene, 01483 538820

82 Jean Loron, Château de la Pierre Brouilly 2015
‘There are some features of carbonic maceration here, such as kirsch and banana, with some fresh red berries too. Nice acidity, but the most impressive feature is the long, pleasurable finish. A match for a light vegetable pasta,’ MC. ‘There’s good intensity here, despite a gentle character overall, with cherry and strawberry fruit, and a hint of blackberry too. An easy-drinking wine,’ YP.
£8.95, Hayward Bros Wines, 020 7237 0576

76 Château de Bellevue, Old Vines Brouilly 2015
‘Lots of red berries on the nose give this a freshness, leading to a light, slightly savoury palate, with fresh acidity and a long finish. Good with roast chicken or pork,’ TN. ‘There’s some earthy complexity on the palate, and real concentration, with some dark fruit and a silky texture. A well-structured and impressive wine, and a lot of value for that price,’ MA.
£9.50, Hayward Bros Wines, 020 7237 0576

74 Domaine de la Tour Saint Lager, Brouilly 2015
‘Strawberry notes on the nose, as well as a slightly meaty note, with a touch of juniper. The palate’s full of redcurrant, with a nice level of spice,’ CP. ‘Cool, blueberry fruit and a mineral nose leads to a very appetising, savoury-style palate, with juicy acidity. This would pair well with a ragu pasta,’ MA.
£11.25, New Generation McKinley, 020 7928 7300

74 Château de la Chaize, Brouilly 2015
‘Red berries on a very pleasant nose, leading to ripe fruit and good balance on the palate, joined by silky tannins and some nice freshness on the finish. Great with lamb and a red-fruit sauce,’ YP. ‘A delicate nose, leading to a lithe and pretty palate, with juicy red cherry notes and a minerality on the finish,’ MA.
£12.57, Top Selection, 0845 410 3255

73 Jacques Charlet, Domaine de la Maison Rose Brouilly 2015
‘Pretty, perfumed cherry fruit, and a touch of milk chocolate too. The palate’s light, with good acidity – clean and juicy, making this a good by-the-glass option, and perfectly capable of being served on its own,’ CC. ‘The wine’s concentrated candied strawberry aromas are joined by some floral, lilac notes, leading to a very fruity palate,’ MA.
£9.50, Hayward Bros Wines, 020 7237 0576

73 Château de la Chaize, Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2015
‘Not too pronounced, although with quite a complex bouquet that makes me consider its future development. Raspberry, balsamic, sweet spice and leather come through on the round palate. Ideal for braised turkey,’ MC. ‘There are flattering aromas of fresh fruit and black pepper, leading to some elegant tannins on the palate. These are joined by subtle spicy notes, leading to a rich, long finish. This will match perfectly with game cooked in a rich sauce,’ YP.
£15.36, Top Selection, 0845 410 3255

Fleurie

86 Domaine des Fonds, Fleurie ‘La Madone’ 2015
‘A Burgundian-style nose, kissed by oak and with complex fruit. Very floral and perfumed too, leading to a silky and delicious palate. A really elegant wine – there’s tannin and structure, but no brawn,’ MA. ‘Raspberries and clove spice lead to a light body with silky tannins. A fresh and floral wine, but with enough structure to pair with red meat,’ MS.
£12.50, New Generation McKinley, 020 7928 7300

84 Domaine Berrod, Fleurie 2015
‘Very fresh on the nose – this smells like a winery, and there are some lees notes too. There’s good, quite complex fruit, and a well-textured palate. A wine that does the “non-intervention” thing rather nicely,’ MA. ‘Aromas prioritising sweet spice over fruit. A powerful nose, leading to an intense palate, with a sweet sensation from the spice and fruit, balanced by grippy tannins that add a touch of bitterness. A wine I’d choose for a grilled vegetable dish,’ MC.
£14.95, Alliance Wine, 01505 506060

84 Domaine du Vissoux, Fleurie Poncié 2015
‘Interesting fruit on the nose, with hints of grape seed and freshly cut pine tree. There’s lovely balance between acidity and fruit. As close to Burgundy as you can expect to find; among the more expensive Fleuries, but you get what you pay for!’ CP. ‘A very pleasant nose of black fruit, spice and a touch of smokiness. Well balanced, with rounded tannins and interesting complexity, with dark fruit and some smokiness on the finish,’ YP.
£13.66, Enotria&Coe, 020 8961 5161

82 Château de Grand Pré, Fleurie 2015
‘Well-defined floral notes – violets and roses, for example – as well as red fruit. Light and fresh on the palate, with good tannins and good persistence. A great by-the-glass offering to go with fish dishes,’ MS. ‘Rich and complex aromas, leading to big structure on the palate, with spice and ripe, dark fruits, as well as a touch of leather and some smooth tannins,’ YP.
£13.55, Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines, 01582 722538

81 Domaine Métrat et Fils, La Roilette Fleurie Vieilles Vignes 2015
‘A complex nose, and an explosion of flavour on the palate – an elegant mix between red and black berries, spices, and a touch of leather. A match for venison au poivre or pheasant with a red fruit sauce,’ YP. ‘A herbal, almost eucalyptus note shows itself first, followed by sweet cherry notes. There’s no shortage of fruit on the palate either. An elegant, well-balanced wine,’ CC.
£10.40, Fields, Morris & Verdin, 020 7819 0360

80 Château de Bellevue, Climat Montgenas Fleurie 2015
‘A big, fruity nose, packed with crushed ripe raspberries, leading to some floral notes coming through on the palate, along with a fair amount of fine tannins. This could pair nicely with a delicately sauced duck breast,’ MA. ‘Some good floral and red-fruit aromas – a fresh nose, as you’d expect from Beaujolais. Well made, with some good depth on the palate, and more floral character,’ MS.
£9.54, Hayward Bros Wines, 020 7237 0576

80 Clos des Quatres Vents, Fleurie 2015
‘Fresh berry aromas, leading to a dry and lean palate, with fresh acidity and flavours of sour cherries, leading to a relatively long finish,’ TN. ‘Fresh flowers and raspberries on the nose, as well as some sweet spice. This leads to good tannins and some riper fruit on the palate. A delicate and complex wine,’ MS.
£10.86, Berkmann Wine Cellars, 020 7609 4711

77 Jacques Charlet, Domaine de la Viroylette Fleurie 2015
‘Beautiful ripe fruit, with good intensity. The palate is very elegant, with smooth and silky tannins and a touch of spice at the end,’ YP. ‘Great tannin structure on the front of the palate, with quite ripe fruit, and enough stalky greenness to keep it fresh. A wine with a lot of potential, considering it’s under £10,’ CP.
£9.77, Hayward Bros Wines, 020 7237 0576

75 Lucien Lardy, Les Roches Fleurie 2015
‘Waxy red-fruit aromas, leading to some sweet cherry notes on the juicy, fresh palate. There’s some serious acidity here, with significant tannins joining later. A good food wine, with enough freshness to tackle oily dishes,’ CC. ‘A bit of black pepper on the nose, leading to a lean palate with a lingering finish, with more hints of pepper, cherries and some great acidity. Great value for money, and would pair well with any white meat,’ TN.
£9.90, Genesis Wines, 020 7963 9060

71 La Reine de l’Arenite, La Madone 2015
‘Full on the nose, with nice notes of vanilla and lightly toasted oak. The palate follows with lovely ripe blueberries, as well as some ripe tannins,’ CP. ‘Attractive lilac and pink-pepper perfume leads to a silky texture, finishing with a bite of tannin and acidity. A lovely wine to enjoy slightly chilled with some charcuterie,’ MA.
£7.14, Boutinot, 0161 908 1300

66 Henry Fessy, Château des Labourons Fleurie 2015
‘Cherry notes are prevalent on the nose, but with a light cocoa note too, as well as a touch of menthol. Characterful on the nose, leading to juicy cherry notes on the palate, with well-balanced tannins and some subtle herbal notes,’ CC. ‘A peppery, spicy nose, with classic red fruits. A pleasant palate and quite drinkable,’ MA.
£11.05, Louis Latour Agencies, 020 7409 7276

Morgan

84 Henry Fessy, Morgon 2015
‘There are some attractive floral notes as well as some light red fruit on this very appealing nose, which belies a rather more substantial palate. This is packed with fruit, joined by a hint of herbs,’ CC. ‘As expected, this Morgon has strong character, with classic red berries and sweet spices on the nose. Some strong minerality comes through, too – probably a result of granite soils,’ MC.
£9.47, Louis Latour Agencies, 020 7409 7276

81 Domaine de la Tour des Bans, Morgon 2015
‘Fresh violet flowers and candied fruit, as well as some spice notes. This leads to some well-defined tannins on the palate, as well as more fresh fruit. Ideal with game dishes,’ MS. ‘Complex aromas of ripe fruit lead to a full, dense mouthfeel that’s balanced by a touch of spiciness. I’d serve this with a côte de boeuf grilled on the barbecue,’ YP.
£11, New Generation McKinley, 020 7928 7300

Moulin-à-vent

78 Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Couvent des Thorins 2015
‘The nose is complex, if not very pronounced, with blackberry and raspberry as well as clove and leather, and a mineral element too. This is powerful on the palate, though, with well-balanced acidity, tannin and flavour. intense, with a finish that lasts. Can be drunk now, but I’d like to try it in three to four years,’ MC. ‘Very fresh, with great acidity and really good balance. Although it needs some time in the bottle,’ TN.
£10.95, Flint Wines, 020 7582 2500

75 Henry Fessy, Moulin-à-Vent 2015
‘Subtle kirsch notes, as well as cooked strawberries, anise and a hint of rose, joined by substantial tannins,’ MS. ‘A floral aroma joins some concentrated red fruit, although this is actually quite light on the palate, with red fruit and a silky texture, as well as some big acidity. There’s a herbal note to the finish, rounding off a very approachable wine,’ CC.
£10.32, Louis Latour Agencies, 020 7409 7276

Sr-Amour

81 Domaine des Fonds, St-Amour 2015
‘The nose is green and stalky, but in a refreshing way. The palate leads on in a similar style, with a pleasant redcurrant undertone. There’s good, balanced acidity too,’ CP. ‘Soft blackberry fruit leads to a soft yet fresh palate that’s silky and with well-defined fruit. A wine to serve with pigeon cooked with berry fruit,’ MS.
£12, New Generation McKinley, 020 7928 7300

80 Domaine des Pins, St-Amour 2015
‘Perfumed, with fallen fruit such as berries and red apple. A substantial body for Gamay, with more apple on the palate, and a hint of dried apricot too. On the pricey side, but a good substitute for New World Pinot Noir,’ CP. ‘A ripe, red cherry nose, joined by some earthiness and spice. There’s lush fruit on the palate, given tension by granitic minerality,’ MA.
£12.25, New Generation McKinley, 020 7928 7300

78 Jean Loron, Domaine des Billards St-Amour 2015
‘A perfumed nose, with some red fruit in evidence, too. A light wine, with high acidity and a good finish,’ TN. ‘Some savoury notes of bark and tea leaf on the nose, leading to good citrus acidity, with lime and bergamot on the palate. An excellent food wine,’ CP.
£9.77, Hayward Bros Wines, 020 7237 0576

77 Domaine des Pierres, Trichard St-Amour 2015
‘Rich, almost waxy fruit – cherries and blueberries, mainly – on both nose and palate. A soft, fruity wine, with some mouth-puckering acidity towards the finish. There’s enough substance here to handle some red meat – a rare burger, maybe,’ CC. ‘Blue fruit and hints of coffee on the nose. A concentrated, very ripe wine – almost hedonistic for its category. Maybe not as fresh as others here, but some would like its richness,’ MA.
£11.63, Tanners Wines, 01743 234400

73 Château de Belleverne, Le Cru des Amoureux 2015
‘Pronounced red fruit aromas, but also showing some tertiary, savoury characteristics that make me think this would improve with some bottle age. More powerful on the palate with medium tannins. Chewy, with an excellent finish, starting with red fruit and finishing with cinnamon,’ MC. ‘A nice creamy nose, with a bit of white pepper. This leads to a palate that’s light and dry,’ TN.
£7.79, Boutinot, 0161 908 1300


Conclusions

These were some of the highest scores we’ve seen in an Imbibe wine tasting, proof that this is a region hitting all the right notes for the UK on-trade, in terms of style, price and food-matching potential. The two largest flights, Fleurie and Brouilly, both averaged out to around 79%.

The Beaujolais-Villages were praised in particular for their excellent value for money, with some great candidates for house wines or by-the-glass offerings.

Fleurie started to score well around the £10 mark, continuing to increase in quality as price increased. Scores generally did increase with price across all crus featured, with some exceptions in

Brouilly, where some of the lower-priced wines punched well above their weight. Food matches varied widely, from the expected lighter dishes all the way to far richer game and beef recommendations. Tasters felt there was a lot of potential here, although a lack of consumer education about the region is a challenge.


Panel comments

Maxwell Allwood, Alimentum
‘All the crus were quite different. I thought the best stuff was from Fleurie: they were ripe, elegant and fresh, with good typicity. You have to be careful, because everyone thinks all Beaujolais wines
are light and without tannin – and that’s not the case.’

Massimo Cappai, Vinoteca
‘I wasn’t expecting quite so much potential for development, as we saw with the Moulin-à-Vents, for example. And there was definite food-matching potential throughout. Thin-skinned Gamay shouldn’t work with heavy meat dishes, but there were some I’d pair with beef.’

Clinton Cawood, Imbibe
‘This vintage clearly lives up to the hype, but it’s good to see that Beaujolais is still offering some serious value for money, hitting the right price points for the on-trade. The Fleurie flight, for example, really hit its stride at the £10-11 mark. There was an abundance of good by-the-glass options, and even a house wine candidate or two.’

Tamas Nemeth, Bread Street Kitchen
‘What I’ve been finding in the City lately is people asking for chilled Beaujolais. I sell a lot of Brouilly, which people know, but of course Moulin-à-Vent comes at a higher price point. At the other end, I thought the Villages wines were great – they’re real crowd pleasers.’

Charles Pashby-Taylor, Dabbous
‘Beaujolais has come a long way in the past few years. They’ve been moving away from that bubblegum character to a more voluptuous style. They’re much more Burgundian, and with price increases in Burgundy over the past three years, people will start to look around. And sommeliers will realise there’s more to the category than the Villages wines.’

Yohann Pinol, Wiltons
‘This was definitely a successful year in Beaujolais. It was also a warm year, and you could tell from the wines that the grapes were perfectly ripe. I think some of the wines we tasted today deserve a place on the most prestigious wine lists, and I’m looking forward to the sun coming back so I can enjoy some of them on a terrace.’

Mattia Scarpazza, Petersham Nursery
‘The wines here performed well, from the easy-drinking and well-priced Villages wines to Brouilly, with more personality and complexity. For the on-trade, Beaujolais is definitely worth exploring more – there was some good food-matching potential overall, particularly from Saint-Amour, with its freshness and good levels of alcohol.’


Many thanks to the team at Dabbous for hosting the tasting and for all of their help on the day.

Related articles

Wine

Beaujolais 2015 vintage 'one of the best ever'

Beaujolais' 2015 vintage has been hailed as one of the best ever in the region by one of the region's most respected winemakers.[caption id="attachmen

Wine

Beaujolais faces tough future despite 'exceptional' 2015

The 2015 vintage is set to be one of the great Beaujolais years – but even this might not be enough to save the region from further heartache, accordi

Spirits & Cocktails

Beaujolais and beyond: Imbibe's top picks from the Louis Latour tasting

Last week, Louis Latour Agencies brought its annual portfolio tasting to the OXO Tower, showcasing the selection of wines and cognacs in its range.

Wine

Bojo's back! The revival of Beaujolais

Twenty years ago Beaujolais’ wineries were closing and its vineyards being abandoned. But now, demand is soaring, particularly in the on-trade.