The Fall, Rise and Fall of Beaujolais

she ruled the 60s

she ruled the 60s

Beaujolais has been forgotten more often than whatshisname. Beauj wines were top shelf in the 14th century until the Burgundy farmers chased the Gamay Noir grape – crossed with the blessed Pinot Noir – and its wannabe producers south. Gamay lost its prestige in the wake of Marie Antoinette’s gehackt kopf.

Gamay grown south of Burgundy can produce a lovely light to medium weight red wine with floral qualities and the requisite acid to buck it all up. Until the 1960s. Yearning for fanfare the Beaujolais producers led by Georges Dubouef came up with Beaujolais Nouveau which became fashionable as Twiggy. And half as interesting. This pompy silly era was Fall #1 for Beaujolais in the Modern Era: Beaj Nouveau. Like the Beatles, still popular.

The Rise. In 2006 the earth around Beaujolais began to move. Suddenly, gratefully, amidst an avalanche of rocketing collector prices and the relentless quest to win a Parker 100 point score, Beaujolais winemakers began producing some very nice wines. The value quotient (VQ) was an island in a sea of [ed. better metaphor please] an outpost in a wilderness of [ed. not wilderness] an outpost in the back country of forgotten appellations. Gamay returned to wine snobs. The 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages were superb. The ten crus offered more variety than Bourdeaux along with far better pricing and far more availability. Superb Gamay cru wines were priced near $15. Beaujolais was on the RISE.

Fall #2. The 2008 economic crash took about 18 months for Parker and the Wine Speculator to concede the 100 point game was over. Tostado. This should have been the tipping point when Beaujolais secured its new position as leader in the quality and value game. But it did not. Instead, the producers raised prices. Dumb. Da Dumb. Dumb. The market was in their hands… and they let it slip away. The last vintages we bought were 2009 2010. We are tasting through them now with no plans to replenish.

Very good Beaujolais costs close to $30. At the same time we are buying outrageously great Chablis for the same price. And super Red Burg for the same price and up to $10 more… except we are buying wines Beaujolais will never become, except for Clos de la Roilette which we still buy. Welcome to the new top shelf.

Here are two more wines from the Not Ready For Prime Time Tasting.

Ridge-Montebello-00WEB2000 Ridge Montebello $120: A-L-M-O-S-T R-E-A-D-Y. At 14 years this wine can be enjoyed. Ridge Montebello is regarded as the Lafite of US wines. Justifiably so. This wine was gorgeous, not voluptious, not lean. Classically beautiful, something like Lauren Bacall. Perfect California mountain blend with just enough oak to give it the classic style. Last domestic Cabernet we had like this was the 1987 Dunn Howell in mag. Dunn is more rustic. Montebello more refined. Truly spectacular wine and not Bordeaux. Honestly. At $120 and being the benchmark for California GREATNESS in wine, this is a bargain. 13.5%

Tondonia-91WEB1991 Lopez de Herredia Tondonia $105 (sorry, it’s a secret for now): tBoW asked Goldun will this wine be ready in another 10 years? “Maybe 100” came the comeback. 23 years in the bottle and the color is not even golden. Yellow as a five year old Chablis. Flavors enchanting but the wine is n-o-t r-e-a-d-y. We must have another bottle taking into account predicted auto-longevity and the likelihood I will be around to enjoy with the Geezer Troop. 13%

Maybe this could also be “the discrete charm of the Beaujolais?” Cue the electric sitars please. It’s all… so beautiful.

4 Comments

  1. Wavatar
    Mouse says:

    I have two Ridge 2001s resting comfortably. Tanzer, I believe it was, wrote that drinking this before 2016 would be infanticide. One of my favorite wine lines. BTW, drank a 2005 Graziano chenin blanc from California. Rocked, and could have lasted 10 years easily. One of the best examples of California managing acid levels. Paid about $8 for it about 5 years ago.

    • Wavatar
      Bacchus says:

      I once read that Ridge is the first of the Calif First Growths. I have never been able to identify which one it would be. Not Mouton, not Latour, nor Marguax or Lafite. Haut Brion is closest in meme although not really the same (I’m making a poem). Ridge stands apart from all Napa Cabs. Please save an 01 for someone who blabs.

      Ridge is akin to a mountain wine with finesse. Closest to it that I can come up with is Philip Togni, although I prefer Ridge.

  2. Wavatar
    Kris-B says:

    A little harsh on the bojos!

    • Wavatar
      Bacchus says:

      They had us in their palms. They were an island of fiscal safety and vinous quality; as if the Maldives were run by Brits again [ed. he did not write that.] The they blew it. There is an interesting sidebar on the Georges Dubouef financial scandal which may have application. In any case, as you know, the lone reliable high quality Bojo is Roillette that also used to cost low to sub $20s. For tBoW this is a wistful memory. Thank you for your comment.

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