Thursday, 16 January 2014

Buyer's Report: Maddie on Beaujolais

I find France exhilarating in the winter. The sun seems permanently low in the sky, only occasionally lifting up a corner of the grey blanket of cloud to cast a ray of hope on the bleak desolate vines. I love the acres of bare, gnarled stumps, knowing that they bear the promise of  another year of flowers and grapes and wine. I love the towns, impossibly quiet, boarded up and hibernating; the only sign of life being the curls of smoke rising from the vines while the growers get on with their pruning. Finding a spot for lunch or dinner is a veritable treasure hunt – not always easy but once you find that elusive menu outside with a light on within, you know it will be buzzing with locals celebrating the brief respite from hordes of tourists.

Beaujolais in January was just like this – the roads were all but deserted, making the journeys between appointments calm and relaxing. The growers, too, seemed relaxed, having gotten through the busy periods of harvest and Christmas and taking a deep breath for a couple of months to leisurely tend to their vines. Every visit felt like seeing an old friend, even with those I have never met. The wines, too, were oh-so-delicious, bright fruit shining out of the glass in a chilly tasting room. Beaujolais wines are certainly among the most pleasant to taste in youth!

After a trifecta of stunning vintages in 2009, 2010, 2011, there was a slightly less successful vintage in 2012. Conditions were difficult, there was not a lot of wine made and quality is variable. Those who succeeded, however, like our own Gravallon Lathuiliere, made pretty, elegant wines with lighter body and lovely freshness. 2013 was also tricky and also small, but successful across the board, with lovely richness of fruit and balance. Having run down our stocks of Beaujolais over Christmas, it was a great opportunity to ‘go shopping’ – so look out for a wide selection of 2012 and 2013 vintage wines coming in to stock over the next few months, including Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages, and a selection of crus. We’ll have a big ‘launch’ in our May mailing – very exciting!

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