A NY Times #1 Best Value Pick!
Clos Les Farges Chiroubles 2006
By Cynthia Hurley
New York Times #1 "Best Value" Pick
Chiroubles' favorite site above all the other Beaujolais Grand Cru Vineyards
"Lively and substantial with flavors of berries, flowers, mineral and licorice." -Eric Asimov, wine columnist, The New York Times
Eric Asimov scoured the Beaujolais countryside for days and - from a sea of contenders - singled out our Domaine Cheysson Chiroubles as the Best Value in Beaujolais. This is big news. What? You're not getting your corkscrew ready!?
You may think you know Beaujolais, but odds say you're wrong.
I'm not writing here about Beaujolais Nouveau or just plain Beaujolais or even Beaujolais Villages. I am writing here about Cru Beaujolais. This is a wine that can best a lot of Bourgogne Rouge from the Cote d'Or.
There are 10 villages in Beaujolais (which, by the way, is considered part of Burgundy) that are allowed to put their names on their labels because of their superior terroir. Terroir means a lot of things in France, but mostly it means a unique place that has the ability to produce distinctive and superior wines. You may have heard of some of these special villages: Moulin-a-Vent, Brouilly, St Amour, Julienas, Fleurie, Regnie, Cote de Brouilly, Chenas, Morgan, and Chiroubles.
Some people still have their minds set twenty years back when the Beaujolais Nouveau hype was sweeping the world. It did its magic, of course, putting Beaujolais on the map and increasing sales, but ultimately it has taken a lot of explaining since then to tell folks that Cru Beaujolais is closer to red Burgundy than to the jolly juice they call Nouveau.
There are serious winemakers in Beaujolais making what Eric Asimov, the Wednesday wine columnist for The New York Times refers to as "ambitious Beaujolais." The great thing about this Beaujolais, Asimov goes on to say, "is that it retains its joyous character while augmenting its depth and structure." A joyous wine. Doesn't that sound good in the abysm of winter?
Beaujolais is one of the cheeriest places in France. Nearly each of the ten villages has its own cooperative and wine bar where you can eavesdrop on the local scuttlebutt and sample a small shot glass of the local grape from a man in French blue overalls with a bright red nose and rosy cheeks before heading on to the next watering hole. Beaujolais is the type of place where you'd never think to lock your door and you'd always be ready to uncork a bottle at a moment's notice.
Beaujolais is 100% Gamay. Gamay is an ancient grape type dating way back to when most of the vineyards were owned by monastic orders and the monks did the winemaking. Gamay is grown in lots of places, but it finds its purest and most delicious expression in Beaujolais - and there is little argument about that.
Gamay is vinified in small, closed vats using a technique known as carbonic maceration, in which whole grape clusters (complete with their stalks) are thrown into a vat where and the weight of the bunches naturally frees some of the juice, which is then pumped over the top of the grapes.
The fermentation process creates a blanket of carbon dioxide over the grapes, which enhances the wine's color and prevents the build-up of strong tannins. Eventually, when half of the vat is juice, it is drained off and the rest is pressed to release more juice, which is added to the original. Very few Beaujolais are aged in oak.
Beaujolais are best when they are more than a year, but no more than two or three years old: when they are at their fruitiest and freshest. My favorite cru of the crus is Chiroubles. It is grown high in the hills in Beaujolais and is known for its definition and pure fruit. It is also structured, which makes it a serious wine.
Domaine Cheysson is a 36-hectare estate on one of the highest points in Beaujolais. It is considered one of the best sources for Chiroubles and certainly the number of bottles I've emptied over the years supports that.
I pulled out a bottle recently to accompany some pork shoulder and cauliflower gratin. Those cherry/raspberry/cassis flavors made it utterly gouleyant (gulpable), as the French say. This is more than just fruity juice, however; it is earnest, deeply flavored, and structured.
So put aside every pre-conceived notion you've ever had about Beaujolais and take the plunge into its pungence. You'll discover it's a long way from Nouveau. Cynthia Hurley
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