The regulations in Beaujolais famously allow the new wine to be released for sale on the third Thursday of November following the vintage. This gave rise to a strange international marketing gimmick, whereby it became fashionable to drink the new Beaujolais on the first day possible. In the old days, legend has it, merchants would load up their vans just after midnight from the cellars in Beaujolais, and drive (and ferry) through the night to have the Nouveau available in their stores in London and Paris in the morning of Beaujolais Nouveau day. These days, wines ship around the world in advance, and are placed on the shelves on Beaujolais day. And these days, there is not so much interest: most people have realized that the typical Beaujolais Nouveau is a simple, lacklustre wine, mostly not worth the hype nor the price.
Still it can be fun to try, as if saluting the recent vintage; and it is certainly fun to find a good one. Cédric Vincent’s Beaujolais Nouveau 2010, is one of those rare finds.
There is something beautiful and appealing about the bright purple robe of a young Beaujolais, almost blue at the rim; the nose is raw and immediate, the fruit still primary juicy, and still hints of the magical stink of fermentation; in the mouth, this tastes, as it should, like freshly fermented grapes; it has balance, but doesn’t yet have the harmony and integration of a properly matured wine. Still, it manages to have charm, and a strong adolescent personality that grabs your attention. Juicy, bright boysenberry and elderberry, tangy fruit, and barely any of the caricatured bubblegum confected aromas of many nouveaux; silky and mellow, yet with that fresh berry acidity that makes your mouth water for more. The tannins are light, yet present and just grippy enough, in a youthful way, to give an interesting structure. This is a rare example of Beaujolais Nouveau that is delicious, engaging and worth drinking; in some ways, it is like a barrel-sample of greater wine, captured in a bottle. A classic example of ultra-young gamay, in a pure, transparent, yet modern style, whose character meets the contemporary need for Beaujolais to deliver quality, not just novelty.
A really delicious wine; but in a style that is sometimes hard to fit into modern life. This bottle of Château Rieussec 1998 was showing beautifully. It was in that stage of life of a Sauternes where it has clearly benefited from a decade in bottle, harmonising, complexing, mellowing, starting to move away from youthful fruitiness; and yet it still tastes very much like a young wine, bright, juicy, honeyed, intense, lush. It is pretty powerful for a Sauternes, big and bold, but with plenty of balance to avoid any sense of cloyingness.
A beautiful example of the sensuousness and elegance that Châteauneuf-du-Pape can pull off when done right, came in a magnum of 1998 Domaine du Pegau. This bottle had aged beautifully - it was at the perfect moment between delicious integrated maturity and youthful freshness. A real delight; delicate hints of classic white pepper spice and aging red fruits, and pleasantly unaffected by the barnyardiness that some old Châteauneuf wines can develop. Soft but adequate acidity and smooth harmonised tannins gave just the right structure to the silky mouthfeel. A classic example of cleanly made, well aged Châteauneuf.
1975 Château Cos d’Estournel was quite an experience; still very solid, with big chunky dark fruit on the palate; firm full tannins, softening and harmonising with age, but still very prominent; the nose was a strange mix of age with youth: full fruit, muddled with earthy maturity, and a distinct note of volatility creeping in - not enough to be a problem, but certainly enough to give a lift and a twist of age. Classic solid old Bordeaux.
Château Fonbadet 1966: a true gem; unexpected but beautiful; an old bottle from a little-known Pauillac estate turned out to be absolutely delicious; yummy harmonious fully mature and yet totally together.
1988 Château Lafleur; a somewhat controversial wine; lovely supple fruit, still very youthful, but lots of it, and lots of oak too; it all comes together in a very delicious way, but it is not exactly classic Bordeaux.
Château Musar is a property that divides opinions: some love it, some it. Full credit to them for their pioneering work making intriguing wines in Lebanon. The white is, in my opinion slightly more odd than the red; but it works better. The flavours come together in a way that only a few old white wines can achieve; nutty, oxidative, but still with a lively freshness and harmony. It is delicious in its own off beat way; at least, this bottle of 2001 was.
A beautiful example of a contemporary, new-wave German Riesling. Some of the ‘new’ style dry wines from Germany don’t pull off the right balance; but this bottle of 2007 Schäfer-Fröhlich Felsenberg Grosses Gewachs (GG) seemed to come together nicely: the weight and texture were well integrated, and there was a good balance bewteen minerality and delicate tightly knit fruit. Being from the Nahe, and with the ripeness and body, it is not the raciest of Rieslings; but typically the dry styles are not. Nor was it particularly flashy and exciting: it still seemed somewhat closed and young, but was certainly enjoyable, and seemed to have the balance and density to age well for years to come. A nice example of contemporary dry German Riesling.
The classics are are the classics for good reason; ‘79 Château Margaux, for example. So dense and fresh, so elegant yet so concentrated; classic cedary nose, perfumed fragrant beautiful complex; a true beauty.