Lapierre dans le New York Times

le 16 août, 2016 Presse Pas de commentaires

Fleurie and Morgon : Greatness if Not Gravitas

It’s no secret that the Beaujolais region is not what it was. But what it was depends on how far back you want to go.

For much of its commercial life, Beaujolais was known as the ultimate vin de soif, that is, fresh, delicious, thirst-quenching wine to be guzzled by the pitcherful. By the 1980s, those days seemed long gone.

Kermit Lynch, the American importer and writer, lamented in his 1988 book, “Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France,” that the lively low-alcohol wine he knew and treasured as Beaujolais could no longer be found. Instead, much of the wine in the region was going into a commodity called Beaujolais Nouveau, after the quaint local tradition of using a small portion of the new harvest to make an early-drinking wine for end-of-the-year festivals and celebrations.

The global rise in popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau, more akin to an alcoholic soft drink than a fresh wine, transformed the local wine economy. Then the collapse of the Nouveau fad nearly killed it.

What pointed the way forward was a handful of producers who had largely sat out the craze. Instead, these producers, some associated with Mr. Lynch, paid attention to working more naturally and making the best wines they could. The future, they believed, lay in focused expressions of the terroirs of the 10 crus of Beaujolais.

These areas in the northern part of the region had the sorts of poor soils — largely granite, occasionally schist — in which gamay, the grape of Beaujolais, produced the most eloquent wines. The 10 crus are: Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and St.-Amour.

Over the last 20 years, these producers have been proved correct. They have demonstrated the greatness of these crus, even if the wines are a far cry from the style that Mr. Lynch so loved.

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Dare we say these wines have gravitas? Only in the sense that the best examples clearly express the character of their crus, though the differences are often detectable only in nuances. Yet they remain imbued with the sense of joy that seems inherent in good gamay. They can be enjoyed early and fresh, or they can be aged for five to 15 years, and sometimes longer. They are great, yet they are fun. So maybe we reject gravitas.

Nowadays, the name “Beaujolais” is rarely seen on bottles from these crus. Instead, they simply carry the name of the cru, part of a concerted effort to differentiate the crus from the more fertile areas to the south, where the lighter, less complex wines carry the simple appellation “Beaujolais” or, a step up, “Beaujolais-Villages.”

It may not surprise you that the wine panel loves cru Beaujolais. Over the years we have tracked its progress as one of the great wine values out there.When last we checked in, in 2013, we examined a cross-section of the crus in the excellent 2011 vintage. This time we are focusing on two, Morgon and Fleurie, both of which have many excellent producers.

Recently we tasted 20 bottles, 10 from each cru, from the 2014 vintage. This was not intended to be a complete assessment. Some of the best wines had not yet been released, and even so, we could not include all the top producers. Still, it gave a good sense of what’s available. For the tasting, Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Randall Restiano, the wine director for Eli Zabar’s restaurants, and Matthew Kudry, the wine director forEstela.

The 2014 vintage, we generally agreed, was a very good one, maybe even superb. The wines were gloriously aromatic, full of the aromas of red fruit and flowers, fresh rather than jammy. On the palate the best had great minerality, as if the floral, fruity flavors were laced with the essence of granite. And the wines had a sense of structure. You can certainly enjoy these wines over the next five to seven years, perhaps even longer.

It was not so easy in our blind tasting to tell the difference between Fleuries and Morgons. Theoretically, at least, Morgons should be a little denser and Fleuries a little more elegant. But differences in sites and winemaking methods sometimes blur those distinctions. I was right on just over half the bottles, which was maybe little better than if I had simply guessed without tasting the wines.

Our top wine was from Patrick Brunet’s Domaine de Robert, a producer I don’t remember encountering before, but I will certainly look for this terrific Fleurie in the future. It was bright, pure and complex, structured enough to age well.

Right behind was a cluster of excellent producers. Julien Sunier’s Morgon was also complex and structured, with flavors of fruit, flowers and herbs that lingered. Christophe Pacalet seems to get better every year. His 2014 Fleurie was pure and tangy, and, at just $16, it was our best value.

Alain Coudert’s Clos de la Roilette is a longtime favorite Fleurie producer whose wines should not be overshadowed by newer, more faddish names. His 2014 was typically firm, with peppery fruit, herb and mineral flavors.

Marcel Lapierre was one of the great names in recent Beaujolais history. After he died, two of his children, Mathieu and Camille, took over his Morgon estate and are continuing the tradition of making superb natural wines. The 2014 was a live wire, vibrant with the flavors of dark red fruit and minerals. This bottle, it turned out, had an “N” on the back label, indicating it was from a cuvée made without the stabilizing ingredient sulfur dioxide, which may account for the vibrancy.

Just about as delicious was the Morgon from Mr. Lapierre’s old friend Jean Foillard, richer and juicier than the Lapierre, but with a similar set of flavors and aromas.

Rounding out the top 10 list was a Fleurie from B. Perraud and Morgons from Guy Breton (another Lapierre friend), Damien Coquelet and Daniel Bouland.

But don’t stop with this brief list. Other producers of Fleurie and Morgon that would be well worth your time include Julie Balagny, Jean-Louis Dutraive’s Domaine de la Grand Cour, Georges Descombes, Pierre-Marie Chermette’s Domaine du Vissoux, Louis-Claude Desvignes, Jean-Paul Brun, Domaine Chignard and, if you can find the small trickle of bottles that flows into the United States, Yvon Métras.

It’s somewhat astounding that the sheer number of great producers from just these two crus overflows the parameters of our tasting. It would have been unthinkable 25 years ago. But as the man sings, “Things Have Changed.”

Tasting Fleurie and Morgon Wines From 2014

★★★½ Domaine de Robert/Patrick Brunet Fleurie 2014 $19

Pure and structured, with bright red fruit flavors threaded with granite and earth. (Petit Pois/Sussex Wines, Moorestown, N.J.)

★★★ Julien Sunier Morgon 2014 $28

Beautifully structured, with complex, lingering flavors of red fruit, flowers, herbs and minerals. (Polaner Selections, Mt. Kisco, N.Y.)

Best Value: ★★★ Christophe Pacalet Fleurie 2014 $16

Pure, tangy flavors of earthy red fruit, herbs and flowers. (Winebow, New York)

★★★ Clos de la Roilette/Alain Coudert Fleurie 2014 $22

Firm and brambly, with peppery flavors of red fruit, herbs and minerals. (Louis/Dressner Selections, New York)

★★★ M. & C. Lapierre Morgon 2014 $30

Tense and lively, with flavors of dark red fruit and minerals. (Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif.)

★★★ Jean Foillard Morgon Côte de Py 2014 $30

Rich and juicy, with flavors of pure red fruit, herbs and minerals. (Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant)

★★½ Damien Coquelet Morgon Côte de Py 2014 $22

Pure and spicy, with earthy flavors of red fruit and herbs. (Louis/Dressner Selections)

★★½ Guy Breton Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2014 $29

Earthy, spicy flavors of black cherries, herbs and cinnamon. (Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant)

★★½ B. Perraud Fleurie 2014 $30

Well-structured, with flavors of juicy red fruit and minerals. (Jeffrey Alpert Selections/U.S.A. Wine Imports, New York)

★★½ Daniel Bouland Morgon Corcelette Vieilles Vignes 2014 $27

Firmly structured, with lingering flavors of dark fruit and minerals. (Weygandt-Metzler, Unionville, Pa.)

Recipe Pairing: Salmon With Smoked Salmon Butter

Salmon in spring inevitably suggests the start of the wild Alaskan season. Deep red sockeye is a favorite, but any salmon will benefit from a generous dollop of this smoked salmon butter. The smoky-velvet quality of the fish provides enough richness and robust character to pair with a forthright Morgon or Moulin-à-Vent. The dish does not demand much else in the way of embellishments. Sauté some spring vegetables to serve alongside. Make the butter in advance, keep it in the freezer and you have an uncommonly elegant dinner in no time. The butter will also lift a fillet of arctic char, butterflied trout, seasonal shad or other white-fleshed fish. FLORENCE FABRICANT

Article du 7 avril 2016 dans le New York Times : voir