Monday, August 13, 2007

The Beaujolais Challenge - Julienas

Julienas, with Saint Amour is the northern most Beaujolais Cru. Along with Moulin-a-Vent, Morgon, and Fleurie, Julienas enjoys name recognition that the other Crus have yet to establish in the United States. And like wines from those other communes, Julienas produces some wines that can improve with cellaring - both the Oxford Companion to Wine and Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book say a couple of years (2-3). I bet that the Michel Tete Julienas Cuvee Prestige could improve for longer than that, in certain vintages.

I had the opportunity to taste two wines from Julienas recently. Opposites, in a way, as one wine is made by Georges Duboeuf, the huge negociant whose label graces about 10% of all Beaujolais wine each year, and the other by Michel Tete, the grower producer who still bottles his own wine. These were tasted blind - I had no idea which was which, and there were several other Beaujolais at the table too to confuse matters. I very much liked both of these wines, and when it was revealed that they were Julienas, I decided to include them in this edition of the Beaujolais Challenge.

What about 2003 in Beaujolais? This was an incredibly hot year, and acid levels were down in the fruit, as in most wine regions. I know that good Cru Beaujolais can improve with cellaring, but this was a somewhat baked and low acid vintage - how would a wine from 2003 perform now in the summer of 2007?

Tete's Cuvee Prestige is reputed to be "aromatically backward in its youth." I have tasted this wine in each of the past few years and loved it. Made from old vines, it is deep and complex, yet beautifully expresses the floral and berry lightness of Beaujolais. I have never tasted an aged version of this wine. How would this entry from 2005 perform in its youth?

2003 Georges Duboeuf Julienas Prestige, (price unknown).
Duboeuf's Prestige wines are limited in quantity and are supposed to best represent their terroir. So within Julienas, for example, there are three wines, Julienas Fleur (the Flower label), Chateau des Capitans (Capitans is a prominent grower in Fleurie), and this wine, Prestige, Duboeuf's top wine from Julienas.

Dark, attractive purple with a fresh and lucious nose of ripe fruit. This follows through on the palate - lots of juicy fresh fruit with a snappy underlying acidity. This wine made everyone's shortlist, without question. Without any complexity, yes, but highly drinkable and immensely enjoyable.

2005 Michel Tete Julienas Cuvee Prestige, $24 (Chambers Street Wines).
Incredible to me that this wine did not just outclass everything else we bagged - this is amazing juice. But it didn't. It was lovely, yes, but clearly there is something to be gained by cellaring this wine for a few years. That said, I enjoyed this exact wine twice over the past 6 months and each time it was beautiful.

There really is something interesting about bagging wines and tasting them blind - you never know how things are going to show. The way I like to do it is to not know the wine lineup at all. Someone can slip a top wine like this into the pack and we taste without prejudice. Same goes for Two Buck Chuck.

Anyway, this wine had a strong mineral streak early on, but the red cherries overcame their initial shyness and were only a little shy in the end. I like the edges of potting soil and cherry liquor that I get from this wine. But the fruit had not yet fully revealed itself. I would be curious to taste this wine again in a few years.


Anonymous said...

I also found the Tete quite closed and not showing well in a recent comparative tasting--and a big wollop of tart cherry. I have another bottle that I'll save for next summer...

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Doc - I should do the same. This is excellent, but right now very shy wine.

Anonymous said...

Hi, At Julienas, I tasted the Julienas in old wine, it's very delicouis and more spicy and fruity. The Estate's Chers from Jacques Briday or in french Domaine Des Chers at Julienas.

Anonymous said...

I just tasted the 2006 last night - really great. More structure/tannin than you would expect, minerality, and ripe cherry fruit. Awesome wine.