Simon Mason gets a taste of the 2017 vintage with buyer Tim Sykes at one of the stars of southern Beaujolais, Jean-Paul Brun of Domaine des Terres Dorées.
Just before Christmas, I travelled to Beaujolais with buyer Tim Sykes. The purpose of my visit was to conduct a technical audit of the facilities of Les Vins Aujoux. This négociant produces some of our best-selling own-label wines such as The Society’s White Burgundy and Beaujolais-Villages, the new vintages of which Tim was due to blend during our visit. Having recently taken over buying responsibilities for the region, Tim was also keen to visit producers that he had been unable to see on his previous trip.
Our first day would be with a supplier with whom we have been working for a few years now and whose wines are gaining quite a following with the members.
The Cotswolds of Beaujolais!
Domaine des Terres Dorées
Running very late after a delayed flight to Lyon, we picked up our hire car and set off for a meeting with Jean-Paul Brun who had been waiting patiently for us at the property in Charnay-en-Beaujolais.
The December weather was cold and the vineyards were covered in frost and snow, the sky heavy with the possibility of more snow.
As we arrived in the village, the sun emerged and reflected off the walls built of the golden limestone which gives the domaine its name. The sight reminded us both of the Cotswolds with the Terres Dorées perhaps slightly more orange and warmer looking.
Jean-Paul is probably the best known winemaker in the south of Beaujolais (the majority of the quality producers are situated in the ‘crus’, the top 10 designated vineyard areas in the northern half of the region). He produces wines in a more Burgundian style than many in the region and favours traditional fermentation over carbonic maceration as he wants to make wines to keep – and also that work with food. Unusually, he also produces a chardonnay and a pinot noir as well as gamay (the traditional red grape of Beaujolais).
A first taste of the 2017 vintage
We tasted a flight of wines from the new vintage – the 2017s small in quantity due to frosts and a hot summer. In style, the wines are somewhere between the rich, ripe 2015s and more traditionally balanaced 2016s. The Beaujolais Blanc was still undergoing malolactic fermentation (where the sharper malic acid is turned into softer lactic acid) but was already exhibiting clean melon fruit and a pleasingly soft mouthfeel.
Buyer Tim Sykes (left) with Jean-Paul Brun of Domaine des Terres Dorées, one of the best-known winemakers of southern Beaujolais.
Tasting the reds from vat
We then moved on to the reds and tasted from juicy and refreshing AC Beaujolais up through Côte de Brouilly to the more serious Morgon Côtes de Py, which was obviously very young with high acidity and good structure. The signs looked good though!
… and bottle
Next came a selection of wines in bottle, including a check of the Beaujolais L'Ancien 2015 which Tim had already bought and which showed great freshness and acidity, despite the heat of the 2015 vintage, but with delicious cherry fruit. Tasted side by side, the differences between the various crus became apparent with black fruit, liquorice and hints of pencil shavings all making appearances.
We finished with the Jean-Paul Brun Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2016 which members may recognise from a recent Off the Beaten Track offer. A wine to drink young and cool, this was a delicious enjoyable pinot to save for a summer day. Something that was quite a challenge to picture looking outside!
As we left, I couldn’t help but notice that some of Jean-Paul’s vats looked as though they had fallen over! But he explained that he prefers the effect that this has on the texture of the wine.
Jean-Paul explains how he prefers the texture of his wines produced in tanks laid horizontally rather than vertically.