Roger Jones confesses to not having drunk much Beaujolais over the past few decades. Once a massive fan he even used to put a sign up in his London restaurant that read “Beaujolais Nouveau non Arrivé… but we have some excellent aged Cru Beaujolais.” A recent tasting with Château des Jacques winemaker Cyril Chirouze, then, was an opportunity to discover how much he had missed in the way of classy, single vineyard Gamay… and it turned into a bit of an epiphany.
“The Château des Jacques masterclass and lunch just showed that you never stop learning,” writes Jones.
This Château des Jacques event was one of the most eye opening tastings that I have been to for some time, I was aware that I had not drunk Beaujolais for quite a few decades, having been captivated by Burgundy and New World Pinot Noir since the early 1990s. Beaujolais was King in the 1980s, highlighted in the best Oriental restaurants in London, and the few Michelin star restaurants we had, although even then It was not Beaujolais Nouveau but Cru Beaujolais such as Fleurie, Morgan, Moulin-a-Vent ….
I remember famously putting up a banner outside the restaurant I was running in Holland Park in the late 1980s with the words “Beaujolais Nouveau non Arrivé… but we have some excellent aged Cru Beaujolais.”
So, with trepidation I noted quietly the excellence of the two white wines, one actually had Beaujolais on the label; Clos de Loyse Beaujolais, the other was oaked and described as Clos de Loyse Bourgogne.
Both these Chardonnays were top draw for wines around £20 retail a bottle, personally I was very impressed with the unoaked Clos de Loyse Beaujolais 2020 (RRP £19.40), which was fresh, forward crisp and clean with citrus hints, a pretty seamless wine with a touch of fennel and Pear William. Clean and precise on the finish and perfect with some of the fabulous appetisers served, such as the oysters.
But this is just the curtain raiser to an epic tasting, unusually matched all along with some rather good “Regional French Food” from Maison François.
Château des Jacques winemaker, Cyril Chirouze, is a Beaujolais aficionado, and has dedicated his life to the promotion of the Gamay grape, and how well he does it. He did pop over to the ‘dark side’ of Burgundy once but came back very quickly – but that’s another story.
Chirouze highlighted the Gamay single vineyards that he has championed, each with its own particular style, he strongly pushed forward his vision; ‘terroir’, ‘grape’, ‘age’, ‘single vineyard’, and the importance of the DNA of the Gamay grape. Over lunch we certainly became more aware of this vision and mused that maybe Beaujolais should be referred to as ‘Premiere’ or ‘Grand Cru Gamay’.
Now we should not get ahead of ourselves, I am not saying these wines are better than Burgundy, but what I urge you to do is to try some aged Beaujolais and if you are a restauranteur or sommelier highlight the word “Gamay” and ‘single vineyard’.
So how were the reds tasting?
Of course not all the wines are single vineyard and we were also introduced to a pretty fabulous multi-vineyard wine; Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent 2019 . I liked the purity of this wine, with redcurrants, rhubarb and purple fruit – this was bright and focused with a lively freshness, then on the finish it had a complex darkness and body. This is the estate’s flagship showcase wine to entice consumers into its library of single vineyard wines.
However, this is where the level went up, magnums with age now ‘came into the room.’ There was a hush of pleasure, and a nostalgic one at that, as I have not enjoyed aged, single vineyard Gamay for some time.
We started off with some 2021 recent releases, as one would do with any other tasting, and these were clearly there to age but already showed class.
Moulin-à-Vent Clos du Grand Carquelin 2021
There are only two producers making wine from this unique single vineyard, this has ripe billberries, rhubarb yoghurt, raspberries, and a herbaceous note – I loved the purity and the raspberry perfume – young but exciting.
Moulin-à-Vent Clos des Thorins 2021
Darker and deeper, dark berries, some tannin, blueberries, lots of flavour, damsons.
Moulin-à-Vent Clos de Rochegrès 2021
Juicy, cranberries, incredible fresh berry perfume, leafy herbaceous note, light bodied with fresh, crisp acidity – a lovely balance on the palate. I love the precision and purity of this wine.
Morgon Côte du Puy 2021
Restrained, damsons, plummy, relaxed and smooth on the palate, dark fruits, with spice, rhubarb crumble, blackberries and blackcurrants.
Moulin-à-Vent Clos du Grand Carquelin 2019
Damsons and blueberries on the nose, a red berry party on the mid-palate, this wine is refined, delicate and lingers on the finish, with a loganberry note.
Morgon Côte du Puy 2019
Quite outstanding, a marvel, I loved the depth and texture of this wine, silky smooth, violets, sweet-fruited but elegant and carried so well – lots of bright red fruit lifting it.
Moulin-à-Vent Clos du Grand Carquelin 2015 en Magnum
Elegant red berries, silky clean mouthfeel, bright berries, seamless and great purity, evolving beautifully.
Moulin-à-Vent Clos des Thorins 2015
Dark strawberries, ripe and clean, I love the purity and silky feel, it lingers on the palate but then finishes fresh with great depth of flavour.
Moulin-à-Vent Champ de Cour 2015
Focused, gripping, cassis, rhubarb, soft, delicate tannin, dark red berries, this is so beautiful and elegant, hints of roast leg of lamb juices, then a dark seductive finish, quite superb.
Moulin-à-Vent Clos de Rochegrès 2015 (magnum )
I loved the refinement of this wine, some cocoa and spice, dark berries, then an intense purity that lifts this to hedonist heights, quite brilliant.
Morgon Côte du Puy 2015 Magnum
Oh my word how good was this? Racy, bilberries, blueberries, fresh, focussed, textured, elegant, silky and pure. I just loved the acidity, loganberries, blueberries, then a stunning perfect finish, pure class. Bear in mind this retails at less than £70 a magnum for a 7-year-old premium wine. Buy it for your by the glass list.
Moulin-à-Vent Clos de Rochegrès 2011 (magnum)
Earthy, truffles, ceps, damsons, lamb meat juices, soft mocha, silky violets, light bodied, focused and quite superb, love the ling lingering finish
Moulin-à-Vent Clos de Rochegrès 1999
Pure and clean, precise, is this a Pinot, wow sheer class, silky, focused and rather exciting, this was from Cyril’s private stash, what a treat.
Cyril explained the issues with Gamay and how it excels in Beaujolais, he noted “ Gamay needs an environment that tames it”, yes we were “all guilty with Carbonic Maceration trying to push forward Beaujolais”, but we need to get back to nature and understand the quality of the Gamay grape and remember it’s former stature and move on.
A brilliant masterclass and lunch which just showed that you never stop learning.
The wines of Château des Jacques are imported and sold in the UK through Hatch Mansfield which is a commercial partner of The Buyer. To discover more about them click here.