As Burgundy Week approaches at City Wine Merchant, and the 2014 releases begin to roll out, it is already clear that everyone will be talking about this vintage as a classic one for whites. Count me among those who think that 2014 is a great white Burgundy year. We will no doubt be spending a lot of time and energy talking about the whites over the next few months, but I've also discovered a number of incredible red values. For starters, I had the opportunity to taste Stephane Aviron's Beaujolais crus from barrel not once, but twice, over the past year. I loved them on both occasions, and I am going to put these front and center in our vintage offerings this year. And it's not just because he is a Buffalo Bills fan (he spent some time in the Finger Lakes in the 90's and fondly recalls the Super Bowl years.)
When you first meet Stephane, you are immediately struck by his low-key, friendly personality. The domaine owned by his wife, Domaine de la Madrière, in Fleurie, sits high atop the village and offers some of the most beautiful views I've seen in Burgundy. The small estate is perched at the top of very steep vineyards (40-60% slope), and Stephane seems to be content with being a bit removed from his peers down below. It does feel a little bit like the top of Beaujolais here. He believes in tradition, working with sustainable viticulture, extremely old vines and classic Burgundian techniques. He focuses almost exclusively on Beaujolais crus - the ten superior areas that each possess a distinct personality. His cru Beaujolais drink like fine Burgundy. We tasted through his 2013 and 2014 lineup, and a 2006 Moulin-a-Vent that was drinking great. Who says you can't age Beaujolais?
Here are the wines that I loved from the 2014 vintage and my tasting notes. Look for these to arrive beginning in March 2016.
2014 Beaujolais-Village - He makes this to be "easy to drink" and "cheerful." This was beautifully textured. The fruit comes from the west side of Brouilly, and this exhibits the hallmarks of that cru.
2014 Domaine de la Madrière Fleurie VV - This is usually picked last, a full 10 days after Brouilly. Comes from 45-60 year-old vines and some of the highest vineyards in Fleurie. 400 meters is about as high as you can go in Beaujolais while still allowing the fruit to fully ripen. This is textbook Fleurie. Beautiful, bright, aromatic red fruit. It's the most feminine of his wines, and he says that comes from the soil. Sand on top of granite here. Worthy of Fleurie's nickname, "The Queen of Beaujolais."
2014 Cote de Brouilly - This is the site he usually picks first. The vineyard is south-facing and planted on rocky soils. He ages this 6 months in barrique. The wine is seamless. Stephane usually lets the wine speak for itself, but he could not resist saying "it's a fine wine" after he took a sip.
2014 Chenas - This was the most guarded of the wines I tasted in July. It wasn't showing its true colors yet. Much more open in March just before bottling. This is the oldest vineyard he works with (1913) and the smallest cru. It's his favorite because his parents lived near Chenas and he used to work these vineyards as a kid. Floral and wild fruit. A great example of Chenas.
2014 Julienas - This is close to Macon. Still granite but also also some clay and limestone. He uses large new wood tank with this. One of the most structured of the wines, this probably needs the most time in the cellar. Broad tannins, a little spice and powerful ripe red fruit.
2014 Moulin-a-Vent - This is big, firm, and darker than the rest of the lineup. He has a longer maceration here and uses no new wood. Wow. This shows off the terroir. Incredible structure. He said his winemaking style hasnt changed much in ten years, except maybe using shorter maceration. He thinks Moulin-a-Vent should be the exception to that.
2014 Morgon Cote de Py - This is one of the best terroirs on Beaujolais. Volcanic granite soil. "A lot of character" and "much more masculine" than other areas. Interestingly, he added that "some people love it, some people hate it." Dark fruit, new oak, round.