Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent | The Serious Side of Beaujolais
When you think of Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau is likely first to come to mind. This simple, light-bodied, uncomplicated quaffer arrives to market with substantial fanfare, produced from grapes that were literally hanging on the vine just three months earlier.
The King of Beaujolais, Goerges Dubouef, would be proud of such instant recognition, which he is largely credited with creating. It is after all arguably one of the greatest marketing feats known to man, itself a case study in effective marketing that has captivated an often mercurial audience, the wine consumer.
As a result of the success Beaujolais Nouveau campaign (while the fervor may have subsided a bit, it still sells fairly well), many consumers associated Beaujolais with cheap, uncomplicated wine that was only available during Autumn – when it is rushed to market and quickly consumed.
But Nouveau actually represents the lowest quality wines from the region, as there are wines with considerably more depth and interest being produced in the bargain Burgundy department that merit your attention. Has this marketing triumph worked against the popularity of the more serious side of Beaujolais? I think so, and it’s time that we get a bit more acquainted with Cru Beaujolais.
There are 10 Crus in Beaujolais, referring to the wine producing area rather than a single vineyard as in other regions. These Crus represent the highest classification within Beaujolais, and denote the highest quality wines from the region.
The wines boast more depth, richness and age-ability while still maintaining the vibrancy and versatility that make them the highly sought after by discerning connoisseurs the world over. Today I’d like to highlight the wines of one such producer… Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent.
Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent Moulin a Vent 2012: Produced from 100% Gamay, it pours a good medium ruby in the glass. Fragrant aromas of tart cranberry and black raspberry are laced with dried rose petal, crushed rock and forest floor nuances. In the mouth, the vibrant fruit flavors a brought to life by snappy acids and unexpectedly grippy tannins. This light to medium-bodied effort manages to be at once refreshingly delicate yet unexpectedly serious. 1,800 cases produced with 333 cases imported to the United States.
Score: 90 | Price: $39 | ABV: 13%
Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent 2011 Croix des Verillats: Produced from 100% Gamay Noir, it pours a deeper ruby shade along flecks of subtle brownish hues. The nose is generous and more ripe, with aromas of candied red fruit mingling with with a seductive and sweet floral potpourri. The mouthfeel seems to belie what the nose suggests, as this medium-bodied effort reveals a restrained, tightly wound core of black raspberry and cassis fruit with a tart, mineral inflected edge. The chalky tannin structure and bright acids suggest this has the chops to develop with age. Finishes with solid length and hints of smoke. 1,000 cases produced with 215 cases imported.
Score: 92 | Price: $58 | ABV: 13%
Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent La Rochelle 2012: 100% Gamay Noir from vines averaging 90 years of age, it pours a vivid medium ruby in the glass. The nose reveals soil-inflected aromas of tart cherry, violets and anise with a cooling menthol edge. Slightly fuller in body than the Croix des Verillats with layers of dark red fruit, licorice and subtle spices unfolding alongside zesty acidity and taut, chalky tannins. Replete with exciting tension and energy, a streak of crushed rock minerality is interwoven throughout the long, smoky finish. Merely 250 cases produced with 36 cases imported.
Score: 93 | Price: $59 | ABV: 13%
Many enthusiasts consider Moulin-a-Vent the best and most compelling of the ten crus in Beaujolais (the ten classified appellations within the region). Why is that the case? Because the wines of Moulin-a-Vent are somewhat atypical of most wine throughout the region, yielding some of the most powerful, structured and age-worthy wines in all of Beaujolais.
So what is it that makes this appellation unique? It’s the combination of ideal eastern sun exposure, hilly vineyards and the presence of manganese in the soils that make it unlike neighboring appellations.
The manganese soil content plays a major role, as there is just enough of it in the soils to cause the vines to struggle and vigor (it is actually toxic to the vines, as too much manganese in the soils would kill the vines), reducing yields and resulting in smaller, more concentrated berries.
Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent has been producing wine in this sought after appellation since the year 1732, and they have accumulated 37 hectares (~91 acres) of some of the most sought after vineyard plots in the region (such as La Rochelle, Croix des Verillats…). These exquisite examples by Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent clearly demonstrate and make a compelling, mouth-watering case for the serious, yet still joyous side of Beaujolais.