Beautiful Beaujolais for Grown-ups

by David Porter

It’s Beaujolais nouveau day, but a recent trip to the region reminded us how much more there is to the region. There’s nothing nouveau about these Beaujolais!

As you head through the vines, bouncing down the rough, muddy track over the crest of a perilously steep hill it is hard to be sure you’re heading the right way – but a little faith and some careful handling of the hire-car pays off – as into sight looms the home and winery of the brilliant Laurent Martray.

Laurent Martray

This is Combiaty in the heart of the Brouilly appellation. The most southerly of the Beaujolais Cru, a beautiful swathe of land which wraps around the Mont Brouilly.

Domaine Laurent Martray perched on the slopes of Combiaty

Domaine Laurent Martray perched on the slopes of Combiaty

Here Laurent is making super wines with a real drive and intensity, the fruit is lithe and beautifully sculpted, ripe but not rich, spicy but pure. It is the energy here that makes them so delicious to drink – this is bright and exciting gamay.

Domaine Rochette

Our second stop of the morning was with the charming Rochette family in Regnié, the loss of Joel earlier this year was a great sadness and we missed him as we huddled around the up-turned barrel and tasted in the cuverie with Chantal and their son Matthieu. Young Rochette has become more responsible for the wine-making over the last few years and continues now without his father’s help – there is a palpable sense of loss here, but the Rochettes are clearly resilient and Matthieu’s skill in the vineyard and the cellar is clear. His father’s wisdom is certainly at his finger-tips but Matthieu has been winning plaudits of his own for many vintages already.  They have beautiful vineyard plots in Regnié with vines up to 80 years old – as well as a very special stretch of the highly prized Morgon Côte de Py vineyard.

‘These three domains are making some of the very best wines in this beautiful part of France’

Regnié - beautiful country even in the rain

Regnié – beautiful country even in the rain

The wines have a more burly core of lovely concentrated soft fruit – there is no excess weight though delicious perfumed notes jump out of the glass, the Regniés have a touch more sinew and matter than the Brouillys, these are impressive, well concentrated wines, delicious now – but they can have a future if you’re patient. Matthieu dug out a 2005 Regnié Cuvée des Braves for us and it was sensational – really quite Burgundian in structure, more poise more elegance and 10 years on – this was still full of life.

Clos de la Roilette

Our last tasting was in Fleurie at the brilliant Clos de la Roilette domaine.  The rustic surroundings and traditional cellar bely a great sophistication to the wines being made here. Of course this is Gamay again, that’s all you are permitted to grow in the region but the difference from village to village and hill to hill is dramatic. The Roilette wines are impeccable.  The dark fruit is brooding at the core of this svelte, scented red. There is weight yet elegance, ripeness yet brightness. This is a beautifully balanced style, polished and attractive, a wine you just want to drink.

Clos de la Roilette - thoroughbred Fleurie

Clos de la Roilette – thoroughbred Fleurie

These three domains are making some of the very best wines in this beautiful part of France – it is their efforts and successes which are encouraging more and more high profile Burgundian producers to head south and snap up parcels of vines here. The savvy are understanding the potential of this place and want to start making their own Beaujolais.  These are fine wines at mighty fine prices.