Mark Andrew is the Senior Wine Buyer at Kensington- based merchant Roberson Wine. In addition to their award- winning shop on London’s Kensington High Street, Roberson supply wine to many of the UK’s top restaurants. When Mark is not travelling Europe seeking out interesting new wines, he runs Roberson’s wine school and fine wine tastings, judges at numerous wine competitions (including the Decanter MagazineWorld Wine Awards) and is currently studying towards the Master of Wine qualification.
November, a time for firework displays if you’re British and Thanksgiving if you hail from across the pond. Until recently, there was something else to get excited about as the third Thursday of the month approached – a new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau would be released. This was a wine phenomenon that had merchants all over the world racing to sell the wine before their competitors, with thirsty customers queuing round the block to get their hands on a bottle. By 1986 sales had reached 6.4 million bottles and the man that had created the whole thing ~ Georges Duboeuf ~ was a living legend and a very wealthy man.
The rampant success of Beaujolais Nouveau led to the entire region jumping on Duboeuf’s bandwagon, by bottling their wines earlier to preserve the jammy fruit, using the same synthetic yeast strain as Duboeuf to get that ‘banana and bubblegum’ flavour and replanting their beautiful old vines with brand new ones that yielded much more fruit (even if it had nowhere near the concentration or flavour as the old ones). Then the market lost interest and by the mid-’90s blockbuster wines from Australia and the USA were fashionable – the queues of people waiting for thin, jammy Beaujolais had disappeared.
But if you thought that was the end of the Beaujolais story, you’d be wrong. As sales declined, a new generation of winemakers emerged, farming with organic methods and nurturing the old vines that had survived the cull of the ‘80s. Rather than focusing on the generic Beaujolais appellations (like Nouveau), they have worked on building the reputations of the region’s best vineyards in the 10 so-called ‘cru’ appellations.
Following the spectacular 2009 and very good 2010 vintages, these wines are just starting to get the attention they deserve thanks to their concentrated red berry fruit and savoury, gamey notes that add complexity. Not only are they relatively light in alcohol and wonderfully drinkable, but as the region’s image is still in recovery, they also offer sensational value for money.
All of the 10 crus have their own personalities but my favourite is Morgon, a village that gives richly fruited and meaty wines that can be reminiscent of good Burgundy in the best examples. Here are two wines that exude this typical character and are delicious now, but will also reward further time in the cellar.
2010 MORGON; JULIEN SUNIER
One of Beaujolais’ brightest young things, Julien makes sensational wines from Fleurie and Morgon. The fruit in this 2010 is so pure that it could almost qualify as one of your five-a-day! Available at www.robersonwine.com (£17.95) and on the wine list at Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road (SW3) and Mon Plaisir (WC2).
2009 MORGON ‘COTE DU PY’; JEAN FOILLARD
Foillard is well-established as a leading light in the Beaujolais revolution and this wine comes from his vines in Côte du Py, Morgon’s most renowned site. There is depth, richness and complexity here that would fetch five times the price if it were from a more famous region. Available at www.robersonwine.com (£26.95) and on the wine list at Coq d’Argent (EC2) and Kai (W1).