A WINE SAFARI...LES RENDEZ-VOUS BEAUJOLAIS, March 2006
What all began as an idea among friends with a common love of French wine,
and France (our country of residence) has turned into what could be described
as a "wine safari". With marketing, design and export experience, and a few
glasses of wines behind us, we decided to set out to develop a less confusing,
unified French wine brand with a variety of easy to drink, "today" wines selected
from vineyards producing a quality wine, with a price that today's consumer
First, we needed a mascot. Hmm...already lots of animals on wine labels. But,
what animal would best represent OUR wines? Known for extraordinary balance
and keen sense of smell, what better to lead us on our wine safari than an
ELEPHANT? Yes, we all agreed, an elephant could lead us in the right direction
on our hunt for French wines. So, it was decided. We would unite together
?? ?our wines under a single brand identity our elephant: Elephant on a tightrope.
And, so the safari begins...
First stop, Beaujolais. We recently returned from our first safari,"Les
Rendez-vous Beaujolais" in the Beaujolais region of France. Spring in
the Beaujolais region is the occasion to taste the new vintage. The home of
the well-known Beaujolais Nouveau, a wide variety of wines belong to the Beaujolais
Villages appellation, all made from the gamay grape. In fact, there are twelve
different appellations, all different depending on the soil in which the vineyards
grow. In general Beaujolais wines are pleasant, light, fruity, they can be
drunk young or after a few years, according to the vintage. We
decided to start at the top, literally.
The Beaujolais Crus area of Beaujolais, which consists of only five villages, is
in the northern part of the region. Its wines are juicy and delectable, and
range from aromatic and feminine to robust in style. The crus are much fuller,
intense and concentrated, than the light-hearted Beaujolais. Some of the biggest
crus can age for 10 years, gaining complexity and depth.
is the crus situated the furthest north. We were graciously welcomed at the
Château de Julienas, an estate that dates back to the
thirteenth century, and in the same family for four generations. The estate
includes 35 hectares of vines with a good south, southeast exposure on granite
soil. The grapes are handpicked, made according to traditional methods, and
aged 7-8 months in oak barrels. The château boasts the longest cave
in Beaujolais region. The wine is powerful, robust, deep red in color and
full of berry aromas. Our tasting included wines dating back to 2001. After
a few years in the bottle it develops agreeable, well-balanced tannins. This
wine can be easily drunk throughout the meal, and is best with poultry, meats
in sauces, game, and cheese. Our tasting wa??s ?accompanied by a delectable buffet
of traditional Lyonnais fare, another reason to visit the region. Luckily,
our hotel was just down the road from the Château...
Not so bright and early the next day...
our safari continued, in the village of Villié Morgan, the home of the Morgon
appellation. Morgon is another full-bodied wine that drinks well young but
is also well suited for aging. We tasted several excellent Morgons, our first
from the Domaine de Colonat, a 12 hectare estate run by the
Collonge family for six generations. The average age of the vines is 60 years
old. The Morgon "Les Charmes" deeply colored, with its aromas of
raspberry and vanilla, cherry flavors, and silky tannins sets itself apart
with its finesse and aromatic complexity.
The Morgon "Tradition" from the Domaine du Crêt de Ruyére
is a deeply colored, full-bodied wine with a penetrating aromas and flavors
of red fruits. This family domaine is run by Jean-Luc and his wife Cathy,
and includes 6.5 hectares situated on south facing slopes in the foothills
of the 'Massif Central'. Jean Luc, who has been working this estate since
1986, began, in 1987, to work the soils rather than use herbicides. Today
his terroir is authentic, with no added fertiliser and with all the work in
the vines carried out respecting the environment. The domaine has applied
to receive organic status.
After a delicious buffet lunch, our destination was Beaujolais further south,
to the region known worldwide for its Beaujolais Nouveau. Although most wines
from this region are red, a delicious White Beaujolais, made from the Chardonnay
grape, can be found in limited quantities. We tasted an expressive white Beaujolais
from the Domaine de Rotisson, a domaine of 45 hectares, of which only 9.9
acres yields Chardonnay. A young wine with a pale yellow color and greenish
hues, this wine has fresh aromas and intense flavors of e??xoti ?c fruits and
is balanced and lingers long on the palate. A great wine for an aperitif or
The Domaine de Terre de Sablons run by a young winemaker, Bertrand Durdilly offers
an impressive Beaujolais Villages, a deep cherry red color,
with aromas of red and black fruits, well-balanced and easy on the palate.
The Domaine de la Chambarde, owned by Robert & Dali has
been in the family for five generations. They produce a typically fruity Beaujolais
that is highly aromatic and easy on the palate. A deep cherry red, with aromas
of red and black fruit, it is a wine that could accompany a wide variety of
dishes throughout the year. They also produce a limited quantity of Beaujolais
Blanc made from the Chardonnay grape, known locally as the "Perle Blanche" or white pearl.
We found this wine unexpectedly delicious, with subtle
aromas of white blossoms and citrus fruit.
Our weekend ended much too soon. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this region
and highly recommend it. The winemakers are open, friendly and enjoy the opportunity
to talk about their wines. Many vineyards have an open house in November with
the arrival of their Beaujolais Nouveau, an excellent time to visit the region--and
to be the first to taste this year's Beaujolais Nouveau!