Tomas Clancy reviews Domaines Chermette, Les Griottes, Beaujolais Nouveau 2018 and Domaine de La Baume, Elisabeth Viognier, Languedoc 2017
Domaines Chermette, Les Griottes, Beaujolais Nouveau 2018
Pricing: around €15.95
This is one of the New Wave of Beaujolais Nouveau wines that is working hard to restore the reputation of one of France’s most beautiful but consistently overlooked wine regions.
The Chermette Family have owned vineyards for almost two centuries in Beaujolais and the current cohort, Pierre-Mairie Chermette, wife Martine and son Jean-Etiene are working in a natural and organic wine producing mode. They produce wines in as natural and organic, handcrafted manner as possible without chemicals or artificial yeasts.
The results are spectacular. They make a range of the top-rated wines in Beaujolais including the Cru Moulin a Vent and Fleurie as well as a superb Beaujolais Blanc, a wood-aged Chardonnay.
They have won huge praise for helping to restore Beaujolais’s image, after 50 years of a commercially useful but reputationally disastrous idea called Beaujolais Nouveau. This was a gimmick invented after World War II to sell the first, just finished, almost, fermented wines of the cheapest gluggable wine in the early part of November. Huge races were held in the 1960s and 1970s by hotels and restaurants to be the first to get the youngest example of that year's wine into their glasses.
The races drummed up huge publicity and millions of weak, pale red slightly frizzy wines were shipped and sold. Eventually, the word Beaujolais began to mean just one thing, at best modest and at worst undrinkable wines, whose only virtue was it was young.
The 2008 crash stopped all this, sales halved, and families like the Chermettes were joined by young ambitious winemakers, who snapped up all the cheap and bankrupt vineyards. Beaujolais is now a hotbed of experimentation and cutting-edge natural winemaking.
The famous Cru like Moulin a Vent, Fleurie and Morgon have had their reputations restored and over the last few years, the young first wine, now talked of as Primeur and Beaujolais Nouveau has been transformed as here with the handpicked Gamay, semi-carbonic maceration, the ancient Beaujolais winemaking technique revived, use of first-class quality grapes and indigenous, wild fermentation.
The result is spectacular, a truly delicious natural wine that puts us in touch with primordial wine tastes, juicy, mouth-watering lively dark fruits, freshness, vibrancy, a little roughneck rasp and a gentle soft, but lifted finish. It yearns for a sliced of cold salami, sausages and cold slices of Turkey. It may be the secret wine of Christmas too. A delight at a staggeringly attractive price and a sign of a really potentially great harvest for 2018 all around in Beaujolais.
Domaine de La Baume, Elisabeth Viognier, Languedoc 2017
Pricing: around €10 down from around €14
The Viognier grape has had a very mixed life in France, it is a white grape that is blended into the super luxurious and incredibly expensive Rhone Valley red superstar wine, Cote Rotie. These wines sell for hundreds of euros a bottle and live off their exotic reputation of orange and apricot hints bursting through a dark, super ripe spicy Syrah, or as the New World calls it Shiraz.
The Australians, of course, used Viognier in the same way as a blend with Shiraz.
On its own Viognier’s super pungent floral and perfumed nose is a mixed blessing with many wine lovers appreciating its exoticism, in rare and also very expensive Rhone wines such as Condrieu. However just as many find it too feisty.
Happily in the wild and mysterious Languedoc region, filled with high valleys and remote castles Viognier is let flesh out a little, instead of only seeking perfume and acidity, the grape is allowed to express itself as a fully rounded experience as here, where the heathery perfumed hot Languedoc air matures the Viognier into a brilliant, luscious and complex white wine, which when as here is also aged on lees for weeks and even given a touch of oak ageing in some examples offers a warm apricot flickered, toasty, golden and mellow delight.
This is a wine for Chardonnay lovers who want a little more brown sugar toasted grapefruit, but do not wish to go the whole way to Sauvignon Blanc acidity. A good example of a very attractive sale price.