A review of several Cru Beaujolais, some Pinot Grigios and New Zealand Pinot Noirs.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers September 12, 2011
To appreciate the variety of notable wines being made around the world, try less familiar varietals or more familiar ones that come from different locations.
Begin your journey in France’s Beaujolais region where the Gamay grape is made into remarkable, reasonably-priced and often underappreciated wines. Distinct from the simply styled “Beaujolais Nouveau” meant to be consumed soon after harvest, the better Beaujolais have complex fruitiness along with minimal tannins, making them the ones to pour for a friend that usually likes only white wine. Originating from one of 10 distinct areas (or villages) along the Beaujolais foothills, the region’s highest classification wines are designated “cru” and can be enjoyed for several years after release. Served chilled, Beaujolais is an excellent picnic and barbecue wine.
The best known and largest Beaujolais producer is Georges Duboeuf whose delicious 2010 releases include the strawberry and raspberry-scented George Duboeuf Beaujolais Fleurie 2010 ($16) a medium-bodied, fruity effort with dark berry and slightly spicy plum flavors, and the silky smooth, floral George Duboeuf Beaujolais Brouilly 2010 ($15), which has a bit more body along with oak accented black fruits, raspberries and rhubarb. With blackberry and dark cherry aromas, the stylish George Duboeuf Beaujolais Morgan Jean-Ernest Descombes 2010 ($16) is delightfully rich and lingering with dark berry, cherry and a slight earthiness in the finish.
Joseph Drouhin’s extensive holdings include sites in Beaujolais. From the outstanding 2009 vintage is the Drouhin Beaujolais Brouilly 2009 ($14) with slightly tart red berry and raspberry aromas, red fruit and anise flavors and a mineral-infused finish.
A stop in Italy is next for another under-respected wine, Pinot Grigio. Known by many names including Pinot Gris, Auxerrois Gris and Rulander, these white grapes reflect their growing sites well and can vary from full to light-bodied with a wide range of flavors. The Italian Pinot Grigios are usually of the lighter style with clean crisp citrus and stone fruit flavors such as the Maso Canili Pinot Grigio Trentino 2009 ($22) that has lively pear, tropical fruit and lemon flavors. Also try the value-priced Da Vinci Pinot Grigio 2009 ($10), a summer sipper with bright orange, apple and tropical fruit notes.
Proceed to New Zealand, where a reputation for exceptional Sauvignon Blanc is being supplanted by the country’s vastly-improving Pinot Noir, especially the 2009 vintage, which was excellent in each of the country’s five main wine-producing regions. One of the best is the lush, almost Burgundian Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 ($27) that has lingering floral, currant, cherry and cranberry flavors highlighted with spice, minerals and zest. Broader and more muscular but still showing restraint and refinement is the chocolate and raspberry-scented Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2009 ($55) that has floral, cinnamon, cranberry and blackberry notes that glide into a seamless spicy lengthy finish. The winemaker for Central Otago’s biodynamic Burn Cottage Vineyards is Ted Lemon, founder of the well-regarded Littorai Wines located in California’s Sonoma Valley. Ifirst release, the Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2009 ($47) is expressively fragrant, with spiced red plum, dark fruit and orange peel that blends into a complex marriage with red cherries, raspberries and bits of chocolate and a pleasant earthiness that persists in the splendid, long-lasting ending.