Moulin-a-Vent and Morgon seem to have a lock on the title of most famous of the ten Crus of Beaujolais. But it is just as easy to pick number 3, and it is Fleurie. In fact, there are arguments to be made – and they are frequently made in Paris, where it is much easier to pick up the top wines of Fleurie from the likes of Yvonne Metras – that Fleurie actually rivals those other two Crus and may even exceed their quality. Fleurie may lack the blockbusters that Moulin-a-Vent can produce, and it may not have the same league of famous producers that you find in Morgon, but some believe that Fleurie’s terroir is the finest, and that it is capable of producing the most elegant wines of Beaujolais. It may not be the “king” of Beaujolais – that would be Moulin-a-Vent – but you can certainly call it the “queen.”
Fleurie sits between Moulin-a-Vent and Chiroubles, and it is not a bad idea to think of Fleurie as being a cross between its two neighbors. At the eastern edge of Fleurie, in fact, Fleurie has some of the manganese soils that are found in Moulin-a-Vent, adding depth and weight to the wine. But Chiroubles also lends it some of its charming, forward, and more floral elements.
Fleurie seems somewhat related to the French word “fleur,” for flower, and it is that floral element that you get in Fleurie that really is its signature flavor. Most people smell violets, in particular, but I think there is some variation. In any case, with some experience, Fleurie is one of the easier Crus to spot in a blind tasting, and it is surely this floral quality that gives it away.
Although Fleurie’s roster of producers is not at the level of Morgon’s, it is by no means bad! The most famous producer, Yvonne Metras, has already been mentioned. Very hard to find in the U.S., as he has no authorized importer here (he reportedly can’t be bothered with the hassles involved in exporting his wine, and a relationship he once had with Kermit Lynch apparently floundered), it is certainly worth picking up a bottle if you should find yourself in Paris or Lyon – or sign up to our newsletter at the top of our home page, as we have a couple of cases on the way and we’ll be offering it out. The wine is made according to Jules Chauvet’s method, but there is a weight and power to Metras’ wine that seem to exceed what you find in the wines of Chauvet’s other disciples (despite the fact that most of them work in Morgon).
Another follower of Chauvet in the Cru – and only slightly easier to find than Metras – is Julie Balagny. She has only been working her own vines since 2009, but in her domaine’s short history she has caused a bit of a sensation among the natural wine community in places like Paris, Tokyo, and New York. A trickle of it does get imported here, and we do get small allocations (it typically all sells out by newsletter). The wine seems like more classic Chauvet than those of Metras (who is reportedly her boyfriend) – with a lightness and sprightliness that you might expect – but also the Fleurie signature of violets and interesting mineral elements that come from the unique terroir she works (including quartzite soils that are unusual for Fleurie).
One of my favorite producers of Fleurie also works in a sulfur-free manner but produces wine that is quite classically styled. This is Chignard, who makes a bottling entirely from the climat of Moriers – a small area that is right beside Moulin-a-Vent and seems to share many of its qualities. Read here about my Chignard epiphany!
But here in America, the most famous producer of Fleurie would have to be the Clos de la Roilette (also known sometimes by the name of its proprietor, Alain Coudert). This producer farms a Clos that is nestled up beside Moulin-a-Vent and that features some of the manganese that makes Moulin-a-Vent special. But the wines – made in the traditional, pre-Chauvet style – have incredible terroir specificity, and when you drink the them you really feel like you’re getting the best of both Fleurie and Moulin-a-Vent. No wonder the wines are so popular! Note that Coudert releases an early-drinking cuvee called Christal, a regular Fleurie (that you can drink young if you want, but that will age beautifully for 5 or so years), and a Cuvee Tardive. The Cuvee Tardive is from older vines, and if you have room in your cellar for just one wine from Beaujolais, this would be a fine choice. Really, the CT at around age 10 is about as good as wine gets, and we are talking about a wine that releases for under $30.
There are plenty of other great Fleuries. Morgon-great, Foillard, makes a bottling that he releases late. It is a very powerful bottle of Beaujolais! House favorite Domaine de Vissoux (Chermette) follows his practice of showcasing really specific terroirs with separate bottlings of Fleurie climats Poncie and Garants. Sunier makes a delicious, fresh-style Fleurie, and J.P. Brun a fine version as well. You should taste through the various options and then be sure to take advantage of the recent string of great vintages and put some in your cellar!