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Wine Wanderings: Beaujolais

Beaujolais is a great place to travel when you're with the team from Kermit Lynch.  No U.S. importer has done more to promote the wines of Beaujolais than Kermit Lynch.  Among his other great finds is the entire line up of the Gang of Four producers of Morgon: Thevenet, Breton, Lapierre and Foillard.

Visiting Lapierre's estate and tasting with all four of these producers was a treat, of course, as was lunch afterwards at Chateau Thivin, Kermit's great find in the Cote de Brouilly.  These are the kinds of magical moments that you live for in the wine business.  But we all know how great those wines are and they require no promotion here.

And in fact, the epiphany of the day for me was at the lesser known estate of Domaine Chignard in Fleurie.  The visit there was not about a fine meal, charming conversations with the wine-makers or a walk through beautiful vineyards.  It was simply about the wine.  But oh the wine!  In a day filled with delicious bottles, it was the taste of Chignard that has lingered with me the longest.

Chignard's Fleurie has glorious, smooth fruit, of course, but there is also a flavor of minerals, a gout de terroir, as the French might say, that to me was absolutely unique.  It's a minerality that seems to shimmer on the palate, magically providing both brightness and depth and infusing the fruit with complexity and beauty.  We tasted several vintages of the wine (there is only one cuvee at the estate), and this same flavor stood out in all of them.  This includes the 2007, which was at its glorious apogee and one of my very favorite wines on my entire trip to France.

What's making this wine so special?  Well, Chignard's wine is not just ordinary Fleurie.  It's all from a unique parcel of Fleurie called Les Moriers that juts into neighboring Moulin-a-Vent.  It therefore seems to borrow a little bit of magic from its neighbor, resulting in a blend of the two crus that is greater than the sum of its parts.  It helps that the vines planted in the parcel are over 60 years old!  And that Chignard makes his wines in a decidedly traditional, non-interventionist manner -- not even adding sulphur at bottling -- thus allowing his amazing terroir to speak so clearly.

To make sure I wasn't influenced by Beaujolais reverie while visiting Chignard, I cracked a bottle with my wife a couple of days ago back home in New York.  It was the wine we currently stock!  And there it was!  Among the violets and the cranberry and cherry fruit was the shimmering minerality that had been lingering in my head ever since the visit.  No, this was not yet at the level of the precious 2007, but it was already delicious and it seemed like it would be getting there in a just a couple of years.  I failed to cellar any of the 2007 back when it was released in New York.  I will not make the same mistake with the 2010!