Cru Beaujolais: Focus on Chiroubles and Regnie
This is part six in a series on the Crus of Beaujolais.
If you'd like to read the other posts, follow these links:
- Part 1: An overview of the 10 Crus
- Part 2: Moulin a Vent
- Part 3: Morgon
- Part 4: Fleurie
- Part 5: Julienas
- Part 6: Cote de Brouilly and Brouilly
Today we'll examine Regnie and Chiroubles.
Well, we've done all the big and famous Crus, but the little ones are still worth talking about. And drinking! But they are small, and they do not have many important examples, so we can deal with them two at time. Today, I'll talk about Regnie and Chiroubles. In the next and last post in this series, we'll wrap it up with St. Amour and Chenas.
Regnie and Chiroubles have a couple of things in common. They both border Morgon, but, unlike their famous neighbor, they are considered among the lightest and most forward-drinking of the 10 Crus.
Regnie has only been considered a Cru since 1988, but looking at a map, I find it hard to see why this is the case. If you removed it from the ten crus, it would look like you'd gobbled up good chunks of Morgon and Brouilly on their west sides. Chiroubles, a little to the north, cuts into Morgon and Fleurie, also on the western side.
From this information alone, you can make some guesses about how these wines taste. Chiroubles shares with Fleurie its violet side; Regnie has the brighter red fruits associated with Brouilly. But while Regnie is (a little) more full-bodied than Brouilly -- borrowing from its neighbor Morgon -- Chiroubles is lighter than both of its neighbors, probably thanks to its position at the highest altitude of the Crus.
And both Crus have their own distinct features that separate them from their neighbors. With Regnie, I taste a spicy note, and the red fruit here is more raspberry than cherry or currant. In Chiroubles, I find an attractive velvetiness in the way the fruit is woven together by its soft tannins. Is it the high altitudes that contribute to this?
It can't be said that either Cru produces wines that are particularly deep or structured. But don't overlook them! Some of the Crus' best producers make wines in Chiroubles and Regnie, and often they are the most delicious wines in those producers' line-ups for drinking young! If I am faced with a choice of a number of one- or two-year-old Cru Beaujolais, I will often reach for Chiroubles or Regnie. It is only at about age 5 that other Crus generally start to look more interesting. As the vast majority of Cru Beaujolais is consumed much younger than that, these are both really important Crus.
One of the most charming Cru Beaujolais for young drinking each vintage is the Chiroubles made by Daniel Bouland, who works 30-year-old vines to produce a wine that screams classic Chiroubles to me. Another one that you'll usually find on our shelves is Damien Coquelet's. Damien is the step-son of Georges Descombes and makes his wine in the same all-natural -- but full-bodied -- style. Like his step-dad, he bottles a separate Vieilles Vignes cuvee that is worth looking out for -- it's remarkably serious for this humble Cru, and I would love to see how the wine ages (he hasn't been producing for very long so I've never come across older bottles). Crete de Ruyere, by the way, has proven that Chiroubles made in a more structured style can be awfully good with some bottle age -- the 2005, which we only recently sold out of, was sensational.
As for Regnie, one famous example is made by step-father Georges Descombes himself. As you might expect from Descombes, his version of Regnie is far more substantial than is typical for the Cru, but its greater power does not disguise the signature of Regnie's terroir. Another fine example -- relatively new to the scene -- is Julien Sunier's, who works 45-year-old vines on a southern-facing slope within the Cru. Julien Sunier, who works in a Burgundian fashion to produce bright wines of great fruit purity, makes a really lovely wine that is very approachable young. But probably the most profound example of Regnie available is made by Guy Breton, the Gang of Four producer who follows the Chauvet method. Half his vines in the Cru are over 100 years old, so there is a depth to the wine that is really uncommon for Regnie.
All three wines are worth seeking out!