Cru Beaujolais: Focus on Chiroubles
This is part six in a series on the Crus of Beaujolais.
If you'd like to learn more about this facinating wine region, check out our Guide to the 10 Crus.
In France they say that Chiroubles is “the most Beaujolais of the Crus.” Which makes sense given the terroir: it has the most uniformly granitic soils of any of the Crus, with some of it decomposed into a sandy granite called gore. These soils are perfect for Gamay fruit and generally produce soft and gulpable wines.
It’s typicite probably also comes from its location between Fleurie and Morgon -- two of the quintessential Crus. Much as Régnié can evoke both Brouilly and Morgon, Chiroubles’ wines can have elements that will remind you of both Fleurie and Morgon: Fleurie’s violet side and Morgon’s minerality.
But Chiroubles is lighter than both its neighbors. Probably because of its altitude: its vines are the highest in all of Beaujolais, maxing out at 600 meters above sea level. That makes for a cool microclimate and keeps the wines fresh with bright acidity. Don’t think that Chiroubles is necessarily a simple wine, though; its slopes are steep, so the vines get enough sun to ripen and develop complex, delicious flavors.
Chiroubles: home to the highest vineyards and steepest slopes in Burgundy.
The result is a wine that is among the lightest and most forward-drinking of the 10 Crus, but somehow magically complex. I find an attractive velvetiness in the way the fruit is woven together by its soft tannins. Again, I think it is the high altitudes that contribute to this.
Chiroubles doesn’t have a legacy of famous artisans specializing in the Cru, but there are a couple you should know. And you should also taste the many examples of these Crus made by artisans who work mainly other Crus, especially in neighboring Morgon.
One specialist to know is La Grosse Pierre, which had its first vintage only in 2016. It’s owned by Pauline Passot, who comes from an old Chirouble family and decided to leave her job in wine service in Lyon to make wine in Chirouble. This is yet another excellent producer who did not exist when this blog was first written in 2013.
She rents about six hectares from her parents and produces several single vineyards that showcase subtle differences in soil, altitude, orientation and vine age. She makes one wine, “Claudius” (yet another Roman name in the neighborhood!) from 90-100 year old vines! The winemaking is classical Beaujolais (whole cluster semi-carbonic) but there is very little wood here and the wines are raised mostly in concrete tanks.
Grosse Pierre’s Chiroubles drink beautifully as soon as you open them, but if you can give your bottle an hour’s worth of air you’ll be rewarded with ever more precise floral aromas and a gorgeous interplay of fruit and mineral on the palate. Do not miss her wines if you have any interest in Chirouble (or in Cru Beaujolais!).
The Domaine Chapel is also, sort of, a Chirouble specialist, with two plots of old vines in the Cru. This domaine, set up by a couple who relocated from New York in just 2015, is no older than La Grosse Pierre. Their first wine was actually a collaboration with the Lapierre family (the couple met while working at Domaine Lapierre a couple of years earlier). But what’s of interest to us in this article is their Chirboules, from old vines on high, steep slopes. They harvest whole clusters, which go through a relatively long, slow, semi-carbonic fermentation (with ambient yeasts). This is a domaine to watch.
As for non-specialists, I once again turn to producers more often associated with neighboring Morgon. One of my favorite examples is Daniel Bouland’s. He makes a very classically-styled wine that screams Chiroubles with its velvety touch and its purplish fruits. I also really like Domaine Ruet’s Chiroubles “La Fontenelle,” made from older vines, which displays that same Chirouble silkiness combined with a frank drink-me-now fruity personality that comes from raising the wine exclusively in steel tanks.
In general, these are definitely drinking wines, but although I haven’t had the chance to try it yet, I suspect that some Chiroubles -- perhaps older vines examples from Grosse Pierre -- will also develop pretty nicely in the cellar!
Like this blog post? You can learn more about Beaujolais Crus here:
- Starting with Part 1, our introduction to the 10 Crus,
- Part 2 is a focus on Moulin-à-Vent,
- Part 3 is a focus on Morgon,
- Part 4 is a focus on Fleurie and
- Part 5 is a focus on Juliénas.
- In Part 6 we look at both the Côte de Brouilly and Brouilly.
- Part 7 is Chiroubles,
- Part 8 is Régnié,
- And Part 9 finishes up with the two remaining crus, St. Amour and Chénas.
This post was updated 11/20/2020.