Cru Beaujolais: Focus on Cote de Brouilly and Brouilly

Cru Beaujolais: Focus on Cote de Brouilly and Brouilly

This is part six in a series on the Crus of Beaujolais.  

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Today we tackle the Cote de Brouilly and Brouilly.
We deal with two AOCs in one focus this time because, as the names suggest, these are two Crus that really ought to be discussed together. The most important distinction between the two Crus is in the names themselves: Brouilly is on the flatland; Cote de Brouilly is on the adjacent "Cote," or slope. If you know anything about wine, you can guess which produces the more interesting wine. While Brouilly produces fun, light, fruity juice for drinking young, often out of a jug at a simple bistro in Paris, while Cote de Brouilly makes serious wine. Both Brouilly and the Cote de Brouilly have similar soils — a mix of granite, clay, and limestone — so really we have a natural experiment that proves conclusively that the superior drainage and exposure offered by a cote results in better wine.
Of course, wine is too complicated for simple rules, and there are exceptions. But before we get to those, I want to mention two examples of "classic" Brouilly. No, classic Brouilly is not so serious, but sometimes the most pleasurable things in life are simple, and these are wines that offer loads of simple pleasure. The first is Dubost, a conscientious producer that works in a traditional, natural style, with semi-carbonic maceration in a concrete tank. A very fresh and tasty wine to drink young. The second is Dufaitre, who is a disciple of Jean Foillard and Lapalu. Here, the wine is even more natural in orientation, with zero sulfites added. This seems to add an extra dose of freshness and purity to the fruit, making it perfect for gulping with bistro fare. The producer has not been around for long enough to know how well the wines age, but they are so much fun to drink young I doubt that very many of you will bother experimenting.
And now for the exceptions: Brouilly that is as serious and age-worthy as wine from any other Cru. Example number one is Descombes, who has already been described as a top producer of Morgon. While his Brouilly is not as big a wine as his others, it is still in his delicious, lively but full-bodied style. Worth checking out and this is definitely a wine that will keep a couple of years.
Exception number two is the "Pierreux" from Pierre Chermette. Here, the trick (aside from great wine-making) is 60-year-old vines and a special plot right at the bottom of the Cote where scree has collected — hence the name "Pierreux," French for rocky. So the terroir is more interesting than what you get on the valley floor. This is delicious on release but also definitely a wine to age for a short while. We only recently sold out of the 2009 and it was drinking beautifully! The 2011 will get there soon enough.
But as a whole it is true that the more serious wines come from the Cote de Brouilly. Here, the most famous producer is Chateau Thivin. This is an estate that was discovered by the great Richard Olney, who introduced it to Kermit Lynch back in 1979. Kermit is still the importer, and the wines are still great. Thivin, in fact, also makes Brouilly, which provides us with a delicious exception number three to the generality stated above, as the vines are 45 years old and planted on one of the few bits of the Brouilly AOC with a slope. Both wines are delicious and very cellarable. We visited the estate last spring and enjoyed a lovely magnum of 1999 Cote de Brouilly served with roast ham!
Another great example of Cote de Brouilly is from one of our favorite Morgon producers, Daniel Bouland. He takes grapes from a site on the southern slope of the Cote and makes a wine that he names after his daughter. The Cuvee Melanie is another example of Cru Beaujolais that is totally delicious on release but then becomes delicious in a totally different way about five years later.
Really, if you're curious about the magical transformation that can occur in well-stored, bottled wine, Cru Beaujolais is the easiest place in the world to get started.

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Jeff Patten