Cru Beaujolais: Focus on Fleurie
This is part 4 of a series on the Crus of Beaujolais. You can read our introductory post to get a better feel for the Beaujolais Crus as a whole.
Now we take on Fleurie.
Moulin-à-Vent and Morgon seem to have a lock on the title of most famous of the ten Crus of Beaujolais. But looking at my own Beaujolais cellar, I see that I have more wine from a Fleurie producer than from anyone else (more details on that below). 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 Métras – that Fleurie actually rivals those other two Crus and may even exceed their quality.
Fleurie may lack the blockbusters that Moulin-à-Vent can produce, and it may not have the same league of famous producers that you find in Morgon (although that is changing fast; see below), but some believe that Fleurie’s terroir is the finest, and that it is capable of producing Beaujolais’ most elegant wines. It may not be the “king” of Beaujolais – that would be Moulin-à-Vent – but why not call it the “queen.”
Fleurie sits between Moulin-à-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’s pink granite soils are flecked with some of the manganese that is found in Moulin-à-Vent, adding depth and weight to the wine (you can see this in the Roillette wines, discussed below). But Chiroubles also lends 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.
In my first edition of this blog post, I wrote “Although Fleurie’s roster of producers is not at the level of Morgon’s, it is by no means bad!” Seven years later, the case can be made that the roster has improved so much in Fleurie that it is now Morgon’s equal. Since 2013, we’ve had at least three new high-quality producers emerge, and we’ve had one old-school producer who has been around for a while emerge on the U.S. scene. All of these are included in this updated post below.
But still, seven years later, the most famous producer of Fleurie remains Yvonne Métras . He is very hard to find in the U.S. For a long time he had no importer at all, and he now gives just a tiny allocation to our friend the importer Steve Graf. It is certainly worth picking up a bottle if you should happen upon one! (You might also come across wines made by his son, Jules Métras , but that’s mostly Chirouble so we’ll discuss him when we get to that village.) Métras ’ wine is made according to Jules Chauvet’s method, but there is a weight and power to Métras ’ 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 the normally weightier Morgon).
Another follower of Chauvet in the Cru – and only slightly easier to find than Métras – 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 (though it usually sells to our email list before it makes it online or on our shelves). The wine seems like more classic Chauvet than those of Métras – 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-à-Vent and seems to share many of its qualities.
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-à-Vent and that features some of the manganese that makes Moulin-à-Vent special. In fact, back before Moulin-à-Vent’s borders were legally defined, the Clos de la Roilette used to say Moulin-à-Vent right on the label. The wines – made in traditional open-top fermenters (meaning they aren’t sealed), a pre-Chauvet style – have incredible terroir specificity, and when you drink them you really feel like you’re getting the best of both Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent.
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 (I for one cellar it more than any other Beaujolais). 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.
Domaine de la Grand Cour, better known by the family name, Dutraive, is another institutional name making age worthy wines primarily in Fleurie. They did not have a big presence in the U.S. until fairly recently, when Polaner started to import them and Daniel Johnnes invited them to be the only Beaujolais producer at his famed La Paulee events. That honor makes sense: Dutraive’s wines really are long-lived and mature along the lines of a great Volnay.
Julien Sunier also has a Burgundy connection, having worked for Christophe Roumier before starting his own domaine, not just in Fleurie but also Morgon and Régnié. The Burgundy connection isn’t just a thing from his past: he raises his wines in Roumier’s old barrels and there is an unmistakable hint of Chambolle in his wines (perhaps what you get when Fleurie’s floral qualities meets Roumier’s barrels).
While Sunier left Burgundy for Beaujolais, Anne-Sophie Dubois left Champagne, where she grew up, for Beaujolais.
It’s not just a coincidence: plenty of people who want to make great wine have left regions where vines are expensive -- Burgundy, Champagne -- for the incredible bargains that are still to be found in Beaujolais. Indeed, Dubois was lucky to be able to put together a nice collection of parcels in the heart of Fleurie, some of which date back over 60 years. She uses a mix of styles and methods -- some carbonic maceration, some destemming, some large barrels and some small -- but always with a focus on purity and terroir clarity. Her wines are gorgeous.
Then there is Yann Bertrand, who actually grew up right in Fleurie but had only just started to work with his parents making wine when the first edition of this blog was published back in 2013.
Inspired by his buddies in the neighborhood, Métras and Foillard, he has since become a cult figure of his own. He is making full-flavored Crus from a range of terroirs with a mix of classic Burgundian techniques and the Chauvet techniques used by his friends. It works.
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.