Mention Beaujolais and most people think of bottles delivered by helicopter on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Beaujolais Nouveau is a light, soft, fresh and fruity red made by a process called carbonic maceration that results in a red wine with very little tannins. Shut your eyes when you drink it and you will think it is a white wine. It should, as the French say, be picked, pressed and pissed by Easter.
But there is another side to Beaujolais. The region has ten crus which make serious and often age-worthy red wine. Brouilly, Régnié and Chiroubles are the lightest and fruitiest with a three-year lifespan. Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie and Saint-Amour are more full-bodied and need to be enjoyed within four years. Chénas, Julienás, and Morgon are more serious and long-lived with a “best by” drinking recommendation of four to ten years. Moulin-à-Vent is the heavyweight in terms of richness, complexity and longevity. Good examples are reputed to be able to develop for up to 20 years.
I got a chance to put the longevity of Moulin-à-Vent to the test when a box of aged samples were sent to me by the agent of Chateau des Jacques, one of the most distinguished Moulin-à-Vent producers. Chateau des Jacques was purchased by Louis Jadot in 1996. Louis Jadot, a highly regarded Burgundy producer, applied Burgundian winemaking techniques such as one month (instead of 10-12 day) macerations to extract extra colour, aroma and tannins from the grapes. The wine spends a lengthy 10 months in barrel.
Five vintages ranged from 2005 back to 1997. For comparison, I purchased the currently available 2014 vintage from Auckland importer and retailer Caro’s, for $50 (prices for the other vintages are not available as they are not for sale).
I opened the 2005 Chateau des Jacques Clos du Grand Carquelin Moulin-à-Vent (94 points) and at first found it rather closed and showing very developed savoury, bottle developed characters. After sloshing it into a decanter and leaving it for one hour the wine had transformed to reveal good primary fruit flavours and a silkier texture, although it still had a reasonably firm tannic backbone and savoury toast and forest floor flavours.
I marginally preferred the 2003 Chateau des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent (95 points), which was an even more elegant and marginally more complex red. The wine will probably hold for a few more years but if it were in my cellar I’d be looking for an opportunity to open it.
Ditto the 2002 Chateau des Jacques Clos des Thorins Moulin-à-Vent (95 points), which was even more developed but deliciously drinkable and probably at its peak.
The 2000 Chateau des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent (88 points) showed a little wear and tear from a challenging vintage. Still drinkable but a little too green and acidic. It also had a crumbly cork and the lowest fill level of all (the others were all fine), indicating leakage, which wouldn’t have helped.
The 1997 Chateau des Jacques Clos des Thorins Moulin-à-Vent (90 points) was very developed and quite fragrant. I noted, “needs drinking but still offering pleasure”.
Finally the youngest wine, 2014 Chateau des Jacques Clos du Grand Carquelin Moulin-à-Vent (96 points -NZD $50), which left the best until last. Very classy indeed with bright and appealing primary fruit flavours and lovely acidity. A complete and utterly delicious wine that would outshine many 1er cru burgundies.