Late last fall, what first seemed as a rather innocuous email turned into a press trip to both a region I had never visited (Beaujolais) and an event of near mythic proportions (Hospices de Beaune). I took the opportunity to also spend some time visiting some dear friends in Paris before turning southward.
My trip to France came on the heels of the Wine Bloggers Conference where I got very little sleep, and coupled with a sleepless overnight flight, I was at best on fumes. My greatest fear–being ill during two rather important wine-centric events–was a distinct possibility.
After a brief stay in Paris and a wonderful dinner in Savigny-lès-Beaune, I feared that the lack of sleep would finally catch up to me and it did, in a big way during the Hospices de Beaune. I was sicker than I had been in a very long time, spending hour after hour in bed, rising only to attend a few events.
I then made my way down to Beaujolais, where I was among a handful of journalists tasting through many of the current releases of producers of Moulin-à-Vent, one of Beaujolais’ ten Cru Villages, which can produce some of the most structured and longest lasting wines from the region.
After a dinner with the other journalists, I had another miserable night of “sleep” but after waking and showering, I headed to breakfast, with the scents of brewing coffee and cooking bacon wafting in the air as I headed down the hotel stairs.
Halfway down those stairs, I stopped, somewhat in disbelief.
I tried again.
I felt a rush of relief wash over me: I could smell! I had no idea how long it would last or what I did (or didn’t do) to effectuate this sudden and most welcome change, but I needed to get to work, to start tasting the wines lest my new-found superpower be whisked away as quickly as it had appeared.
I thought about sprinting down the stairs, to rush through breakfast so that I could start ripping through the wines, but I didn’t. While my olfactory system was now somehow working, my mind was still a bit cloudy, and my inner ear seemed to be still afflicted as well; sprinting down the stairs would more than likely result in a missed step, then a stumble, followed by a rather dramatic tumble.
Thus, I slowed down, hoping that my nose could hold out.
Breakfast that morning was perhaps the tastiest of my life, not in and of itself, but due to the fact that I had not smelled anything for the previous week. It was if I were smelling for the very first time.
I headed over to the room where we would be conducting the tasting. Whoa. There were approximately 125 bottles of Moulin-à-Vent from various producers set up on a horseshoe-shaped series of tables and I was tasked to taste them. All of them. In three hours. I was not a math major (it was actually one of my two minors), but that leaves not even a minute and a half for each wine (one minute and 26.4 seconds for those keeping score at home).
Over the next three hours, I was on fire. I poured, I swirled, I sipped, I swished, I spat. I repeated. 97 times. No, I did not make it to the end, but I came closer than thought I might. Here are a few of my favorites:
Cave du Château de Chénas
- Exception 2015—Cherry and a bit of sweet menthol. Delicious nose. I really could smell this all day long. On the palate this is full and lovely. Some noticeable wood but it mingles nicely with the mature fruit. A delight (and a tough act to follow). Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
- Cœur de Granit 2015—A bit closed with earth and dark berry fruit. Fruity and full on the palate, which indicates this might need a bit more time to open up on the nose. Another strong showing as this too is delicious. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
- Thesaurus Vinum 2015—I am not sure what the story is behind the name of the wine, but I hope it is a good one! Most complex nose of the three with pomegranate, black raspberry and crushed rock. On the palate, this is the richest of the three as well, with a full body, luscious fruit, and a lasting finish. Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
Château des Jacques
The limited exposure I have had to the wines of Moulin-à-Vent was essentially these wines from Louis Jadot. I held on to a few bottles for several years and I was surprised by how well they held up.
- Clos de Gran Carquelin 2014—Whoa. Just the nose alone marks this as a beautiful wine. Complex with a wide range of red and dark berries, vanilla, mint, a veritable fruitcake. On the palate, this gets a Whoa as well: rich, full, tart, round, it represents all that one would want in a wine from this region. Whoa. Outstanding Plus. 94-96 Points.
Chateau du Moulin-à-Vent
- Croix des Vérillats 2014—Meaty with a touch of funk on the nose, followed by rich red raspberry, cassis, and a hint of mint. Great weight on the palate, with a decided meaty aspect, and finishes with fruit. The most savory wine thus far. By far. Great on the table, no doubt. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
- Champ de Cour 2014—Raspberry and smoke do a little pas à deux with a funky onlooker in the wings. On the palate, another gem from a producer that I have come to admire greatly. Just short of a Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
- La Rochelle 2014—Decidedly more funk here, but it stops well short of being too much. In other words, right in my funk wheelhouse. Lots of red berry fruit, too. Still that great texture that I consider a Hallmark of the producer. Intricately balanced, with plenty of fruit, acidity, and just the right amount of weight. Yeah. Uh huh. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
I will try to be objective about these wines, but up front that will be tough since I had a delightful chat with Charlotte, the third generation winemaker at the estate who, at 28 years old, has already assumed the direction of the domaine. She intimated that from a very young age she had always wanted to do what her papa did.
- Vielles Vignes 2016—Fruit driven with cherry and raspberry, and even a bit of cassis. On the palate, round and full, but plenty of acidity comes through on the finish with even some tannin at the very end. Nice. Outstanding. 91-92 Points.
- Vielle Vignes 2015—Similar fruit to the 2016 but more smoke and menthol here. Quite linear and focused, this wine, while a slightly different profile than its younger sibling, is still quite wonderful. Outstanding. 91-92 Points.
- Vin de Garde 2014—More of a savory, meaty nose with some background berry fruit. Rich, full, and beautiful this is a wine to keep for a bit as the tannins on the backend indicate a way to go. Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.