Beaujolais might be the perfect wine for the fall. Crisp air and turning leaves are an excellent match for a the cool fruit and punchy mouthfeel of first-rate Beaujolais. The region is still best known for the Beaujolais Nouveau, a quaint local custom turned global marketing phenomenon. But there’s far more to Beaujolais than cheap candied red wine.
The Crus Beaujolais are more serious wines from the ten small villages that make up the appellation. Our favorite among these is Juliénas, which is known for its dark, concentrated expression of the Gamay grape. Cru Beaujolais may be more intellectual than their Bacchanalian Nouveau cousins, but at their core they maintain the region’s spirit of festivity and plaisir.
Today’s Juliénas comes from Jean-Marc Monnet, a tiny winemaker making humble, excellent gamay. Made from 25-50 year old vines, this is smooth, rich, complex and simply delicious. It has more concentration and energy than much Bourgogne rouge from further north, and comes in at about half the price.
The color is inky purple, with a dark and earthy nose showing cranberry and pure wild cherry. The mouthfeel is intense and smooth with a long, dense finish of graphite and violets. This is delicious and intense, but, as Jancis Robinson puts it, “meant to be drunk, not contemplated.” It’s best described in French as gouleyant, a wonderfully onomatopoeic word that means “gulpable,” which perfectly captures the essence of good Beaujolais.
There’s no better wine for autumn than Beaujolais. But skip the Nouveau this year — for a few bucks more, Monnet’s dense, silky red is still a steal.
Monnet Juliénas 2017
bottle price: $18
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