Poor Beaujolais. It's long been treated like the redheaded stepchild of Burgundy. Wispy and one-dimensional or with the same flavor profile as a brick of grape-flavored Bubble Yum, the worst of Beaujolais is usually deserving of the disdain. But there are so many fantastic Beaujolais available, from Crus like Moulin-à-Vent, Morgon, Brouilly, Julienas, Fleurie and St-Amour, among others, that writing off the region is like kicking Einstein out of school for some silly pranks. And the 2009 vintage, which was pretty spectacular across Europe, was phenomenal in Beaujolais. Wine writer Jancis Robinson declared 2009 the "Year of Beaujolais" in an article for the Financial Times, and Jon Bonné, wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, called it "en fuego" in a recent article. K&L's Burgundy buyer Keith Wollenberg wrote in his forthcoming March newsletter article that he thought it might be the best Beaujolais vintage he's tasted in 30 years in the business.
Now that the 2009 Beaujolais are arriving in stores for us to sample for ourselves, we're finding that many are living up to (and some are surpassing) the hype of this near-perfect vintage. A recent favorite comes from Charly Thevenet, the 20-something son of famed Beaujolais producer Jean Paul Thevenet. The 2009 Charly Thevenet Regnie "Grain & Granit" ($26.99) comes from 70-year-old old-clone Gamay vines in Regnie, just north of Lyon, that Charly farms biodynamically and organically. The grapes are hand-harvested, and Charly does not use carbonic maceration, a process that lends many a Beaujolais their tutti fruity character. And the Grain & Granit is anything but tutti fruity. Or frivolous. It's the color of obsidian with flashes of purple and crimson, and its nose is smoky and herbaceous, with faint suggestions of black cherries and wet stone. On the palate, the wine is tense, with raspberry, pluot and black cherry fruit underscored by floral aromas and roasted meats, all framed by fine-grained tannins that catch you a bit off guard. Despite its density, the wine is far from over-extracted, with plenty of acidity to keep it lithe and lively and distinctly Gamay. This wine is really delicious now, but it promises to wow you and your wine-loving friends for a long time to come.