Well, it’s been that way for a while, but having participated in a very exciting Beaujolais dinner a few weeks ago (see post of 17 July) at The 10 Cases, we felt the need to explore some more of the region’s wonderful wines again. This time, the venue was Farringdon’s Quality Chop House, taking advantage of their “no corkage” deal on a Monday night. As ever there, the food was exemplary, great value, and the welcome was very warm.
We began with the first pair of Beaujolais-Villages, from Laurence & Rémi Dufaitre (Domaine de Botheland) – their cuvees Prémices and L’Air de Rien. These made a wonderful start to the evening. Fun wines brimming with fruit, most preferred the 2014 Prémices, with three out of ten (including me) going for the 2012 L’Air. This domaine has limited UK availability (these bottles were sourced in Paris), but they have been touted as new stars from the region. I have no doubt, on these and previous bottles of other cuvées, that this is true.
The next two wines, both 2012s, were from France Gonzalvez and Yvon Métras. The former was very stinky “Villages” to begin with, barnyard being the most pleasant term used. It did blow off, but the wine didn’t recover 100%. The Métras, a Beaujolais tout court, was singular and masterful. It didn’t concern me that the bottle was cloudy, having been carted around London all day. It had real presence and astonishing “life”.
Next, two flights of Fleurie, the first consisting of two 2014s from Le Grappin (the Beaune micro-negoce of Andrew Nielsen) and Jean-Louis Dutraive (his Le Clos de la Grand Cour Cuvée Vieilles Vignes). The wine from Le Grappin has a great colour, very smooth, obviously showing some of the extra vigour of 2014, but really well made and showing extremely well alongside Dutraive’s wine – new to me, but very classy. Both provided a nice contrast to the natural inclination of the preceding wines, and indeed a hint that 2014 will provide some excellent prospects where the power potential was well handled, as here.
The second pairing of Fleuries were both from the region’s secret star, Julie Balagny. This young woman worked with Yvon Métras and they remain close associates. Her wines are no pale copy of that icon of “natural” winemaking, and she clearly has something new to say. The Carioca 2011 was fresh and delicious, yet someone said it had been through a bad phase not that long ago, perhaps providing further evidence that these wines will both age and evolve. The Fleurie En Rémont “Jean Barrat” was at first hard to interpret. I thought it was too old initially, but I’m now sure it was merely a big 2009 which had a certain monolithic quality. Highly intriguing nevertheless. Another wine which improved in the glass. I believe it was Julie’s first vintage, possibly her first wine, so her fans were very pleased to try it. I’m not wholly sure how I prised the bottle away from its Parisian owner. The 2011 may have won on the night but I’m kind of half regretting giving the empty 2009 bottle away (only joking Oli, unless you forgot it?).
The next pair might have been, just, the least successful pairing overall. The second France Gonzalvez of the night was her Côte de Brouilly 2013, which for me was a bit stiff. We’d paired it with Jean-François Ganevat‘s Cuvée Madelon 2013. This wine wasn’t as popular as I’d thought it would be, even with the confirmed Ganevat fans. Very funky, I probably liked it more than anyone else prepared to voice an opinion, but I do think J-F is always pushing to say something different with all his cuvées. His Pinots and Chardonnays often taste far less weird than people expect, but this cuvée does push the envelope, it’s true. For me, cliché as it is to say it, the guy’s a wine genius, like Métras. Less sure on the label front though.
One cool and amusing touch with Gonzalvez – the label says both “Côte de Brouilly” and “Vin de…France”, a play on her name, which nevertheless half fools people. How does she get away with it?
We finished the official flights off with a couple of Foillards from 2009. The straight Morgon Côte du Py was a contender for Wine of the Night when almost no wine failed to show well. Stunningly good. The Côte du Py 3.14 from the same vintage was not showing quite as well as the straight Morgon, but simply because it’s a fine wine just entering its stride – it should improve over a decade on this showing. It’s altogether a different sort of Gamay to the expected Beaujolais norm, but still clearly of the family.
We ended up drinking a du Grappin red #Bagnum before I left, and it’s amazingly good wine to find in a bag (of which I shall have a lot more to say in due course). It’s made from Gamay entitled to the new Coteaux Bourguignons AOP. Delicious, especially slightly chilled. In fact the evening was pretty humid in London and we did chill most of the wines a little bit, worrying about the heat. But nothing seemed spoiled.
If the tone of this post seems less frivolous than usual it may be in part down to eating and drinking quite a lot and then getting home at 12.30am on a Monday night (ouch!). But it’s also down to recognising that not only is Beaujolais fun to drink, it’s also becoming a serious proposition. The wines are genuinely under priced for the quality but I’m not sure they can remain that way.
Emma Nielsen models the summer’s must have accessory, the wine bag #Bagnum, available at a Saturday market near you (beware of fakes and counterfeits).
A final comment on the food…QCH really do make it difficult to choose what to eat. The Gloucester Old Spot for my main course was really good, although everyone was pretty ecstatic about their dishes, especially the monkfish dishes (starter and main), and the very filling (under statement) mince on toast. The bill, as ever, was totally reasonable. Although the tables are about as wide as a decorator’s plank, I still suggest it’s one hundred per cent worth slogging up Farringdon Road towards Mount Pleasant. At least it’s not hard to hear the person sitting opposite, as can sometimes be the case in the cathedrals of gastronomy (the campaign for a hearing loop in Michelin-starred restaurants starts here!).
Before leaving, to avoid complete disappointment for those expecting something frivolous, a silly photo…