Domaine des Terres Dorées / Jean-Paul Brun
I have loved Brun's wines from the first time I tasted them. So the first thing we did after our plane landed in Lyon was to rent a car and drive to Charnay. I have sometimes heard Brun's wines criticized for being unpleasantly lean. I can understand the adjective but not the adverb - I think leanness can be a very positive aspect of wine.
One possible reason that Brun's wines come across as lean and structured rather than sweet and easy and fruity is that he vinifies the wines in a Burgundian manner instead of with carbonic maceration. “Concrete rocks!” is something I can imagine Brun saying. He didn't use quite such words but he did become quite animated when talking about the benefits of concrete as opposed to inox. I wish I understood the winemaking process better but I've always found the most enjoyable part of wine to be drinking it, preferably with a plate of something unhealthy and fatty on the table before me and so I've never paid as much attention as I should have to the technical side, but apparently concrete lets in oxygen which is somehow beneficial. Perhaps someone here can explain? Brun explaining to Arto Koskelo why concrete rocks!
Anyway, after a quick tour through the cave, we had a tasting of practically everything that Brun makes:Roussanne 2010
- nice, little bit neutral aromas, something strangely herbal going on on the nose; lovely freshness for the grape. Charnay is, says Brun, the absolute northern limit where Roussanne can be grown which, he thinks, explains why it is so fresh and light for the grape.Chardonnay Classic 2011
– a pure, unwooded, nicely appley style; rich compared to the 2010 that I go out of my way to find excuses to open, but also fun though in a less racy style. But less racy in Brunian terms still means pretty racy in general terms.Beaujolais Blanc Vinification Bourguignonne 2011
– obvious oak aromas on the nose, but not too much, I suspect, for most; good crunch and richness. I preferred the Classic.Cuvée Première 2012
– young vine Gamay: a fun, peppery, almost Syrah-smelling wine but with all the lean joy and purity I've come to expect from Brun.L'Ancien 2012
– everyone was talking about how 2012 was such a difficult year. It may have been, but the wines everyone presented ranged from perfectly fine to just lovely. Production may have been only 30-50% of normal, but quality seems to be good if you like a leaner, less sexy/fruity style, and many producers likened it to 2008 and/or 2010. L'Ancien was its usual wonderful self: lean but pure and very moreish. Perhaps not quite as ethereal and pretty as the 2010 but I liked it very much.Côte de Brouilly 2011
– a richer year than 2012 and everyone, including Brun, spoke of it as a good or even great year. This had an open aroma, quite spicy and bit Syrah-like; quite rich for a Brun. Great stuff and the only cru that was kind of open. I liked this very much though it was a bit different from my previous experiences of Brun.Morgon 2011
– more tannic than the CdBrouilly, but very good. It's grumpy now so it's difficult to say anything about it except that it seems very true to Brun's style and all the pieces seem to be in good places for this to hopefully become something nice in a couple years. Hold.Fleurie 2011
– exquisitely pretty; perfect balance though a rich year for Brun. I often seem to like Fleurie more than the other crus (and not just with Brun but in general). This is painfully young though it has ripe fruit, but it has already developed hints of the perfumed, peachy aromas that Fleurie can sometimes have. I shouldn't really enjoy a painfully young wine as much as I enjoyed this. But I guess in some instances everyone can have slight masochistic tendencies.Moulin-à-Vent 2011
– again a quite tannic wine akin to the Morgon, but I seem to have a bit of trouble with M-a-V: for some reason, I rarely find them charming (though wait until I write up my Yvon Métras notes, since there I finally found a superb example!). So it's perfectly nice, but still my least favourite of the Brun Crus.Pinot Noir 2012
– a wonderful cherry aroma; very pure, light but intense and savoury and I really loved it. Fresh and palate cleansing – only open with people who appreciate structured Pinot.Charme Blanc de Blancs
(2010 though officially NV) – quite a sweet aroma though a 100% Chardonnay extra brut bubbly; good richness and great bite, this isn't a harsh style of extra brut. I thought it was very enjoyable.FRV 100
– a Methode ancestrale bubbly - 30 g/l RS and 7,5% abv. Some might say it is just a sweet, simple bubbly but I thought – as with Brun's whole range – that it transcends all that one imagines from such sobriquets. Sweet, yes, but also with a nice acidic bite; simple and fruit-forward, yes, but also one that somehow invites me to become reacquainted with it. My first bottle, that I drank several years ago, I thought was ok but nothing interesting. Somehow, I still kept on buying it whenever I could and now it is one of my favourite bubblies.
We stayed the night at Les Hauts de Chénas
, a little B&B type of place near the top of the Chénas hill – the views over Chénas were pretty amazing.
They have a nice little restaurant were they make perfectly decent local foods. And the owner, Nathalie Fauvin
, also makes some attractive wine. She is one of the few female winemakers in Beaujolais (though more have started making wine in recent years) and she made her first vintage in 2001 after inheriting the property. Her father used to make just one wine, simply labeled Chénas, but Nathalie has expanded the range slightly.Domaine des BrureauxChénas Cuvée Coccinelle 2011
– Fauvin was almost as keen on praising concrete as Brun! She likes the way that e.g. tartarates left on the cement give a continuity to the style year to year and she also appreciated the oxidation and feels that it provides better results than the completely sealed environment of inox. This was a pretty wine made from “young” vines of c.20yo, it is bright and fresh with the ripeness of 2011 showing, but it still has enough acidity to make this moreish. This isn't as exciting a wine as some others we tried this trip, but it was a perfectly decent Chénas.Chénas Cuvée Tradition 2011
– this was a bigger, darker, more sweetly fruity wine than the young-vine Coccinelle and is made from older vines (35-50yo IIRC). A more serious style but still made in concrete instead of oak. Nice!Cuvée Séléné 2011
– this was named after Fauvin's daughter and bears the further name “Le Vin au Féminin”. But there's nothing stereotypically feminine about this wine (and why does the human brain so often want to ascribe masculine or feminine traits to non-living objects?): it is aged in oak, but the oak is old so theoretically it shouldn't interfere with the wine. Yet I still wasn't so keen on this: I think I can smell a bit of oak, or at least something aromatically very like oak, and that detracted from my enjoyment because I am a very limited person and my sense of smell easily gets confused by such aromas that I'm not fond of. Anyway, not really a wine for me.Chénas Cuvée Préstige 2011
– this is made from over 90yo vines which makes it superdense. This is matured completely in old oak barriques but somehow it still smells a bit of oak. It is very rugged, dense and I'd like to say masculine though I just complained about humans ascribing gender to non-living thing. One this is certain: this needs age. And when this young, I really can't say if I will like it or not.Cuvée Séléné 2009
– a very sweet and ripe aroma, I still think I smell a bit of chocolate and spice and all things not so nice; rich. On the basis of these two vintages of Séléné, I'm not a fan of this bottling.Chénas Cuvée Tradition 2007
– We were the last people to finish eating at Les Hauts de Chénas so Fauvin came to our table to discuss the wines with us. We started talking about recent Beaujolais vintages and I mentioned that I've been quite fond of 2007s though they have not been universally praised. First, she explains that recent years have been very tough because there has been hail so often: her grandfather and father “never used to get hail,” she said, “but now I've had hail almost every year!” In 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012 she has lost huge amounts of grapes because of hail so yields have been tiny. 2012 was especially bad and she made IIRC only about 30% of her normal amounts. She then disappears and comes back with this bottle. It is a nice, slightly leaner style wine, not as voluptuous as the 2011 but with a really attractive balance between ripeness of fruit and raciness of structure. Nice! Fauvin likes the style of 2007, too, but she was a bit amused that I like it since most of her customers – even the ones who ask for light wines – prefer the big, sweet, rich styles (like the Séléné and such years like 2009 and 2011).
[i]Sonic boom -device at Brureaux to
I don't drink wine because of religious reasons ... only for other reasons.