This week, my local tasting group focused on Beaujolais, a wine region I adore but, sadly, I have neglected in my editorial coverage of late. I blame this on distraction: I’ve been studying for the final exam in the Italian Wine Scholars Guild course, and finally, it’s all behind me. I am infatuated with Italian wine, but wouldn’t ya know it: I’m now craving the light reds of France.
Spring seems to be the perfect time to revisit Beaujolais, particularly the wines from the 10 cru that produce the most refined, and terroir-expressive versions of Gamay. Mercifully, you can still buy a lot of it for a good price.
Wedged in the lineup Monday was a Beaujolais-Villages (★★★★ 1/2) I brought from Stéphane Aviron, a négociant with a fondness for old vines. It was the last of four samples I had from this producer, and lo and behold, it was better than half of the cru bottles we had opened, with tart currant notes that sustained for hours after it had been first poured. There was no struggle. No tease. Just a straight-up delicious wine that reminded me we had cheese in the refrigerator at 11pm. (I was doing dishes with a second glass).
I’ve been chipping away at the wines of Stéphane Aviron for months, and the shining star in the collection was the Morgon Côte du Py profiled below.
When I first came to Beaujolais’ wines many years ago, Moulin-à-Vent seemed to be the most lauded of the 10 cru. But with time and plenty of tasting, its become more complicated than that. Morgon’s celebrated oak-topped hill, the Côte du Py, has consistently stunned me with its complexity, and Stéphane Aviron’s version from 2016 is a celebration of that famed hill. The wine is a ghost, with alluring purple fruits and herbal notes that come and go and lead you away. In a region with several stars representing a variety of approaches — from Yann Bertrand and Jean-Foillard to Château du Moulin-à-Vent — you can add Stéphane Aviron to the roster. An exceptional producer worth seeking out.
2016 Stéphane Aviron Morgon Côte du Py Vielles Vignes
Morgon AOC (Beaujolais)
Grapes: Gamay Noir (100%)
Natural? (organic) (biodynamic)
Ratings: ★★★★ 3/4 (out of five)
• Food-friendliness: Exceptional
• Value: As Expected
Tasting notes: This wine is a brilliant example of Gamay’s shape-shifting qualities. The color is deeper than most Beaujolais, which isn’t surprising given the Côte du Py’s reputation for concentration. Aromas are brisk and invigorating, but hard to pin down, shifting from blackberries to savory plum; violets, tomato leaf and mushroom as it opens up. Medium body, medium acidity, very juicy in its fruit tones, with hardly any tannin. A fine example of Beaujolais’ complexity. The wine experiences no carbonic maceration, and sees 12 months in new and used oak casks. (See also Stéphane Aviron’s Moulin-à-Vent for an interesting comparison).
Serving suggestion: Ideal for roasted chicken, venison meatballs, or roasted autumn vegetables. Don’t be afraid to serve it with the slightest chill.
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