Arthur Sellers Bulletin Archive
We have long been searching for a top-notch Beaujolais producer to add to our winery lineup and had all but given up on finding one. Then, a few weeks ago, out of the blue we received an email message from Alexandra Bailly, Export Manager for Château des Gimarets. Would we be interested in representing their award winning Moulin-à-Vent wines in Ontario? I have always loved the wines from Moulin-à-Vent, acknowledged by many to be the most serious and age worthy of the ten Beaujolais Crus. I spent some time researching the winery and their wines. Everything checked out brilliantly, so we asked Alexandra to send us a few bottles to sample. After letting the wines settle for a couple of weeks, we organized a small tasting panel to pronounce on the wines. It was arduous work, but the final verdict was an emphatic thumbs up. The 2011 Moulin-à-Vent Tradition in particular was simply sensational. The verdict was unanimous - the Moulin-à-Vent from Château des Gimarets would be a most worthy addition to the club. Thus, it is with great pleasure that we introduce you to the very fine wines from Château des Gimarets.
In addition to being one of the most misunderstood and maligned wine regions of France, Beaujolais is also one of the two most beautiful (the other being Alsace). Its vineyards strung across the enchanted mountainsides that mark the beginning of France’s Massif Central and countless quaint villages make it a wonderful place to visit. The many fine restaurants and great wines make it darn near perfect. Situated between the cities of Mâcon to the north and Lyon to south, Beaujolais is about fifty kilometres long and between eleven and fourteen kilometres wide.
The vast majority of the wine produced in Beaujolais is red and can only be made from the Gamay grape (officially, Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc). But, they also make what is often a most delightful white from Chardonnay (and occasionally from Aligoté - permitted if planted before 2004). And, while there are some four thousand growers in the region, most of them sell their harvests to the few large firms that dominate the business.
Robert Parker in his tome ‘Burgundy’ notes, “Gamay seems to thrive in the stony, schistous soils of the region. Most red wine grapes have trouble producing high-quality crops in granite-based soils, but Gamay seems to be a natural. The compelling characteristic of Gamay wine is its youthful, fresh, exuberant, crunchy fruit, which the vignerons of Beaujolais have learned to maximize by producing it in an unusual method called carbonic maceration. In this style of vinification, the grapes are not pressed, but simply dumped unceremoniously into a vat in full bunches. Grapes at the very bottom of the vat burst because of the weight on top of them. That juice begins to ferment, warming up the vat and causing fermentation in the unbroken grapes to begin inside their skins. The advantage of this technique is that a wine’s perfume and fruity intensity is largely related to what is inside the grape skin. The acid and tannins are largely extracted from the breaking and crushing of the skins.”
And then there is Beaujolais Nouveau! Beaujolais had always made a vin de l'année to celebrate the end of the harvest, but until WWII it was only for local consumption. However, in 1951, some enterprising members of the Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins du Beaujolais (UIVB) pounced upon a sensational marketing ploy by initiating a race to Paris carrying barrels of the new harvest. What a great way to unload oceans of what otherwise would become vin ordinaire and to generate terrific cash flow. And, what a great excuse for a party! Over succeeding vintages the races spread throughout Europe and North America and in 1985 the third Thursday of November became the official launch day of Beaujolais Nouveau. But, the fruity young wine became a mixed blessing for the Beaujolais. It certainly created massive market awareness for their wine producing region and can be credited for weaning many North Americans off sugar-laded blushes and leading them on their way to more serious wines.
Much to the chagrin of the producers of serious Gamay wines, Beaujolais Nouveau has created a virtually indelible image for the region … cheap and cheerful. It is very difficult for them to find markets for their wines and when they do, prices are depressed. Of course, the flip side to this dilemma is that we are able to purchase superb wines from Beaujolais for a fraction of what similar wines a few kilometres to the north in Burgundy would command.
With the town of Romanèche-Thorins (home of George Duboeuf’s massive enterprise) as its hub, Moulin-à-Vent is often referred to as the King of Beaujolais. But, the wines made there are not typical of Beaujolais and many say they bear more in common with Burgundy. As Robert Parker notes, “There is no doubt that the best Moulin-à-Vents are the richest, fullest, and most ageworthy wines produced in Beaujolais. A 7 or 10-year-old example from one of the best producers will have more in common with a Pinot Noir from the Côte de Beaune than anything produced from the Gamay grape. The production of Moulin-à-Vent, which is now creeping up towards 400,000 cases annually, has no shortage of buyers willing to pay one of the highest prices asked for any of the crus of Beaujolais. Many attribute the underlying richness and structure of Moulin-à-Vent, which produces larger-scaled, more muscular wines, to the fact that the granite-based soil is rich in minerals such as manganese. This provides a greater depth of color and flavor than Gamay is capable of achieving from the granite soils of the other crus.”
A Brief History of Château des Gimarets
The Château des Gimarets winery was founded in the 17th century, during the reign of Louis XIV … when Molière was producing his plays, Lully was composing his music and Rembrandt was creating his paintings. The original château was built in 1650 on the foundation of a Roman Villa that even back then had been surrounded by vineyards. It was destroyed by a fire in 1780 and rebuilt in 1810 by Louis Chaumet, a French prosecutor from Mâcon. This romantic house is located in a bicentennial park amid very old cedar, oak and pine trees, facing the vineyards, near the windmill.
Eric and Nathalie Boyer purchased the estate in 2007 and proceeded to modernize its equipment and enhance the 4.5 hectares of vineyards (with their vines averaging forty-five years of age). They have adopted grape growing techniques and a blend that respect nature and employ the best elements of modern and traditional wine-making practices in the cellar. They produce about 25,000 bottles each year. Their efforts have been richly rewarded as their top-quality wines have regularly won awards and rave reviews from the wine press. Their wines are listed in the renowned French 'Guide Hachette', and have won medals from the 'Mâcon International Wine Fair', the 'Tastevinage of Clos Vougeot', 'Les Grands Vins du Beaujolais of Villefranche-sur-Saône', the 'Féminalise of Beaune' and so on.
Eric and Nathalie have their welcome mat out for any of our wine club members who stray into this little piece of vinous paradise. They also have a bed and breakfast which opens onto the park, should you wish to tarry a while.
Our First Offering from Château des Gimarets
Your intrepid tasting panel gallantly soldiered its way through three Château des Gimarets specimens – the 2011 and 2012 Tradition and the 2010 Esprit de ma Terre that comes from a special plot on the estate. All three were delicious; well-made and thoroughly enjoyable. The consensus favourite was the 2011 Tradition. The 2012 Tradition was somewhat closed and the 2010 Esprit de ma Terre was a close second, but it was also noticeably more expensive. Thus, we are going to feature the 2011 Moulin-à-Vent Tradition and also offer a mixed case comprised of four different vintages of the Tradition. They come in six-bottle cases. We will be taking your orders for these marvelous Moulin-à-Vents to the LCBO on Friday, May 23rd.
2011 Château des Gimarets – 13.0% Alc./Vol. 750 ml Bottles $33/$198 case of 6
Magnums $66/$198 case of 3
I can’t say enough good things about this outstanding wine. Made of course from 100% Gamay, it seems to have everything – power, complexity and charm. It is a lovely, elegant, medium-bodied wine and is truly delicious. A deep red colour, the nose is of red fruit (strawberries and cherries), with floral notes, some wood (cedar? – very light) and spices. It is beautifully balanced, possesses nice soft tannins and good length. This is a very serious wine and would be a fine companion for salmon in almost any form and roast fowl. It will keep nicely and perhaps become even more enjoyable (hard to imagine) for at least another five and more likely ten years. Nobody had any trouble with $33 a bottle for this wine, particularly when reminded that a wine of similar pedigree and quality from Burgundy or Bordeaux would cost at least twice as much. Bravo to Eric and Nathalie for this tour de force! Order regular-sized bottles of this sumptuous treasure now. Or, order a three-pack of magnums (I’m going to).
The Château des Gimarets Sampler – 13.0% Alc./Vol. $34/$204 case of 6
What a great way to get to know the marvelous Moulin-à-Vent from Château des Gimarets. You get three bottles of the terrific 2011 Tradition as well as one bottle each of the 2009 (13.5 Alc./Vol.), 2010 and 2012 Tradition. As noted above, the 2011 is big, bold and powerful while the 2012 seems much more timid. Everything about the 2012 seems muted; as if it is closed. The delicate aroma is of fresh red fruit, white flowers and just a hint of spice and minerals. In the mouth it remains delicate, seems light to medium bodied, is nicely balanced and most pleasant. I suspect it will open up and show its true colours in a year or two. We did not try the 2009 or 2010, but both are outstanding vintages. The winery tells us that both have an intense deep red colour, that the nose is dominated by black berries and spice and that in the mouth they are fruity, rich and complex. Order your vertical of really, really good Moulin-à-Vent now.
The LCBO is the only entity authorized to sell beverage alcohol in Ontario. Arthur Sellers & Company and Arthur’s Cellar Wine Club do not sell or markup beverage alcohol, but rather, arrange for customers to purchase it from the LCBO. Our prices indicated above and on our website include the LCBO sale price plus a fee to cover the cost of sourcing, handling and marketing the wine. The LCBO’s sale prices are available on request.
We would be perfectly pleased if you would pass this note on to others you think might enjoy some excellent Moulin-à-Vent from a top notch producer.
Many thanks and cheers!
Jim, Hélène and Kate