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A New Partnership in Beaujolais
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Apr 5, 2016
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Joseph Drouhin / Domaine des Hospices de Belleville, Morgon 2014 (Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., $21):  Joseph Drouhin is one of the leading wine producers in Burgundy, with domain vineyards throughout the Cote de Beaune, Cote de Nuits and Chablis as well as negociant production extending into the Chalonnais and Maconnais regions of Burgundy.  As of the 2014 vintage, the Joseph Drouhin name now also appears on several cru wines from the Beaujolais region in conjunction with that of the Domaine des Hospices de Belleville.

The Domaine des Hospices de Belleville, a smaller version of the famous Hospices de Beaune, owns 34 acres of Beaujolais cru vineyards which were donated to the charity over the centuries.  In an exclusive partnership, Maison Joseph Drouhin will provide viticultural and winemaking oversight and marketing support, while the Domaine des Hospices de Belleville will continue to own the vineyards and produce the wine.  The inaugural releases of this partnership are three cru Beaujolais from the charming 2014 vintage: Brouilly, Fleurie and Morgon.

The 2014 Brouilly ($23) is, predictably, the lightest of the three wines, but lightness and freshness can be very much an asset in Beaujolais wines.  With floral and peppery aromas, red fruit flavors, supple tannins and a slight earthy note on the finish, this wine is delicious and delightful.

Of the ten crus, Fleurie and especially Morgon are among those that tend to make somewhat heartier wines, and this style is evident in the two 2014’s that I tasted alongside the Brouilly.  Ultimately, my favorite is the Morgon ($21), but the Fleurie is a close second. The Morgon is a beauty: rounded and rich, with firm acid-and-tannin structure, and an exuberance of red fruits that is the wine’s salient characteristic.  The texture is silky, the finish is long and savory, and the overall taste is harmonious and complete.

The 2014 Fleurie ($25) is spicier and more savory than the Morgon, with a bit more tannin and a bit less exuberance.  The aromas are floral first and then red-berried, with peppery notes on the palate; the texture shows some grip compared to the utter fluidity of the Morgon.  This Fleurie to me seems to be holding back a bit, and I am curious to taste how it will develop over the next year. 

Winemaking for all three of these Beaujolais crus is a combination of Burgundian techniques (the grapes de-stemmed, the grapeskins punched down into the fermenting juice and/or the juice pumped over the skins, and then the wine aged in 500-liter barrels) and the carbonic-maceration technique found in the Beaujolais region (whole clusters into the tank, no de-stemming, the juice fermenting without oxygen present, followed by aging in stainless steel tanks).  After six to nine months, the two batches of each wine are blended.  The degree that each technique is used relative to the other varies from vintage to vintage.  For the Fleurie and the Morgon, I tried to form an opinion as to which winemaking technique seemed to dominate; it’s a credit to the wines that they possess enough nuance of flavor and structure that I gave up the effort to determine the dominant method.

Only small quantities of these three wines are available in the U.S. -- 250 cases each of the Brouilly and Morgon and 150 cases of the Fleurie.

Morgon, 90 Points