Crus’ing to New Prominence
CRU GAMAYS GAIN RESPECT
By David Lincoln Ross
A perfect storm of positive marketplace trends is boosting the 10 crus of Beaujolais to new prominence and popularity. Merchants, restaurateurs and somms, together with customers, are definitely taking notice of the wines’ intrinsic quality/value appeal.
Long in the shadow of Beaujolais Nouveau, the 10 crus of Beaujolais—Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chiroubles, Chénas, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour—posted a robust 63% sales gain in the U.S. during the first six months of 2016 versus the same period in 2015, according to French Agriculture ministry data.
Raj Vaidya, Wine Director, Restaurant Daniel, New York, says, “Beaujolais crus offer incredible bang for buck.” Daniel’s wine list features a baker’s dozen of crus, including a 2001 Domaine de Vissoux, “Garants”, Fleurie, for $95 and a 2009, Domaine Barbet, Saint-Amour, for $75. He adds, “Beaujolais crus also age better than many realize, which is why I love to list some older vintages.”
Veronica Litton, Wine Director, Crown Wine & Liquors, a 12-store group based in Miami, identifies another key reason behind the growing interest in crus Beaujolais: “We’ve all seen what Burgundy pricing has been in the last three vintages, with shortages, so we’ve enhanced our cru Beaujolais selections; I am proud to say Crown features all 10 crus.”
Georges Dubœuf, founder of Les Vins de Georges Dubœuf, Romananche-Thorins, France, and renowned for promoting Beaujolais since the early 1960s, observed he sees better opportunities than ever for his crus in the U.S. “Our exports of crus Beaujolais are up this year, and our importer, distributors and merchants and sommeliers are passing on the message to consumers of their incredible value in the world of wine.”
Dennis Kreps, co-owner of Quintessential Wines, Napa, California, and importer of Dubœuf’s portfolio, says, “One of the key points to effectively selling Georges Dubœuf’s Cru Domaine and Château wines is location. The wines represent the nuances of “place” just as much as Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, at very approachable prices.”
Jason Jacobeit, Wine Director, Bâtard, New York, concurs. “A guest recently asked without opening the list, ‘Do you have any Côte de Py?’ I had several vintages of Foillard (Morgon) for him, luckily. But that sort of morcellated plot-by-plot conceptualization has been a mindset previously reserved solely for the Côte d’Or.”
J.R. Thomason of Flatiron Wine & Spirits, New York, says, “A Beaujolais Cru is cheaper than Burgundy, and at $20 you can have a terroir-driven Chenas or Saint-Amour, and tell the difference.”
Trey Beffa, co-owner of K&L Wine Merchants, with three stores in San Francisco, which stocks a sizeable number of cru Beaujolais from smaller producers, adds, “Younger winemakers in Beaujolais are pursuing sustainable farming and introducing natural or organic, and/or bio-dynamic wines; this is stimulating our customers to try these new cru wines.”
And, as attention around Beaujolais nouveau dispels after the holidays, this has opened the door to permit greater focus in the trade on cru Beaujolais offerings, says Pascal F. Salvadori, Vice President, Senior Portfolio Manager & Director of Education, Esprit du Vin (Palm Bay), which represents Château de La Chaize from Brouilly.
The Gamay grape’s intrinsic food friendliness also signals a new, more sustained year-round opportunity to encourage trial and upselling to Beaujolais crus.
Anthony Cohen, Brand Manager, French & European Estates, Frederick Wildman and Sons, New York, importer of three producers of Beaujolais, including crus from Château Fuissé, Domaine Labruyère and Stéphane Aviron, says “Beaujolais is Lyon,” referring to the food capital of France, where a roast chicken, pommes frites and a Beaujolais are revered as a gastronomic holy trinity. Cohen adds, “Crus are food friendly, fruity, not overpowering, yet complex.”
Jules Dressner, co-owner of Louis/Dressner, a New York importer of seven cru Beaujolais producers, says: “Beaujolais is fun and affordable, and people finally figured this out. But they can also be complex and terroir-centric (ie. the Cru bottlings), so you can geek out to them. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Noting the versatility of Beaujolais crus, Belinda Chang, Partner, Maple & Ash, a top Chicago restaurant, says, “We are steering our customers away from the traditional steakhouse wines that they might typically order (Napa Cabernet) and encouraging them to enjoy more universally food friendly wine, which accommodate the seafood eaters at the table as well.”
All in all, thanks to a confluence of market trends, there’s no better time than now to introduce customers to the 10 distinctive, terroir-driven crus of Beaujolais.
The author wishes to thank Beverage Media for permission to adapt this article from its January 2017 issue on pp. 22-23.