Monday, September 13, 2010

2009 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie Cru Beaujolais Bourgogne France

For those of you who may not know it, notoriously famous for its esoteric, natural wines from artisanal producers crafting beautiful gems and solid consistent flagships in their own respective appellations, importer Louis/Dressner has left Douglas Polaner Selections, and is now distributed through David Bowler wine in New York state. No matter really who is distributing Louis/Dressner wines, as long as we can still buy them, that’s only what really counts for wine buyer like me.

However, talking about wines from Louis/Dressner, I just tasted one of the standards of the Cru Beaujolais: Clos de la Roilette Fleurie. This wine has always been a remarkable example of what Fleurie as to offer. And people who know my discriminating dissecting-like-a-surgeon palate, understand that I love crispy, crunchy wines with juicy fruit, vivid refreshing acidity and integrated yet present tannic structure, which are the essential backbone components of great wines. Well, trust me, I don’t say that for every wine, but I just found all of these needed and indispensable characteristics in the 2009 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie, and I was quite blown away by its gustative qualities.

You see, I talk a lot (didn’t notice?...) and can also write a lot (bored already?...), but when I love a wine, then suddenly no word can be heard from my claymation mouth. Not a sound. I just enjoy and savor the wine till the last drop. If I talk too much about a wine just after tasting it, it is because I dissected it so much that I found too much flaws in it (inharmonious, disjointed, unbalanced, unripe, no acidity, no texture, no structure, hollow middle, short finish, too ripe, too acidic, too thin, too woody, too tannic, bitter, sour, etc…). If I don’t say anything, it is usually because I found harmony of all the elements and components of the wine to my liking, perfectly adapted to my taste and taste buds’ cravings.

When I taste, I need to understand the wine: its origin, the climate of the region, the climate of the vintage, the exposure, the elevation, the type of soil, the way it was made, vineyard management, vinification, and what was the thinking behind the winemaker’s mind and adaptation to the vintage. So I always ask myself some questions when I taste to be able to appropriately judge the wine and comprehend why and how it tastes like it tastes. How was the vintage in that particular region? What is the usual style of the winemaker for this particular estate? Has the climate during ripening season and harvest season really imparted the winemaking and the final taste? Or did the winemaker choose to harvest earlier because it was a very hot year or later because it was a cooler vintage? How long was it aged? In tanks or in barrels? Were the vineyard and cellar managements Organic, Biodynamic, Sustainable, Lutte Raisonnée, Carbon Neutral, Biologic, Natural, or simply adapted with a combination of some or all the above?

It is important not to just taste the wine for what it is, but also for what it represents, the work of the men and women behind it, the region it comes from and more interestingly to be able to retrace its life from the end of the previous harvest, the dormant period of winter, the burgeoning and coming back to life period with the flowering and the emergence of the fruit, the ripening season up until the grapes are harvested and juice is pressed. In order to be truthful, passionate and convincing, get to know the wine that you taste, it will help you a lot when you will have to describe it to your customers or to your family and friends.

For certain person, wine represents only fermented grape juice in a bottle. As a passionate wine lover, wine buyer and wine drinker, moreover grandson of a winemaker, my love for wine goes beyond the label: topping the grape variety (ies) its was made with and the region, each wine encompasses a bit of history often associated with local culinary traditions, complemented by the regional and local topography, climatology, pedology, edaphology; and without mentioning biology, chemistry and mathematics... and the personality of all the people who participated to its elaboration from the vines to the glass.

Think about the fact that each winemaker has one shot each year to succeed, no matter what, to produce the best wine he or her can craft with a bit of help from the combination of mother nature and new technology (not always accessible for all of them). Winemaking is a fragile, often costly and testing difficult concept often counterbalanced by the skills, experience, knowledge, know how, style and personal instinct of the winemaker. Think about all of the above when you next taste a wine, you’ll see you may experience a brand new way to enjoy but also understand what you taste.

However, I get carried away once again, but it's true: it is very easy to open bottles of wine and empty them or condemn them if the wine is bad; yet it is not that easy for winemakers to craft these little gems, which are Happiness in bottle that you gorge on to every time a good occasion presents itself.

Let’s go back to our wine of the day:

2009 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie Cru Beaujolais France

Clos de la Roilette is located in the village of Fleurie, one of the 10 Crus of Beaujolais (from north to south the Beaujolais crus are: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly), about 60 kilometers north of Lyon.

The estate covers about nine hectares of one of the best slopes in the Beaujolais Crus. The “Clos” (literally meaning an enclosed plot of land planted with vines), which has an eastern exposure, borders the Moulin-à-Vent appellation, and produces wines that are beautiful when young and have the capacity to age 5-10 years, depending on the vintage.

In the 20’s, when the Fleurie appellation was first created, the former landowner was infuriated with losing the Moulin-à-Vent appellation under which the “Clos” had previously been classified. He created a label, using a photograph of his racehorse Roilette, and used the name Clos de la Roilette, without mentioning Fleurie. The owner vowed not to sell a drop of his wine on the French market and the production went to Switzerland, Germany and England.

By the mid-1960s, the owner’s heirs had lost interest in the “Clos” and a large portion of the land had gone wild and untended. In 1967, Fernand Coudert bought this poorly maintained estate, and replanted the vineyards. His son Alain joined him in 1984, and has been the winemaker since.

The Couderts say their particular terroir (mainly clay and manganese), and the age of their vines (25 to 33 years-old) account for the richness of their wine. It usually has a deep blackcurrant color with a hint of purple, a restrained nose of crème de cassis, a rich, full mouth with aromas of cassis, black cherries, and a nutty character, and finishes with zesty acidity. This is a wine that ages gracefully and takes on the aromatic character of a Pinot Noir.

With the 1998 vintage, the Couderts introduced a new wine, Cuvée Christal, which is lighter and meant to drink younger. Also, a few vintages ago, they started a selection of old vines cuvée that is partially aged in older oak barrels. They call this Cuvée Tardive, meaning that it needs more aging time and has even greater longevity than the Clos cuvée.

2009 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie Cru de Beaujolais Bourgogne France
Suggested retail price $19-$22
Imported by Louis/Dressner and distributed by David Bowler in NYC

First, and without trying to make any kind of generalization, I need to say that overall, 2009 was across the board a very good vintage, combining ideal climate and temperatures with optimum ripeness, great structure and complex resulting wines in many regions across the hexagonal country, as we like to call it in France. Many of you may have already realized that most 2009 French (and most European too) whites and rosés were quite fat and intense compared to 2008 and more especially 2007, which were leaner, somewhat more classic vintage depending on the region (and depending on your taste and palate too).

For the reds, 2009 seamed to ally similar ripeness as in the 2005 and 2006 vintage with the acidity of 2006 and 2008 and the tannins of 2007 (do you still follow me?). In any case and however you take it, it was a very good year, which produced exceptional wines for most producers. And the 2009 Clos de la Roilette Fleuire is no exception; on the contrary, it is a great example of what 2009 has to offer in the Beaujolais region.

It shows a bright ruby red color with pinkish reflects. The nose has reminiscent of earth combined with charming and inviting freshly crushed red and dark cherry aromas. Despite the ripeness of the vintage, the generous palate has a lovely crisp texture with excellent tannic structure and vivid, racy acidity that enhances the ripe red and dark berry flavors. This wine is really nice, balanced, focus, elegant and juicy with a lingering finish full of bright red cherry and earthy, mineral tones. What a delightful wine! Agreeable, gentle yet solidly built, crisp, juicy and crunchy like I love. I could enjoy drinking quite a bit of this wine.

It shows great potential, complexity and length in a straight to the point package. No chi-chi. No bla-bla. Just a great straight earthy wine that has the character and the profile of a charismatic vigneron, the frank and uncomplicated old style of “les hommes du terroir”, a wine that remind me my late grandfather and the winemakers of his generation (check out the picture of Monsieur Coudert on Louis/Dressner website, and you’ll understand what I’m trying to say). They knew how to make wine that expresses their terroir of origin and the full complexity of the grape variety’s aromas and flavors.

There are plenty of bad wines in the market, because there are plenty of bad and none passionate winemakers and too much vines planted where they shouldn’t have been planted (increase of the demand, lack of soil study, lack of knowledge, or skills or experience, etc…), but put a passionate winemaker on a great terroir and you’ll obtain magnificent results.

The list of my favorite estates and wines from around the world will be too long to develop in just one post, therefore I will just say that, like many other great wineries and estates that ally the resourceful human qualities with the qualities of a preserved and naturally tended Terroir and vineyard, Clos de la Roilette has established itself as a benchmark standard of high quality for the Fleurie appellation and an inspiration for wine buyer like me to constantly buy their wines year after year.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the importer website at

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