Sometimes you have a chance to taste a range of wines of which you might normally be a touch dismissive, either on account of previous tasting experience or simply reputation. And sometimes, your preconceived ideas are challenged or in this case, blown away. After Hannah visited Château des Jacques earlier this summer, and returned seriously impressed by the quality on show, we had a chance to taste a range of the estate’s single-vineyard 2017 Moulin-à-Vent in London. Simon's offer, below.
Château des Jacques, located in the village of Romanèche-Thorins, has quickly and quietly become one of the most respected properties in Beaujolais. Purchased by Maison Louis Jadot in 1996, it became the first Beaujolais estate to be owned by such a notable Burgundian house – Jadot’s investment and ambition for the estate have simply served to enhance its reputation further. Winemaker Cyril Chirouze has been at the helm of Château des Jacques since 2007; the style of Beaujolais that Cyril is crafting is certainly influenced by the time he spent in Burgundy. From 2013 to 2015 he worked in the Côte-du-Nuits with the aim of returning to Beaujolais to employ Burgundian techniques in both the vineyard and the cellar. Tweaking his approach at Château des Jacques, Cyril has lifted the quality of wines – most notably the clutch of Moulin-à-Vent – that the estate produces.
Moulin-à-Vent is certainly one of the more identifiable of the 10 Crus of Beaujolais and it is certainly one of the more age-worthy. As Gamay (the variety responsible for Beaujolais) ages, the French employ the term ‘pinoter’ to highlight the fact that in style and aroma move closer to Pinot Noir. Trying to generalise about styles of Moulin-à-Vent is tricky as the winemaking approach can vary substantially from estate to estate. Some produce overtly floral, fruity styles of Beaujolais that are made via a whole berry fermentation called carbonic maceration, while others vinify their Gamay in a similar manner to a Burgundian winemaker might vinify Pinot Noir. It is in this latter camp that the wines of Château des Jacques firmly belong…. they bring together the violet hints, juicy ripe fruit and mineral nuances that make Moulin-à-Vent such a captivating style. What fascinated me most of all, tasting the Carquelin, Roche and Thorins (the three wines that we have selected for this offer), is the different character traits brought about by subtle variation in soil composure and vineyard site. The abundant summer berry fruit of the Carquelin, the darker, more brooding fruit and more marked, stoney mineral back bone of the Roche, and the superb elegance, bright fruit and mineral nuances of the Thorin made for a truly fascinating tasting. I am really pleased to say the estate agreed that we could offer these three examples in mixed six bottle wooden cases direct from the domaine as well as by the individual case.
A word on the vintage… 2017 was not plain-sailing: once the risks of spring frost had been navigated, growers had to contend with crop losses on account of hail. I know of one grower in Moulin-à-Vent, who cited losses as high as 80%, but as Andrew Jefford commented on Decanter’s website shortly after harvest: ‘the irony in all of this is that Beaujolais cru quality in 2017 looks exceptionally good, after very fair results in 2016 and a generous, fine-quality 2015 vintage, making this the perfect moment to assess the attainment of these young stars. Nature’s violence, though, means that they cannot profit from their achievements as they deserve.’
Please see below for my full notes. Please note these wines will be shipped in mid-October 2018. As mentioned above, there is also opportunity to purchase the three wines in a mixed-six bottle case.
2017 Moulin-à-Vent, La Roche, Château des Jacques
£125 per 6 bottle case in bond
A 1.5-hectare vineyard situated on the crest of Moulin-â-Vent where soils are predominantly quartz.
Deep in the glass, with a beautiful scent of violets allied to blueberry, smoke and spice. The Roche immediately reveals a stoney, mineral-accented style which lends power to its intense dark, brooding fruit. What impresses most is the wealth of fruit...this is certainly intense, but the fruit is fresh and underscored by a marked vibrancy. Not a harsh edge, this has a sleek texture and is already showing fine complexity. Whereas the 2015 was untypical, and tended towards headiness, and the 2016 seemed a touch leaner, this 2017 walks a very fine line. Beautifully crafted with impressive length. Drink 2019-2025+.
2017 Moulin-à-Vent, Clos des Thorins, Château des Jacques
£125 per 6 bottle case in bond
A 3-hectare vineyard, comprising an amphitheatre of vineyards in the centre of Moulin-â-Vent. The Thorins vineyard is based on typical granitic soils for the region.
Perhaps a touch lighter in the glass, the aromas here hint more towards vibrant red berry than the darker end of the spectrum. Notes of a smoky, mineral nature add complexity to the floral, lifted aromatics. The palate is all grace and elegance… streamlined, taut with a stoney nuance proving persistent throughout. There is a Burgundian sense of refinement here; the characters are less exuberant, but with notes of bitter red cherry and loganberry emerging. This is a racier style, which strikes a stark contrast to the other single vineyards Moulins. Very impressive. Drink 2019-2025.
2017 Moulin-à-Vent, Clos du Grand Carquelin, Château des Jacques
£125 per 6 bottle case in bond
A 5-hectare vineyard, situated on the south-facing slopes of Moulin-à-Vent, soils include quartz, grey granite and pink sandstone.
An exuberant berry fruit akin to summer berry compote lifts from the glass. On the palate, this has immediate appeal on account of the lush, sumptuous quality of the fruit. Mouth-filling, with a juicy, sappy nature – this example is seductively-styled. As the wine benefits from air it reveals and almost damson, bitter cherry nature backed by a gentle creaminess. Without the enlivening nature of the 2017, this may seem too overt, but the vibrancy lends precision and length to the palate. This is one head-turning Moulin-â-Vent and is a joy to taste even at this early stage. Drink 2019-2023.
2017 Moulin-â-Vent, Single Vineyard Case, Château des Jacques
£130 per 6 bottle case in bond
Including two bottles of each of the above three single vineyard wines, packed exclusively for Atlas clients in wooden cases direct from the estate.
This offer centres on wines from a region that is out of fashion and off the radar, but equally wines that offer great value and personality, that have the ability to age over the mid-term if desired. You might just find that your preconceived ideas on the region are in for a shake-up.