Every November, the shelves in our local wine stores get flooded with bottles with multicolored labels. The wines taste really young- almost grape juicy- and has this after taste of bubble gum. Yes, I am talking of Beaujolais Nouveau. The local papers will write about it and they will go as far as to say to pair it with your Thanksgiving meals! My advice. Ditch the Nouveau. Nouveau is for suckers! Instead get introduced to the world of Cru Beaujolais. Chiroubles, for example.
A narrow strip of land between Lyon and Burgundy, the area of Beaujolais expresses the same grape – Gamay – in 10 different ways. These 10 Crus are worth discovering. If this is daunting, we recommend starting with the most accessible of them all – Chiroubles. We like to call it the Gateway Beaujolais!
Chiroubles: Is it a village or a wine?
It is both (It’s a French thing). Chiroubles is a charming village in Beaujolais. One of the world’s most famous viticulturist came from here. Victor Puillat was one of the guys who figured out how to solve the Phylloxera problem in grapevines by using American rootstocks. So, in reality all of us who love and drink wine owe a lot to Monsieur Puillat and this village for our daily tipple.
The wine made in Chiroubles is called..take a guess….Chiroubles. That’s right. This is a Cru commune. That means, the wines from this area are kind of a big deal. The grape is Gamay. Just to be clear, all Beaujolais red wines are made from Gamay.
So, if all wines from Beaujolais are made from Gamay, what’s the big deal about Chiroubles?
It is that little thing called terroir. Seriously. In the small stretch of land between Lyon to Macon, it’s pretty much Gamay country. But the land and soil is so insanely diverse, that the expression of the same grape is quite different. Lucky for us, there are 10 Cru communes (Chiroubles, Brouilly, Morgon etc…). Hence it is a big deal!
But, what’s so special about Chiroubles itself?
The village of Chiroubles is the most elevated of all the other communes. It is almost 1000 feet above sea level. Also, most of the vineyards have this granitic sand called gore. Some vineyards have just hard granite underneath and the planting of the vines required some serious drilling into the rocks. Crazy, isn’t it? The unique soil and cooler temperatures of this region makes for some awesome wines.
So, it tastes like?..
Gamay has some resemblance to Pinot Noir in it’s delicacy, balance and all that. Burgundy is only a few miles north after all. Chiroubles smells and tastes pretty. Pretty like flowers –violets and peonys mostly. Pretty like red fruits and berries. It is soft in the mouth. Not too tannic and a very easy wine to drink.
Who makes this wine that you call Chiroubles?
Domaine Passot (Rémy, Dominique and now Simon) is a fine example of Chiroubles. When we first met Rémy it was right in front of the 12th century Byzantine church that is at the center of the town of Chiroubles and within a few feet of the statue erected in honor of Victor Puillat. He was driving a pickup truck that afternoon and when we shook hands, we could not but help notice the dirt under his fingernails. Rémy is a farmer and had he become a fireman, or a pilot or an astronaut he would have excelled at it as much he does as a viticulturist. Thanks to his modesty, he does not easily reveal his vast expertise as a winemaker. Besides tending his own excellent vineyards, Rémy manages the much venerated Chateau de Raousset in Chiroubles.
Where can I find these wines?
Like most Cru wines, there isn’t a lot of Chiroubles to go around. See, we here in the US are not very aware of this wine. Countries like UK and Germany are wise to these wines and they drink the bulk of it, sparing the not-so-drinkable Beaujolais Nouveau for us to drink. Also, hail is a big problem in this parts and it is not uncommon for vineyards to have decreased production from hail damage. But ask your local wine store for Chiroubles. Of course, you can always buy directly from us (wink, wink). Here at Terra Vigna, we drink a lot of Beaujolais. We know our Beaujolais and want you to know it too. There you go!