It's very simple: Uncork and enjoy Wines: Beaujolais is easy to understand and ready to drink. There's one name to remember: Georges Duboeuf.

September 15, 1996|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN WINE CRITIC

In a world of ponderous complexity, the wines of Beaujolais are refreshingly simple and simply refreshing.

There is no rating system to remember, and you needn't concern yourself with questions about whether the latest vintage is ready to drink. It always is.

The wines are as easy to drink as they are to understand. They can be served with many foods, from fish to chicken to beef.

Many fine producers export Beaujolais to the United States, but there's only one you really have to know about -- Georges Duboeuf. His wines are by far the most widely distributed, and their quality is impeccable. In addition, he makes wines from every significant subregion of Beaujolais, ably reflecting the character of each.

That brings us to the one wrinkle of complexity in this otherwise straightforward region: Many of the best wines don't even bear the name Beaujolais. Instead, they carry the name of one of the 10 best "crus," or growing areas, in the heart of the region.

A recent tasting of Duboeuf's 1995 "flower label" Beaujolais bottlings provided an excellent opportunity to review the styles of these various crus. It was an excellent vintage for Beaujolais, -- and the wines are widely available.

Fruit of the hills

Basic Beaujolais is lowest on the pecking order, and even Duboeuf's bottlings tend to be a bit watery. But quality perks up with Beaujolais-Villages, which takes in the hilly north of the region.

Duboeuf's 1995 "flower label" Beaujolais-Villages ($9.49) is a thoroughly enjoyable wine for one that is produced in such massive quantities. But for a sense of just how fine Beaujolais-Villages can be, seek out Duboeuf's La Coupe Diriet bottling ($9.49), a vibrant, exceptionally well-balanced wine with intense black cherry and raspberry flavors.

The crus represent the best of Beaujolais-Villages. Their names are Regnie, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, St.-Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent.

With its 1988 vintage, Regnie became the newest of these villages to win "cru" status, and it is carving out a reputation. Its wines do seem to be light by the standards of most other crus, but a small cut above ordinary Beaujolais-Villages. Duboeuf's 1995 Regnie ($10.49) is better delineated than the Beaujolais-Villages, but not profoundly different.

Fleurie is one of the more light-bodied crus, but it often soars above weightier wines in its floral fragrance, intensity and sheer class. Perhaps because of its pretty name, it is also the most expensive cru. Duboeuf's 1995 ($13.49) is a masterpiece.

Chiroubles is known for the powerful fragrance of its light- to medium-bodied wines. In some years, it can yield wine of exquisite balance and beauty, but Duboeuf's 1995 ($12) falls short of the performance of some past vintages.

Brouilly's delights

Brouilly is a large cru whose wines go all over the board in style and quality. It's generally considered to be among the lighter-bodied crus, but fine examples can show a powerful concentration of racy cherry-raspberry flavors and impressive length. Such a wine is Duboeuf's 1995 Brouilly ($12).

Cote de Brouilly, from the hills above Brouilly, is one of the least well-known crus but one of the best. Its wines tend to be more concentrated than those of Brouilly, and the overall quality is higher as well. Duboeuf's 1995 Cote de Brouilly ($11) is one of his finest wines of the vintage.

St.-Amour is an underachiever in this company, producing wines that are heavier than Beaujolais-Villages but frequently no more flavorful. The 1995 Duboeuf St.-Amour lacked the vibrancy of the other crus tasted.

Julienas is much like Brouilly in its inconsistency. Its wines tend to be more medium-bodied but to lack vibrancy. Chenas, the smallest cru, produces wines that are fuller-bodied than Julienas but even less refined. Neither 1995 was tasted for this article.

Morgon produces one of the most robust Beaujolais, but its wines can often develop surprising complexity and elegance as well.

The 1995 Georges Duboeuf Morgon ($12) brilliantly displays this combination of fruit and finesse.

Moulin-a-Vent is the kingpin of Beaujolais crus, producing the biggest, longest-aging and often the most wines of the region. Fine Moulin-a-Vents often taste more like medium-bodied Burgundy than any Beaujolais, at about one-third the price.

I couldn't locate a bottle of the 1995, but the 1994 Duboeuf Domaine de la Tour du Bief Moulin-a-Vent ($11.49) is a brilliant example of how serious a wine a simple Beaujolais can be.

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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