The King of Beaujolais liked what he tasted from 2015.
Legendary French winemaker and merchant Georges Duboeuf was on hand Wednesday to present his company’s 2015 Beaujolais vintage of small-batch Domaine and Chateau Cru wines. The tasting, held at Mahattan’s Crosby Hotel, guided media members through 16 glasses of what Duboeuf called the best Beaujolais vintage since 1947.
This claim owes to last year’s unusually warm summer. Grapes ripened so much, and so quickly, that harvesting occurred a full month before normal. The high heat of July and August 2015 also allowed for a longer maceration period and higher levels of alcohol. These wines had ABVs between 12%-14%.
The Province of Beaujolais is about 30 miles north of Lyon, France. Beaujolais AOC wines are known for their lightness, black fruit flavors and low-but-solid tannins. Most famous from this appellation is the Beaujolais nouveau, a red made from Gamay and sold the same year it’s harvested. Our tasting was not that, of course, though the majority of wines were 100% Gamay, with a few 100% Chardonnay.
Back to the weather: Global warming in recent time has caused unusual winemaking conditions. For a harvest as hot and early as 2015 — and one producing grapes as plump and finely ripe — Duboeuf looked to 1976 at the earliest, or even as far back as the acclaimed 1947 vintage.
“Every vintage has its story,” said Duboeuf (through a translator). “Everyone will remember 2015.”
Another year much on people’s minds was 2003. Europe suffered through a protracted heat wave that summer. Grapes grew ripe and juicy. This should have been a boon for the vintage, like in 2015. But 2003 bottles have not aged well, and overall are inconsistent in quality.
“Unlike 2003, this  vintage has the complexity and structure to age and evolve,” Duboeuf said.
Based on what we sampled, the King of Beaujolais was correct in his assessment.
A number of the wines still tasted too young and/or oaky to bottle anytime soon. In fact, many of them have not yet been bottled, and were tank samples. They will remain as thus until July at the earliest, or perhaps later into fall, or even farther into the future.
“The big worry this year is when to bottle,” Duboeuf said. “There is high demand from clients. But these wines are in need of more aging. Never have we had to worry this much about bottling.”
All 16 Beaujolais wines we tasted — being small-production Domaine and Chateau Cru — were notably elegant. These are wonderfully round wines exhibiting dark-red hues and floral aromas, ripe with flavors of black fruits and kirsch, and in possession of long, soft, unctuous tannins.
Tasting all this refined quality made it difficult to pick favorites. But the room agreed: the Chateau des Capitans 2015 (pictured above, first from right in the middle row) stood out as the ideal representation of Beaujolais. This 100% Gamay was a garnet red, with aromas and flavors of cherry, black fruits, kirsch, blueberry, plus a little spice and a dependable tannic base.
The Chateau des Capitans 2015 (SRP: approximately $21.99 per 750-ml. bottle) was more immediately drinkable than some of the other wines. Still, Duboeuf said it could benefit from two more years in the bottle. Overall, he recommended this length of aging for the Beaujolais 2015, adding that 5-10 years would also produce desirable results of complexity and maturation.
The wines of the tasting included:
Domaine des Pontheux Chiroubles 2015
Chateau do Nervers Brouilly 2015
Domaine de Combaity Brouilly 2015
Domaine Du Riaz Cote-de-Brouilly 2015
Chateau de Saint-Amour Saint-Amour 2015
Clos des Quatre Vents Fleurie 2015
La Madone Fleurie 2015
Jean Ernest Descombes Morgon 2015
Domain Mont Chavy Morgon 2015
Cote du Py Morgon 2015
Domaine de Javerniere Morgon 2015
Chateau du Julienas Julienas 2015
Chateau des Capitans Julienas 2015
Domain du Pourpre Moulin-A-Vent 2015
Domaine des Rosiers Moulin-A-Vent 2015
Domaine de la Vigne Romaine Moulin-A-Vent 2015
These all retail for approximately $14-$30 per 750-ml. bottle. They are produced by Les Vins Georges Duboeuf and imported by Quintessential Wines.
Kyle Swartz is the associate editor of Beverage Dynamics Magazine. Contact him at email@example.com.