The Beaujolais Crus & Stéphane Aviron

A Cru-Pack Terroir Tasting – Mixed Case of 6 Cru Beaujolais by Stephane Aviron

By John Szabo, MS

I’ll always remember how excited I was the first time I had the chance to taste a ‘horizontal’ of all ten crus of Beaujolais, made by the same producer from the same vintage. It was an absorbing journey across this ancient hilly region of southern Burgundy on the doorstep of Dijon. Variations in elevation and aspect, but above all of soils, distinguish each cru, and their distinct personalities have emerged over the centuries.

Limited Time Offer: The WineAlign Exchange invites you to discover Cru Beaujolais, the ultimate expression of Gamay. Do your own enlightening cru comparison with a special Passport case of six representative cru Beaujolais wines (see below for wine list and reviews) from Stéphane Aviron. It’s a terroir-lovers dream. The case contains 2 bottles of each of the 6 crus chosen for this case. Only limited quantities are available. The cases will be delivered at the end of June. SOLD OUT

Back then, Beaujolais was not so popular and quality far more patchy. But my how things have changed. Beaujolais is now on everyone’s lips, one of the darling regions of the sommelier community. A general aesthetic shift to lighter reds, a natural wine movement, a surge of ambitious post-modernists, a string of good vintages, and especially a thousand holes have conspired to re-shape Beaujolais as both a serious, and seriously fun, wine, with a story of diversity to tell.  

“We’re digging holes to fills holes of knowledge,” Isabelle Letessier tells me on my last trip there one crisp and bright November morning. Letessier is a soil specialist (a pedologist, technically) with nearly four decades of experience, and founder of Sigales, a French consultancy specialising in mapping vineyard soils. She’s been charged by Inter-Beaujolais, the region’s inter-professional body, to catalogue and map out the region’s geology and soils. Letessier and her team have dug just shy of a thousand soil pits throughout some 16,000ha of vineyards in order to meticulously map out Beaujolais’ ten crus.

Aspiring sommeliers learn early on that Beaujolais, like the nearby northern Rhône, sits on granite in the north, where the ten Beaujolais crus are located, and bits of sand in the south, the origins of basic Beaujolais. But the pedological story of the region is of course far, far more complex, a fact that Inter-Beaujolais has invested upwards of a million euros to find out.

Letessier’s presentation of the Crus of Beaujolais, represented by “planets”, showing elevation (by the relative height of each planet) and soils.

Letessier launches into her presentation on the over 300 variations of soils that have been identified and described, bearing witness to 500 million years of geological history. It makes the Beaujolais one of the richest and most complex regions in France.  She continues on the subtleties of saprolites and granitic sands, both decomposed granites but physically and chemically different, and “roche bleu”, literally blue rock, a very hard type of igneous rock called diorite that underpins some of Beaujolais’ sturdiest crus like, for example, Morgon Côte de Py, Côte de Brouilly, and parts of Juliénas. Granites and granitic sands, on the other hand, tend to yield more open and floral wines as in Chiroubles, Fleurie and Brouilly.

We then taste, comparing lighter, fruitier straight-up Beaujolais from sand and sandstones, to more serious Beaujolais Villages, and sip our way through the ten crus to explore the diversity of fruit expression and texture, from red to black, from supple to fine-grained and firmly tannic. It’s a fascinating experience, and infinitely more nuanced and detailed than my first cru comparison thanks to skyrocketing quality in the region.

Examples of Sigales’ soil maps of the Beaujolais crus showing diversity even within a single cru.

Flash-Card Generalities on the Ten Crus of Beaujolais

Tender, supple, fruity & generous: Chiroubles, Brouilly, and Régnié

Perfumed, delicate, fine and elegant: Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Chénas

Powerful, intense, structured, complex, with longevity: Côte de Brouilly, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent

Cru-Pack Terroir Tasting

And now, WineAlign invites you to do your own enlightening cru comparison with these six representative cru Beaujolais wines from Stéphane Aviron – a terroir-lovers dream. The WineAlign Exchange is offering a mixed case of six of the crus (2 bottles of each) by renowned Beaujolais producer Stéphane Aviron, all from the 2019 vintage. The wines will be delivered to you at the end of June.

Stéphane Aviron

Stéphane Aviron is the perfect source of wines for this comparative tasting. He has painstakingly sought out parcels of old vines throughout the region and in all crus, the youngest of which are 35 years (used in the Beaujolais Villages bottling), and the oldest of which were planted in 1913 in the cru of Chénas. The same winemaking approach of traditional, whole bunch, semi-carbonic maceration is applied to all wines across the board, so the differences noted between each wine are directly linked to the expression of their particular parcel of origin.

Stéphane Aviron in his cellar.

2019 Vintage

2019 was one of the sunniest vintages on record. Spring frosts, low rainfall and hail in August all reduced quantities dramatically, but what was left was richly concentrated as a result, with fine balancing acidities, brighter than the more burly and black-fruited 2018s. These are wines of intense flavours and plenty of character, with the top crus certainly ageworthy.

Wine List (2 bottles of each): 

Stephane Aviron Juliénas Vieilles Vignes 2019

“Among the sturdiest and most structured of the crus…. the length is excellent” – David Lawrason

“Voluminous although vibrant” – Sara d’Amato

“A Juliénas of the earth, with hue, power and grip” – Michael Godel 

“Decidedly sharp and recto-linear” – John Szabo

Stéphane Aviron Moulin à Vent Vieilles Vignes 2019

“Considered the powerhouse Beaujolais cru, Moulin-a-Vent makes the sturdiest most age worthy wines of all ten village crus” – David Lawrason

“Floral and emphatically tannic” – Sara d’Amato

“Classically dense and rich, stony” – John Szabo

“Possessive of the concentration and tannic structure attributed the cru” – Michael Godel

Stéphane Aviron Saint Amour Vieilles Vignes 2019

“I always find St. Amour more lifted, fragrant and elegant” – David Lawrason

“A fresh, floral and piqued gamay, here open for early business” – Michael Godel

“More powerful than expected with excellent depth of flavour” – Sara d’Amato

“Sweet candied red fruit, leafy-stemmy notes, and fresh oyster liquor” – John Szabo

Stéphane Aviron Chénas Vieilles Vignes 2019

“Dances across the tongue, turns cartwheels across the floor…fills the mouth with fruit energy” – Michael Godel

“A Chenas of real depth and generosity, and density of fruit” – John Szabo

“A touch more austere than other Crus in this vintage from Aviron but is worth the wait” – Sara d’Amato

Stéphane Aviron Fleurie Vieilles Vignes Maison De La Madrière 2019

“A very delicate Fleury with elegant aromatic character” – Sara d’Amato

“Always the most silky and refined of the Beaujolais cru, and this captures that essence” – David Lawrason

“Firm yet elastic, higher in acids to lift, aerate and stretch the fruit” – Michael Godel

“Genuine old vine richness and above all balance, very floral” – John Szabo

Stéphane Aviron Côte De Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2019

“Both lively and round, this Côtes de Brouilly epitomizes the appellation” – Sara d’Amato

“Plenty of substance and a gamay grapy-ness about it” – Michael Godel

“Svelte and well harmonized gamay – virtually seamless” – David Lawrason

“Beautifully balanced Beaujolais, on the crunchier and stonier side” – John Szabo