I happen to like Beaujolais Nouveau.
Not because I like Beaujolais Nouveau, of course, but because I also like that effeminate and estrogen-engrossed effervescent effluvia, Diet Vernor’s Ginger Ale—a.k.a, Liquid Gay.
Now, I understand that flippant use of the word ‘gay’ is rued by the same Conan O’Brian-watching, James Taylor-listening-to, lily-white Americans who also rue calling their streets ‘rues’. The French—those amphibian-appendage-amputating fleur-de-lis—have no such qualms. They call their streets rues without batting an oeil while using the word ‘gay’ as flippantly as they damn well please. I mean, for example, take ‘Gay Paree’. (Really, French People??).
Or the Moulin Rouge, established during the Gay Nineties. Located in Paris on Rue de Clichy, the Moulin Rouge was home of the raucous revue called the can-can, which may or may not have been a ‘gay thing’—but any time you are so in love with cans you have to use the word twice in a single word, you are suspect.
The Moulin Rouge was also the home-away-from-home of pint-sized Parisien painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who may or may not have been gay—but any time your best friend is Oscar Wilde, you’re suspect.
Anyway, the French not only have a Moulin Rouge, they also have a Moulin-à-Vent; arguably the most noteworthy of the ten Crus of Beaujolais.
Which is a circuitous rue to getting this column back on track.
You gotta love the soil of Moulin-à-Vent: It comes from the Hercynian fold that took place during the Paleozoic era, about 250 million years ago!
And as if that tidbit isn’t fascinating enough, folks, said soil is also so toxic that it virtually (but not quite) kills off the gamay vines.
And that’s why their wine is so good.
That is the sort of idiocy paradox that makes the subject of wine so interesting. As most people know, poor soils make good wines (https://intoxreport.com/2013/03/08/enough-with-the-shite-slinging-lets-dish-some-dirt-instead/), but this little patch of Beaujolais, sharing a border with Chénas to the north and Fleurie to the west, has really taken things to extremes.
The culprit (or hero) is manganese. As a reference to those of you who weren’t chemistry majors—or were, but opted for a career in methamphetamines and are now either dead or brain-fried—manganese is an element often associated with neurological disorders, impaired motor skills and something really lovely called necrosis of the mucous membrane. It is a vital additive to gasoline and indispensable to the manufacture of disposable batteries.
Since grape vines have no noses to necrosisize and generally require few motor skills, what manganesy soil does in Moulin-à-Vent is stunt plant growth and limit crop yields. This is a good thing: The smaller grapes are intense and concentrated and—another anomaly—the nose from wines produced by these no-nose vines is by far the most pronounced in Beaujolais, with distinct notes of iris, violets, spice and cherry.
It is the opinion of most wine know-it-alls enologists that the wines of Moulin-à-Vent are the best expression of gamay to be found anywhere in the civilized world—and California too. In fact, (here’s a word that even jerkoffs who claim to know more about wine than me, and do, but shouldn’t brag about it about it, because it’s impolite Master Sommeliers may have to look up) the wines of Moulin-à-Vent are said to ‘pinote’, meaning that they become more like pinot noir, especially as they age.
And that’s another rarity in Beaujolais: Moulin-à-Vent is frequently barrel-aged. If you find the phrase ‘fûts de chêne’ on your Moulin-à-Vent label, you have one of these buggers and should cellar it for about six years—from there, they may cellar for another decade. This is in contrast to Beaujolais Nouveau, which peaks on the third Friday of November.
These Windmill Crackers Sho Nuff Know Dey Bidness
Although the appellation ‘Moulin-à-Vent’ has only been around since 1925, there have been wines grown here since the land was called Gaul and de Gaulle wasn’t even a tremor in his old man’s de gaulsack.
The Romans first started growing vines here in the 1st century—a landmark date to be sure, although maybe not as much as the 15th century, when a windmill was built atop a hill overlooking the town of Romaneche-Thorins.
Ha! And I’ll bet my sweet bippy that you didn’t in 250 million years think I be able find the same circuitous rue to getting this column back off track.
Louis Jadot Moulin-à-Vent Château des Jacques, 2009, about $17: An oak-driven nose, with vanilla and caramel; also a nice whiff of blackberry. Earthy and herbal with full black cherry on the palate and a finish that hangs around like a stalker. The wine is still a little tight; a probably needs a few more cellar years.
Potel-Aviron Moulin-a-Vent Vieilles Vignes, 2008, around $17: Shows intense color, between garnet and ruby. Fleshy, while displaying archetypal aromas of violets—the tannins remain in the background while full cherry and subtle spice stand front and center. An appealing, long finish.
Joseph Drouhin Moulin-a-Vent, 2010, around $20: Highly concentrated wine; deep purple with well-marked but velvety tannins. Floral on the nose, fresh, juicy and fruity on the tongue, showing a well-ripened cherry, bright blackberry and damson character. Lovely selection, well worth the dough.
Georges Dubouef Domaine de la Tour du Bief Moulin-a-Vent, 2009, about $18: Ripe strawberry and tart cherry aromas flesh out this serious, structured wine. There’s a viscous and grapey palate with sweet fruitiness but also. a strongly expressive character.