ALTHOUGH Beaujolais and Burgundy are geographically close, their current fortunes contrast starkly. While Beaujolais has been relegated to a mere footnote on many wine lists, Burgundy has been in continuous demand ever since the Second World War despite some breathtakingly high prices.
Behind the yellow labels used by the Burgundy-centred Louis Jadot group, however, comes good news about both regions. Not only do they offer attractive alternatives to high Burgundy prices but they have also developed a very successful château in Beaujolais.
Shortly after Jadot acquired Beaujolais’ Château de Jacques in 1996, they put Guillaume de Castelnau in charge. Already a successful winemaker in Burgundy, he has the strategic skills of a former cavalry regiment major.
De Castelnau shies from an over-reliance on traditional Beaujolais winemaking customs to put a focus on patience, wild yeast, strictly limiting the use of chemical fertilisers and on the energy within the wine.
Test out the effect with the light, sappy, fresh cherry and raspberry flavours of 2011 Beaujolais Villages Combe aux Jacques (£10.49, Tesco) with that mellow but slightly earthy finish of well made Beaujolais.
Respect for the terroir and minimal intervention are key to the Jadot story, even when reaching down the price points. The result is well-made versions of the region’s classic wines that do not break the bank. I have in mind reds like 2009 Côte de Beaune Villages (£14.99, Luvians), which gives some of the weighty red fruit flavours of more illustrious wines and tempers them with touches of clove and a leafy, vibrant freshness.
A comparable white could be 2010 Ladoix Le Clou d’Orge (£19.99, Ellies Cellar). This comes from a village in the upper end of the Côte de Beaune and characterises why white Burgundy excites so much interest. It provides ripe, rich flavours centred on lemon and orange fruit, harmoniously rounded off by a minty minerality.
It is when drinkers have become enthused by the style of these wines that Louis Jadot comes into its own. It also has excellent wines right up the Burgundy price ladder for occasions when sophistication is indispensable.
Among the whites, luxuriate in the full and rich 2008 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Morgeot Clos de la Chapelle (£43.50, Luvians). This possesses ripe peach flavours coupled with lime freshness that is softened by buttery touches from the maturation process and is rounded off by a slightly chalky concluding minerality.
For top-quality red, try the full but aromatic 2005 Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Les Cazetiers from the northern end of the Côte de Nuits. Enquire at one of Vino’s four Edinburgh stores but expect to pay around £50 for this manifestation of elegance in a bottle. Its robust stone fruit flavours are enlivened by touches of raspberry and underpinned by an array of spices.
Since the critical long-term test is what is coming through, I took a look at the 2011 en primeur wines. Although not available until later this year, many have developed well already. A particular star white is 2011 Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru Domaine des Heritiers. Among the reds, it was the 2011 Clos Vougeot Grand Cru that caught my eye.
Given the refreshing distaste for over-hype at Louis Jadot, it is good to turn up the volume on things they have done well. For me, two of them are opting for terroir over standardisation and doing so at all price levels.
2012 Carmen Reserva Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca, Chile, 13.5 per cent
France and New Zealand do not have it all their own way with Sauvignon as illustrated by this complex Chilean version with a crisp green apple and grapefruit opening that gives way to tangerine-centred substance, a savoury edge and a suggestion of flinty minerality. £8.69, www.greatwinesdirect.co.uk
2009 Chianti Riserva Tuscany, Italy, 13 per cent
This great-value riserva from Lidl’s Wine Cellar range, with an hour to breathe, delivers traditional assertive nut and cherry fruit, embellished by a tannic twist with hints of mocha and minerality on the finish. £5.99, Lidl