For even as long as we have been in the wine game, we can still get surprised. Perhaps not as often, mind you, mind you, but it still happens. Last year we reported on the inaugural releases for the new Beaujolais project from Burgundy powerhouse Joseph Drouhin. Given the wines success in that that opening offer, we were anxious to see where the path lead, particularly given the fact that Drouhin’s next releases were from the amazing 2015 vintage.
Last go around with Drouhin, however, we ran across something we had never seen before, three site-designated Cru Beaujolais. As always, we check the stuff out. It’s our job, but we really didn’t know anything about these wines and had no expectations back then. There’s a pretty cool story to go along with these classy Beaujolais.
The Hospices de Belleville (a hospital) opened in 1773 to take care of the poor and the sick in the region. The Hôtel-Dieu of Belleville benefited right from its construction from charitable donations from generous benefactors hoping for the salvation of their souls (kind of like the Hospices de Beaune in Burgundy). Today, the hospital has retained ownership of the 14 hectares of vineyards across Fleurie, Brouilly, and Morgon. As of the 2014 vintage, the Hospices has entrusted Maison Joseph Drouhin with the production and the marketing of their wines under their name “Hospices de Belleville.”
After last year’s fantastic opening salvo we were most excited to see what we got in a critically acclaimed vintage like 2015. The 2014s as a group impressed, got good reviews, and generally hit all the right buttons. We found the 2015s to be pretty remarkable as well, but not necessarily what we expected stylistically. In a vintage that was generally about as subtle as a strumpet, the Drouhin versions came off more like great Burgundy with refined structure and perfectly measured fruit.
If you are looking for something gregarious to drink in the short-term, that is a somewhat different matter. If instead you are looking for something that you can cellar and pull out down the road that emulates the structure and complexity of a fine Burgundy, and didn’t cost you a small fortune, this one plays that hand beautifully.
We first tasted this wine several months ago and our impression at the time was that this one had ‘all the right stuff.’ But our feeling was that, from the standpoint of marketing, this one was going to be much better with a little time in the bottle. It is interesting to note that the reviews for this wine, from people who aren’t necessarily inclined to pass out big scores, spanned nearly a year (December, 2016, April, 2017, and December 2017) and were noticeably better at each juncture.
Once again the talents of the Drouhin team and this very special dirt combined to make something very special. We chose to focus specifically this time on the Joseph Drouhin Fleurie Hospices de Belleville 2015. Drouhin has done Belleville proud again here, and the Fleurie expresses the individual terroir of this Beaujolais Cru. All the wines are crafted in a Burgundian style, using 500 liter barrels and only a small amount of carbonically macerated fruit. The Fleurie comes from three separate parcels owned by the Hospices totaling 6.4 hectares.
There seems to be a rare accord among the critics with regard to the Drouhin wines in general, and the Joseph Drouhin Fleurie Hospices de Belleville 2015 in particular. James Suckling was concise, “ This is very linear and refined with beautiful tannins and minerality. Medium-bodied, very pretty and focused. Tight and polished. Serious… 93 points”
From Alan Meadows, aka Burghound,”A similar if slightly more elegant nose that is a bit spicier if less earthy introduces notably finer middle weight flavors that possess a velvety texture before terminating in an impressively persistent finish. This is really very good and a wine that could be enjoyed young or aged for a few years to good effect…92 points ♥” (the ♥ is an extra ‘bonus’ tout from Burghound for wines with a special appeal).
Finally, from last December, Vinous’ Josh Raynolds offered, “Vivid ruby. Very fresh and expressive on the nose, offering intense cherry and red berry liqueur qualities and a smoky mineral overtone. Shows very good freshness and thrust on the palate; vivacious raspberry and bitter cherry flavors become sweeter on the back half. Displays excellent clarity and delineation and closes long and sweet, featuring lingering red fruit character and harmonious tannins…92 points.”
The testimony is voluminous, the promise of this nascent project clear, and the potential of this particular bottling for both the glass and the cellar clearly evident.