As most of you who have been with us for a while know, we have been standard bearers for Beaujolais. We have brought you amazing values like some of the single-vineyard bottlings from Dubouef, promoted the classics like Thevanet, Lapierre, and Burgaud and chronicled the Cote d’Or invasion from the likes Girardin and Liger-Belair. For us, Beaujolais has always been important. In doing our research for the wines we were going to promote, we kept running across the name Jules Desjourneys. Often when we would be reading extensive critical notes on the genre, Desjourneys wines were on another level review-wise.
It is simply in our DNA to have a look at everything thing we could, but at the time there was no West Coast distribution for Desjourneys. Some years later, we were finally presented with the wines from this esteemed producer. They were, as advertised, spectacular and unique examples of the genre. But the prices really put a clamp on what we could do with the wines, with some of the bottlings hitting $60-70 for Beaujolais. There was clearly enough sizzle for us to keep on top of it to look for opportunities. But for something selling for nearly double names like Lapierre and Thevenin, we had to pick our battles carefully.
It long ago we were given the opportunity to review the newest lineup from Desjourneys, this time including a couple of white wines. Before we go on, around here after years of tasting, we often use the terminology ‘white wine from a red wine guy’, or vice versa. In our experience, there is a high probability that a producer that is best known for red wines, for example, simply doesn’t have quite the same touch with whites. They are usually solid but lack that certain, special something that puts them on that top level. It has been generally true from little producers all the way up to legends like Coche-Dury and Ramonet. This was going through our minds as we looked down the lineup of Desjourneys, and we figured we would politely taste the whites and move on.
No one was more surprised than we were at how impressive these whites were! As we worked through the reds, we kept thinking about how much we loved the whites. Yes they were from southern Burgundy, and it’s hard to convince people that Pouilly Fuisse could perform at the level of something from the Cote d’Or given how many ordinary examples they had run across in their experience. However there are notable exceptions that come along every once in a while. You might recall several fabulous releases wee sold a while back from Robert-Denogent. Well, ‘red wine guy’ or not, these Chardonnays from Dejourneys amazed.
First a little background. Fabien Duperray was an agent for some of the Cote d’Or biggest stars and, presumably by association, had the mindset to create an estate that would be on the level of what he was accustomed to. Starting in 2007, he found some small plots in Beaujolais and accumulated 7+ hectares of choice, steep hillside plots in Fleurie and Moulin-a-Vent, Morgan and Chénas with vines ranging from 65 to 140 years old. He improved his own winemaking in leaps, and now farms in a way one writer called ‘beyond biodynamic’. He runs the place like a Cote d’Or estate, right down to the best corks, and it shows in the wines.
There are stories about how miniscule his yields are, and how he employed as many as 50 people to harvest and hand sort this tiny estate so that everything was optimally ripe. The result has been wines that David Schildknecht, then of Wine Advocate, called, “…some of the most remarkable Beaujolais wines of my experience, and perhaps ever rendered.” He has become something of a rock star in Beaujolais. Clearly the guy is destined to be a white wine superstar once people find out about it. But there isn’t much wine out there and even less information (even on Desjournays own web site).
What we can say is that, from the first taste, that whole ‘red wine guy making white wine’ went out
la fenêtre. There is clear viticulture/winemaking mastery going on here and these whites are profound beverages and unique in their expression. For less than the price of an ordinary Chassagne you can have some of the most intriguing Chardonnays we’ve ever had out of the southern part of Burgundy…ever. These are very special and more than fairly priced for what they are.
Jules Desjourneys Saint Veran 2014- Not only were we bowled over by these wines but were thrilled to find some from such a sensational vintage. From 60 year-old vines in clay and limestone soils, it all starts in the nose with this floral apple and yellow fruit impression but soon complexing notes of spice, limestone minerality, hints of wild herbs and toast began to evolve. On the palate it is at once mouth-filling and crisp with streaks of earth, spice, mineral and toast subtly interwoven with no single element sticking out of the core of yellow stone fruit and ripe apple. You are left with a lingering impression of spice and just the right cut of saliva-tickling acidity. Can’t say we have ever had a Saint Veran this serious or quite like this.
Jules Desjourneys Pouilly Vinzelles 2014-A notch up with perhaps a bit more incisive aromatics and a touch more of a toasty element evident, there’s a touch of citrus (oranges?) as well to the white and yellow peach fruit center. Again we have richness without thickness and the palate is fully engaged with the spice, mineral, and a little grilled almond nuance. It is seriously engaging again, maybe with a couple more ‘notes’ to the ‘music’ but that same presence on the palate and that almost lightly ‘pulpy’ texture. The few notes we have say that this one is done in 100% stainless steel, and that Fabien is a minimalist almost to the extreme, yet all aspects are orchestrated precisely. Delicious.
We also have bits of the Jules Desjourneys Pouilly Loche 2015 and Jules Desjourneys Pouilly Fuisse 2015. While we have been less excited about the 2015 vintage for whites overall, our objection is usually that they are a little flaccid. Not so here as these have a brightness that is definitely more identifiable structurally with 2014s, though they are slightly weightier. We could go on but there really isn’t that much wine and we could find no reviews of the whites anywhere. So for now they are our little secret. Suffice it to say these need to be tasted and they provided us with the kind of Burgundy ‘aha’ moment we rarely have.
Like we said, there wasn’t anything written about this vintage. But a look ahead suggests that this exciting new source is about to get some serious attention.