This marks the third vintage we have carried from Pascal Aufranc, one of the most distinctive Beaujolais producers we have run across. It all started with four acres of vines in the now emerging village of Chenas (the estate is now up to 10 ha.). The old vines for this cuvee sit at the top of a granite hill called En Remont topped with sand at a little over 1000 feet elevation.
Besides the extreme vine age (yes, they were planted in 1939) and unique exposure (south and south-west on the hill-top), these particular vines have a rather different story. They are surrounded by forest and, therefore, are removed from being influenced by any of the other farming concerns around them. So these old vines pretty much exist in a world of their own. That does much to explain why the vintages we have sold are so distinct from each other. Each year the vines develop in harmony with that year’s weather and not much else gets in the way. As such they seem really reflect the unique nuances of each vintage.
The results we have tasted from Aufranc have been spectacular for a variety of reasons, certainly not the least of which are the really old vines sitting in a place unlike any other. Each effort has been a poster child for the best of what the particular vintage has to offer. The 2014 was cool, elegant and pretty, the 2015 more packed with accessible, flashy fruit though in a way that panders to hedonists that might be considered atypical (however delicious) to Beaujolais purists.
The Pascal Aufranc Chenas Vignes de 1939 2016 displays the best elements of what might be called classic Beaujolais. There is plenty of fruit, but the fruit has verve and a cooler edge. Lovely notes of expressive dark cherry and plum act as the central theme to a purely rendered Chenas that also demonstrates smoke, mineral, fresh herbs and exotic spice. Plenty of fruit here, but there’s a lifted, more polished, more aristocratic bent to the flavors.
There’s plenty to like here for the hedonists still, though it’s less overtly sweet and fleshy. As for the traditionalist, we can’t imagine a more complete rendition of the genre than this although, sadly, this one’s focus and concentration has as much to do with the small vintage crop as anything. Grab some while you can.