Wine Note: 2009 Damien Coquelet, Chiroubles, Beaujolais

An Up and Coming Beaujolais Superstar

Sitting at higher elevation, with a cooler overall temperature, and longer hang time, the wines of Chiroubles are the most delicate of all the villages in Beaujolais. Much of the village is planted in a kind of sand from eroded granite called gore, though some of the original vineyards are planted to base of solid rock, forcing farmers to drill holes before planting vines in those sections. Because of this, the wines of Chiroubles are often much more aromatic.  The growing area of Chiroubles is only one square mile, and is home to 60 producers.

What a great year, and what a great producer! Damien is the step-son of of the famed Georges Descombes, who he trained under, and is showing his tremendous talent at all of 25 years old.  Damien  was only 22 when he made this 2009!

Vineyards in the Beaujolais wine region taken ...
Vineyards in the Beaujolais wine region taken from one of the Cru Beaujolais sites of Chiroubles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being imported by Louis Dressner, it’s not surprising that this is either natural or nearly natural wine-making – that’s kind of wine Dressner specializes in importing. On the nose and in the mouth it has that extra vibrancy that well-made natural wines exclusively have, that all others don’t. There’s this quality natural wines posess, that I just don’t find in wines that use commercial yeasts, are filtered, fined, acidified, chapitalized or had SO2 added.

“it has that extra vibrancy that well-made natural wines exclusively have, that all others don’t.”

Damien Coquelet rents his vineyards which he is converting to organic a process he is likely finished with.  He lets the wine ferment naturally, with no intervention in the cellar, and little if any sulfur at bottling.  He bottles his wine very early – a year earlier than Descombes, capturing the young juicy beautiful fruit rather than more serious structured wine more barrel age brings; and I think that is a great trade off.

The nose is simply alive in the way natural wines uniquely are, with stunning vibrancy of black cherries, fresh, damp, loam, violets and lavender, new leather, thyme, and a touch of cedar. The mouth is full of sweet-ish cherries, round and plush, textured, though still light-and-lively in the mouth. There is a touch of dryness to the super-soft and velvety tannins, with the fresh leather and loam – coming on broad and complex across the mid-palate. Along with black cherry swirling about, glistening and dynamic, there are some unexpected textural essences of peaches or nectarines on the finish. This Chiroubles has a wonderful transparency of flavors, with just enough weight, not to want for more. A very special wine. 92+ points

Definitely seek out his 2010 and 2011 wines while you have a chance to find them. I have tasted the 2010, and it is superb as well.

This paired particularly well a unlikely recipe from Traci de Jardins, featuring grilled Pork Chops, fresh (creamed -with no cream) corn, slivered toasted almonds, fresh cherries, and Habanaro picked onions – which tasted like summer.  Surprisingly, Coquelet’s Chiroubles worked incredibly well with this spicy, vivaciously fresh dish because if its fresh cherry fruit, soft acidity, low alcohol (13%) and round, ripe, velvety tannins.

The Young and Talented Damien Coquelet (below)



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Diary of a Winebuyer

About Me: Thirty years ago, I graduated with a degree in political science from the College of Letters and Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Having grown up at the height of the Cold War, I still have vivid remembrances of being instructed to hide under our elementary school desk, covering our heads. The young, white, female teacher, training us without explanation, to face away from the windows. I suppose it is not all that surprising that I had a particular interest in the realpolitik of international relations. My fascination grew with the discovery that certain conditions almost uniformly exist where all revolutions ferment. Did this mean that the revolutions which had occurred in the first half century were revolutions which had been usurped by Marxists who were in the right place at the right time? Probably. A favorite professor was A. J. Gregor. This was a man who, while rakishly wearing a Gestapo-styled black leather motorcycle jacket, exuded expertise on fascism (which he looked the part) and Marxism. Improbably, he did it with a significant swagger. Then in my last semester, I had the blind luck to take a class on Asian Marxist revolution, and the professor, who just happened to be visiting that year while he worked on some unnamed project, was Chalmers Johnson. In retrospect, I should have known his name, as he was a luminary in the political science community but at that time, I did not. It was a remarkable opportunity to experience the ivory tower, but I seem to remember being anxious to get on with life. After college, I drifted through a few of jobs that were of interest to me. One of my former high school teachers said to me. "If I were in your shoes, I'd get a job as a flight attendant." So in order to be young while I could still afford to, I accepted a job serving chicken or beef at Pan American. With that airline losing money faster than it could sell its routes, I got a job doing cellar work at David Bruce Winery. This was the beginning of my wine career. All during this period, I wrote a still unpublished novel about homegrown terrorists the U.C. Berkeley campus, attempting to use some of what I learned in school, weaving in the Vietnamese political and military strategies of Dau Tranh as professor Johnson had lectured years before. Since the early 1990's, I have been involved in the wine industry, selling fine wine in both the retail and wholesale arenas. I have approached learning about wine, by always challenging myself to question how I know what I think I know? And in an effort to try to find answers I've turned, with varying degrees of success to wine books. Overall, I've not been happy with the quality of most wine writing, finding the authors either to lack any deep knowledge, or unable to move much past what I consider to be superficial information. I recognize that wine writers have to monetize their work, but I believe this has dramatically held back our knowledge and understanding of wine. I have set out to add to our industry's base of knowledge where I can. My first series, 'The Terroir of Burgundy' (which I should probably re-edit and complete some kind of conclusion, but I got involved in this project), can be viewed here. I currently work as a sales and marketing manager for a Burgundy and Bordeaux importer based in Atherton, California.

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