Cru beaujolais is not beaujolais nouveau--that light and fruity red that's released the third Thursday of November, just weeks after the harvest. With some 35 million bottles sold, beaujolais nouveau is something of a marketing marvel, accounting for more than one-third of the region's total production. But nouveau's very success helps make it one of beaujolais's worst enemies. Many dismiss nouveau as "barely wine," and equate it with the region as a whole, making real beaujolais a tougher sell. Made from the same gamay grape, the other beaujolais is still a very fruit-forward wine but definitely a more serious one. The 10 designated crus located in the foothills of the Beaujolais mountains--typically named for nearby villages--are a step up in quality. The top three wines this week are each from different cru, but each of the three typically produces fuller-bodied wines.
2011 Daniel Bouland Morgon, $23
This wine opens with lightly dusty, black cherry and cranberry aromas. The bright berry flavors are full and rich, colored by food-friendly acidity and a hint of leather. Smooth tannins come through on the velvety finish.
2009 Henry Fessy Julienas, $16.99
The aromas in this wine are filled with a juicy core of sweet berry, backed by anise and dark chocolate. This pick is surprisingly big and bold for a beaujolais, but at the same time, it maintains an exceptional balance. Ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors play against tart cherry, while touches of thyme and mineral come through on the finish.
2009 Potel Aviron Moulin a Vent, $20
The deep, dark blackberry aromas in this wine are enticingly supple and blend nicely with an earthy spice component. Tangy cherry up front gives way to silky berry, finishing with racy acidity. This is a well-structured wine that is drinking beautifully now, but with its core of ripe tannins, it will definitely improve with age.