Cru and Crow – Henry Fessy Beaujolais

Finally and at long last a thaw sets in. It’s only a momentary pause from the bone splitting cold, but it’s a welcome one that I do not expect and the warmth of the moment is writ large in the twilight almost-night sky with the colors on the sunset clouds a joyous relief from the wintry gray muck. I know its only here for a minute and soon winter will return with more days of inversion-ish goo, but right now my step is light and my palate wants more. It’s late and I am pacing. I don’t know why, I just am because with the thaw comes a motion, a desire to move, a desire to be somewhere else. My mouth as always goes first and leads the way. For some, desire begins in the genitals, for me it always begins in the mouth.

What I do is a constant source of surprise. Just when I think I am at my jaded best, and the mind and palate are firmly locked – closed – shuttered up, along comes a wine that reminds me I am never too good for anything. This time of year the palate wakens and it’s a jolt with every sip. I crave acidity.

I digress. So what is it that spoke to me and woke my somnolent tongue? This time anyway? Well…it was a fine dish of crow served with a side of Cru Beaujolais. There are grapes that have earned a certain measure of disdain from me, enmity even, and it didn’t happen overnight. I have tasted extraordinary amounts of wine and over time, the sheer repetition, and the battery if you will, of one nasty bilious example after another led me to a dark place wherein I could not countenance another sip. I could not force myself for love, guns or money to admit any affection toward poor Beaujolais, misjudged Malbec and the invariably malodorous charm of Pinotage. I am no different than any one else, I have my likes and dislikes too and each of these had committed their various sins against me. I am sure these comments will invite their ardent defenders of each. 2010 was terrific for my palate if for no other reason than only one horrid wine remains on my most hated list. Pinotage. When I learn to love a tire fire, I will come’ round to Pinotage. There may be oceans of mediocre Beaujolais polluting palates everywhere, but my beef with Beaujolais is now over.

Henry Fessy Crus Du Beaujolais

Henry Fessy, France's King of Cru Beaujolais, Cheese & Wine Perfection

Now what about Beaujolais? It’s the southernmost region of Burgundy and its warmest, thus, even though the Gamay grapes share physiological similarities with their Pinot Noir cousins, Beaujolais shows considerably riper characters thanks to its warmer countryside. Beaujolais is also the largest of the Burgundy appellations producing farm more overall tonnage (and wine) than their snootier northern family. Beaujolais’ reputation for shwag seems connected to the relative massive volume of the region. Yes you can fill a lake from 50,000 acres of plantings, but there are great wines that spring from this lake o’ goo, albeit haling from a small portion of that overall acreage. Of the 100 some odd designated Villages and the twelve appellations, only 12 villages have earned Cru designation. AOC rules further ensure that those villages remain unique among their peers by enforcing strict yield limitations of 3 tons an acre or less and barring any Nouveau Beaujolais production whatsoever. Low yields ensure greater concentration of flavor in fruit and, I find, a more interesting wine.

Enter Henry Fessy. First established in 1888, the winery quickly established itself as a presence in the Cru Villages, with purchases of land in the classified area of Brouilly. Over time those holdings expanded and in 2008 Maison Louis Latour acquired this venerable old firm. The results have been nothing short of magnificent. One family joined another in short, with the Fessy family working alongside the Latours, using the extra resources and expertise to acquire additional holdings in the Cru designated villages, very good wines became great wines. New arrivals to Utah, the Henry Fessy Julienas and Moulin a Vent, both 2009 showed me a radiance I had not encountered in Beaujolais.

What can I say? They withstood “The Test”. They remained sound for four days while open on the countertop. (I have many a test for sound wines and the countertop test reveals all)

How long can a wine sit open on a countertop before it turns south to vinegarland? It varies from wine to wine. Higher acid, lower alcohol wines are more stubbornly resistant to acetobacter (a lovely little bacterial thug that likes to eat alcohol and crap vinegar, and is the responsible party for your wine taking its inevitable nosedive). It’s a revealing test, you see, because the things in your wine that allow it to withstand the countertop test are the same things that point to age-worthy wines. Regardless of your choice of drink, you can always slow its oxidative death by refrigerating the wine. Remember to return the cork to bottle and keep the bottle upright. The lower temperatures will slow the oxidation and the upright bottle will reduce the surface area exposed to oxygen.

So back to Mssr Fessy, both bottlings, the Cru Villages of Julienas and Moulin a Vent, stayed bright and vibrant for several surprising days. The Julienas was the more serious minded of the two showing characters of black fruit (think plums, blackberry, black cherry), coffee, licorice and cocoa powder while the Moulin a Vent was the much cheekier affair with livelier brighter expressions of livelier boysenberry jam notes with scents of sage. ( I toss off the pretentious fruit babble only as a reference point).

Henry Fessy Cru

Julienas & Moulin a Vent at the Cheese Fest; A Perfect Wine Marriage

What was particularly striking was what these two did with food, specifically cheese. These took everything I threw at them in stride, from blue veined stink to aged washed rind funk to lively goaty goodness. They were a seamless fit with everthing the Caputo’s Cheese Cave had to offer and even made my usual pilgrimage to the Creminelli Salami counter a grander reward than usual, why, it was piggy love. They will age better still they make a joyful meal.What was particularly striking was what these two did with food, specifically cheese. These took everything I threw at them in stride, from blue veined stink to aged washed rind funk to lively goaty goodness. They were a seamless fit with everthing the Caputo’s Cheese Cave had to offer and even made my usual pilgrimage to the Creminelli Salami counter a grander reward than usual, why, it was piggy love. They will age but better still they make a joyful meal.

They are, in short, my vote for best food wine of 2011 so far. I am sure something else will come along, but for now, my palate is grateful (as is my wallet). These two little gems are only $16.99.

Henry Fessy, Moulin A Vent, Cru Beaujolais 2009 (UDABC Code 917998/ $16.99)
Henry Fessy, Julienas, Cru Beaujolais 2009 (UDABC Code 917997 / $16.99)


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