Beaujolais is part of Burgundy, but it differs from the rest of the region in many ways. The most important is that its red wines are made from the gamay grape, whereas pinot noir is the source of all the other red wines of this renowned region.
The bulk of Beaujolais wines are labeled with the area’s name and are simple, quaffable wine consumed within a few years of bottling. But there are 10 villages whose wines are recognized for their superior aromas, flavors and aging potential and are entitled to be labeled with the village name. These are termed Cru Beaujolais, and Moulin-a-Vent is one of the most prestigious of the 10.
A few weeks ago, I met Thibault Liger-Belair at Hoboken’s famed Clam Broth House. I tasted his very impressive Burgundy wines from Grand Crus Richebourg and Clos de Vougeot to Premier Cru Nuits St. Georges and basic Haut Cotes de Nuits. Yet what struck me most were the two rich, mouth-filling Moulin-a-Vent wines.
In 2001, Liger-Belair left Paris and the internet wine merchant company he created to take over his family’s historic vineyards in Burgundy. With a degree in winemaking and viticulture, the 36-year old set about rejuvenating the vineyards using only organic and biodynamic cultivation. Within a few years, he created a reputation for making first-class wines, which have gained the respect of critics and collectors.
Liger-Belair bought 8 acres in Moulin-a-Vent, including 5 parcels with vines ranging from 60 to 80 years old. These are the source for the 2009 Moulin-a-Vent Vieilles Vignes. He doesn’t employ Beaujolais’ standard carbonic maceration; instead, he uses the fermentation techniques for pinot noir. The result is a much fuller wine with greater richness and fruit concentration.
Both the Moulin-a-Vent Vieilles Vignes and Les Rouchaux, made from younger vines, have deep purplish color. The Vieilles Vignes exhibits a black pepper and black cherry aroma and flavor, while Les Rouchaux offers a floral and cherry scent with appealing raspberry and black cherry flavors. Each has the structure for aging, but their appeal is immediate.
I suggest buying the 2009 Moulin-a-Vent Les Rouchaux for drinking during the next five to eight years and putting a case of the Vieilles Vignes in the cellar for a minimum of a decade.
At the Clam Broth House, I enjoyed sipping both with a delicious rigatoni with meat sauce. You can do likewise, or pair either 2009 Moulin-a-Vent with mahi-mahi or spring’s shad and shad roe, or a barley “risotto” with wild mushrooms.
The 2009 Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-a-Vent Vieilles Vignes and Les Rouchaux retail for approximately $25.