This Thirsty Thursday, I melt into a gelatinous ball of sweat and irritability. Summer’s heat pushes me to white, rosé, and sparkling wines. But I’m already bored. A low tannin, light red that could handle a slight chill sounds perfect.
Then to Beaujolais: home of the grape gamay (and the infamously derided Beaujolais Nouveau).
Enter Stéphane Aviron into that grapey fray. Stéphane does not make Nouveau. Stéphane only makes Cru and Village Beaujolais and only from vines older than 40 years. His goal is to turn Beaujolais’ boat around and compete with his prestigious Northern neighbor: Burgundy.
Today’s Burgundy combatant is Stéphane Aviron’s, Vieilles Vignes, Chénas 2011. Now Chénas sits just below Burgundy as Beaujolais’ smallest Cru:
These grapes come from a wee 13.6 acre vineyard. When Stéphane claims “Vieilles Vignes”, in this case, he means it. These vines are over a century old. They predate phyloxera. They grow on their own root stock, a rarity anywhere, thanks to gravel soil that drains faster than the bug can cling to.
After a hand harvest and sorting, he eschews carbonic maceration (that shortcut, anaerobic fermentation that gives Nouveau that bubblegum note), instead allowing for a wild fermentation. To match Burgundy, he has it aged a year in first to fourth-use barrels.
Does it work?
Aromas: pounce like a fist-full of crushed, bright raspberries, cranberries, the husk of a vanilla bean, and a touch of tomato leaf.
Palate: feels dry, with medium acid, medium tannins textured like rich velvet, medium alcohol 12.5%, and medium bodied that feels soft but streamlined.
Flavors: match the aromas seamlessly with all that red fruit, light spice, slight vegetal intrigue, and an added mineral ping, much of which lasts a medium plus length.
Conclusions: Stéphane Aviron’s 2011 Chénas is stellar stuff (4 of 5), certainly worthy of any Burgundy you could find hovering around this price ($15). With four years under its belt, it is drinking seamlessly right now but has a few more years in it. Thanks to its mild tannins, cooling it into the low 50s F make it all the more refreshing.
My bored, sweaty, blob of a self can finally cool off.