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Jean-Paul Brun’s 2017s

Jean-Paul, Beaujolais elder statesman, innovative wine maker and bon oeuf, was extremely pleased with his 2017s when we visited at the end of last year. He should be. He has produced a super range of wines that are a joy to drink now, but will also improve with time in the cellar. They have ripe, concentrated fruit yet retain a freshness and mineral crunch that is extremely attractive. While rich hot years such as 2015 and 2018 grab the headlines, 2017, sunny but cooler, has produced stylish wines, perfumed, lower in alcohol and an absolute joy to drink.

Writing in the Wine Advocate, William Kelley says “2017 is a warmer, sunnier [than 2016] vintage of very high quality, with some producers comparing it to a hypothetical blend of 2015 and 2016 and others looking back to 2011. The wines are richer and more textural than the 2016s, without attaining the extremes of over-ripeness and hard tannin that sometimes mark the drought-impacted 2015s.”

I have included William’s tasting notes below.

It was a huge pleasure to visit after enjoying the wines for a number of years and spend some time with Jean-Paul at his domaine, more details of which can be found at the bottom of the email. We tasted almost everything Jean-Paul makes, and he makes a lot of wines! We selected our favourites from the tasting below, not easy as there were so many good wines. Superb value here as well, the quality to price ratio these wines offer is amongst the best I know!

The Domaine

Known locally as ‘Jean-Paul’, M. Brun leads the way in breaking with tradition. He began in the late 1970s with just four hectares and now farms around 30. Early on in his career he rejected the industrial approach to wine making which was taking over Beaujolais and began making wine in ways his ancestors would have recognised. He began using only indigenous yeasts, eschewing 71B, the designer yeast popular in the region which is responsible for the banana and candy aromas found in so much mass-produced Beaujolais. He stopped automatically chaptalizing his wines and began to concentrate on drawing out the characters of each individual site. He totally de-stems the grapes from his Crus before fermentation and vinification begins with a light cold soaking followed by maceration for 10-12 days. Elevage is partly in tank, partly in barrel, depending on the wine and the nature of each vintage. In other words, more Côte D’Or than traditional Beaujolais. The results are Beaujolais of unusual density, but which are also beautifully poised, fresh and elegant and which reflect with great clarity the subtle soil differences and age of vines of each Cru. Parcel selection is key. The domaine owns old vine plots on the local limestone rich clays as well as vineyards on the granite of Moulin-a-Vent and Fleurie. Jean-Paul’s excellent 2017s are testament to his vision and the hard work he has put in to achieve it.  

Beaujolais l’Ancien 2017
£69.00 per case of six inc VAT (£11.50 per bottle)
£150.00 per case of six magnums inc VAT (£25.00 per magnum)
Produced from old vines grown on clay and granite this wine is synonymous with Jean-Paul’s domaine. Hand harvested and vinified with great care before ageing in old wood and cement, it is a brilliant wine, much more than an introduction to the domaine’s style. Vintage after vintage it offers outstanding quality and value. 
“From vines that are more than 40 years old, the 2017 Beaujolais l’Ancien offers up a classy bouquet of sweet cherries, licorice and savory bass notes. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied, deep and concentrated, with supple and fine-grained but youthfully chewy structuring tannins and a long, sapid finish. It’s a superb wine that would embarrass many cru Beaujolais.”
92/100 points Drink 2018-2027*

St Amour 2017
£93.00 per case of six inc VAT (£15.50 per bottle)
The most northerly Beaujolais Cru with complex soils that mix granite, clay and limestone, known for lighter, ethereal wines. Jean-Paul says wines from granite, like his, have more structure and can age well while still retaining their elegant, red fruit and peach perfumed character. 
“Brun’s 2017 Saint-Amour is exceptional, bursting with aromas of cherries, raspberries, orange rind and licorice. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied, with a deep, juicy core of fruit, structured around youthfully firm but fine-grained tannins. It will require a few years of bottle age, but it’s an excellent Saint-Amour, interpreted in a more “Burgundian” style.”
92+/100 points Drink 2020-2030*

Fleurie 2017
£96.00 per case of six inc VAT (£16.00 per bottle)
£204.00 per case of six magnums inc VAT (£34.00 per magnum)
Although known as the most elegant of the Beaujolais Crus, in Jean-Paul’s Fleurie we find a little more structure and power. His vines sit in one of Fleurie’s best sites, the ‘Grille Midi’ a warm amphitheatre of vines sitting on granite. The 2017 is very fine with filigree tannins and a sense of cool stone in its fruit. 
“Offering up aromas of raspberries, dried flowers and candied peel, the 2017 Fleurie is medium to full-bodied, elegant and layered, with an expansive attack and a deep, concentrated mid-palate, its generous core of fruit largely concealing its chewy chassis of tannins. Like all of Brun’s crus, this will improve with bottle age, but it’s also the most supple and accessible out of the gates.”
92/100 points Drink 2019-2029.*

Morgon Côte du Py – Javernières 2017
£99.00 per case of six inc VAT (£16.50 per bottle)
The Côte du Py is known as Morgon’s finest site, locally they go further, Javernières is the finest part of the Côte du Py! The soil here is a mix of clay which sits in a thin layer over pure granite. Jean-Paul’s vines were planted in the 1950s, their roots now deep in the complex terroir. Very dark fruit, pitch dark, with sweet tannins and long finish packed with layers of flavour. Glorious, and only going to get better and more complex with time. 
“The 2017 Morgon Côte du Py Javernières is one of the highlights of Brun’s portfolio, unfurling in the glass with a complex bouquet of black cherries, licorice and asphalt. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied, deep and concentrated, with chewy structure and extract, concluding with a long, defined finish. Its balance bodes well for aging—and its structure will require 4 or 5 years in the cellar.”
93+/100 points Drink 2021-2031*

*William Kelley, Wine Advocate / 22.09.2018