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What our expert thought of Château des Pertonnières, Beaujolais

about this wine About this wine
France is the dominant nation in the world of wine.  She’s not just the largest producer (in most vintages, anyway - sometimes Italy takes the title), her wines are by far the most influential.  The so-called international varieties are all originally French, and the famous wines of France have formed the template for wine styles across the globe.
All but one, that is.  Everyone has heard of Beaujolais, yet it remains uniquely French.  You can buy champagne-style, claret-style, and burgundy-style wines from a dozen different nations, but no-one copies Beaujolais.  That alone would be enough reason for us to feature one, but it’s also one of the world’s most distinctive wine styles.  You don’t need to be an expert to recognise it at a blind tasting; just one sip (or even one sniff) is usually enough.
What makes it so unique?  The Beaujolais region lies to the south of Burgundy and is technically part of it, but its wine tastes very different.  This is largely because it’s made from the Gamay variety, rather than Burgundy’s Pinot Noir.  Gamay is perhaps the perfect variety for producing light reds for drinking young.  Its grapes are low in tannin but quite high in acidity and positively bursting with simple but vivacious red fruit flavours.
To capitalise on Gamay’s qualities most Beaujolais is made using carbonic maceration to enhance its fruitiness and make it still more suitable for drinking young.  The name is rather a misnomer; maceration usually refers to the process of skin contact and the often quite vigorous methods used to extract color, flavour and tannin from the grapeskins: punching down the cap of skins in the fermentation vat, or pumping wine up over it.
Carbonic maceration doesn’t involve any mechanical mixing; it’s really an unusual fermentation method.  Whole, uncrushed grapes are loaded into a vat, which is then closed and filled with carbon dioxide.  In the absence of oxygen, the still-living cells within the fresh grapes respire anaerobically, breaking down sugar into CO2 and ethanol.  They similarly break down about half of the malic acid in the grapes, producing a range of flavour chemicals like esters and aldehydes along the way.
The grape cells aren’t as ethanol-tolerant as yeasts and tend to die when the alcohol concentration reaches 2%, by which time their skins have generally burst from the pressure of gas generated.  Usually, gentle crushing is performed to burst any that remain whole.  The released juice continues fermenting, this time by yeasts.  The process is excellent at extracting colour (useful for the relatively pale Gamay) but its gentle nature extracts very little tannin.
The maceration traditionelle  used in Beaujolais is a less extreme form which doesn’t use injected CO2.  Enough of the grapes at the bottom of the vat get squashed by the weight of those above for yeast-based fermentation to begin.  The CO2 this generates is heavier than air and gradually fills the vat, causing anaerobic fermentation in the uncrushed grapes.
The combination of Gamay and carbonic maceration allowed the creation of a red wine that could be ready to drink in the same year as the vintage.  And so Beaujolais Nouveau was born, initially as a fun way to sample the new vintage and bring a little excitement to the grey days of November.  Clever marketing turned it into a monster, and by the end of the Eighties most Beaujolais was made as Nouveau.
Unfortunately, even Beaujolais tastes much better when made in rather less of a hurry, and the extreme form of carbonic maceration used to produce Nouveau generated unbalanced wines more dominated by pear-drop, acetone and banana flavours than Gemay’s pure red fruits.  The dominance of big merchants didn’t help, with most growers selling their grapes in bulk for fixed prices, thus removing the incentive to grow better quality grapes.  A decade-long run of largely indifferent vintages until 2009 added to the region’s troubles. 
Beaujolais’s reputation took a beating from which it is only just starting to recover.  This is a shame, as proper Beaujolais is delightful and delicious in a way few other wines can be.  And now is a great time to try it since almost all the vintages from 2009 onwards have been excellent, including 2014 and 2015.
Cru Beaujolais from named villages like Morgon and Moulin à Vent can improve for years, but straightforward Beaujolais is best at around one year old, like this 2015.  Although made by the typical maceration traditionelle, it’s unusual in being an estate-bottled wine rather than a negoçiant bottling.
This wine comes from the Pierres Dorée region regarded as the best in southern Beaujolais.  The fully ripe grapes were handpicked from south-facing vineyards planted on the acidic granite soil that Gamay prefers, which is rare here in southern Beaujolais but common in the fine Cru villages of the north.  Only wild yeasts were used for the fermentation and the wine was bottled unfiltered.
the tasting The Tasting
The vivid purple-red colour is very typical of Beaujolais.  It even manages to look  fresh and fruity.
There’s a medium+ nose full of strawberries and cherries, with just a touch of peardrop and bubblegum.  It has a definite floral quality too.
The palate is dry and quite light in body but filled with soft, sweet cherry fruit, with perhaps just a hint of banana.  At first the fruit intensity conceals the medium+ acidity, but then that comes through on the juicy, refreshing finish, lending some structure to a wine almost devoid of tannin.
This is textbook Beaujolais, and deliciously moreish.  I’ve rarely been so close to not having enough left in the bottle to film with!  It leads on the pure red fruits, with the telltale hints of carbonic maceration adding interest and typicité, rather than being the main event.
A little bit frivolous and a whole lot of fun, this is a wine in search of a party.  It almost demands quaffing – which, as Terry Pratchett observed, is “like drinking, but you spill more”.

Tasting notes

clear medium purple-red

Intensity medium+

Aromas red fruits (strawberry, cherry), floral (violets), hint of peardrop/bubblegum

Development youthful

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium+, backloaded

Body light+

Tannins undetectable

Intensity medium+

Flavours sweet red fruits (cherry, strawberry), hint of banana

Length medium

Flavours as palate, mouthwatering and juicy
Other notes
Unoaked. Obviously Beaujolais - great typicité. Very more-ish.

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