Outstanding Beaujolais, naturally

Are natural and organic wines necessarily better than other wines just because they are, well, natural and organic? I’m going to say no. But …

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• Today’s tasting report: Jean-Paul Brun 2022 “Le Ronsay” Beaujolais

First, common sense: When a wine producer commits to an all-natural, all-organic course, they are removing some of the guardrails that protect us from some of the worst wines of older times.

Declining to use any added sulfites, they gamble on greatness by giving up some of nature’s most reliable preservatives. Forswearing commercial yeast strains that ensure clean wine, they hope for fascinating flavors but run the risk of nasty, even foul flavors. The good old days weren’t always good, and stories about our ancestors suffering vinegary wines and even exploding bottles give testimony to that.

Nevertheless, while exercising due diligence to sort out trusted producers, importers, and distributors from those not so reliable, I remain a fan of organic and natural wines and those adjacent to this niche. In my experience, producers who follow these paths – particularly smaller producers not subject to corporate profiteering – often bring a commitment to quality that shows in their wines.

For one good example, we need look no further than the Beaujolais producer Jean-Paul Brun, whose excellent Crémant de Bourgogne I featured in the December 8 Wine Advisor).

Gamay grapes from the 2022 vintage at Jean-Paul Brun's Terres-Dorées vineyards.

Gamay grapes from the 2022 vintage at Jean-Paul Brun’s Terres-Dorées vineyards.

According to the importer LDM Wines of New York City, Brun favors “old-style” Beaujolais. To achieve that, the importer says, Brun’s vinification methods differ from prevailing practices in the region: “He believes that the charm of Gamay’s fruit is best expressed by the grapes’ own indigenous yeasts rather than industrial yeast.”

In recent decades, the vast majority of Beaujolais has been made by fermenting with a yeast strain called 71B, a laboratory product made in Holland from a tomato base. This yeast famously imparts banana and candied aromas to the wines it makes, sapping the regional grapes of their authenticity in favor of a fruity but charmless product.

Brun, in contrast, the importer says, wants to make a pure Gamay wine. Accordingly, in contrast with Beaujolais’s larger producers, he sees no need to kick up the wine’s alcohol level, and does not add sugar to the fermenting grapes, as is often done to heighten alcohol levels.

Brun also avoids carbonic maceration, a process widely used in Beaujolais, in which grape clusters are fermented in closed vessels filled with carbon dioxide. This procedure yields a lighter, less tannic, soft, and fruity wine that’s popular in the marketplace but that, in Brun’s view, departs from Beaujolais tradition. He also does only minimal filtration, seeking to retain the wine’s original fruit and aromas.

Nevertheless, Brun’s Beaujolais wines are not certified organic or labeled “natural” because of another decision aimed at maximizing the wine’s pleasure. It is not sulfite-free, and that’s intentional. Only a minimal amount of sulfur dioxide is used at bottling to keep the wine fresh, LDM explains. “Fermentation naturally produces a lot of sulfur dioxide, which acts as protection against oxidation during aging; leaving some in the wine at bottling time also helps to keep it fresh.”

Brun’s overall emphasis, the importer says, “is not on weight, but on fruit: Beaujolais as it once was and as it should be. Beaujolais is made to be pleasurable – light, fruity and delicious.”

I like Beaujolais, and I can’t think of a producer from the region I like more than Jean-Paul Brun. With limited production and niche demand, his wines aren’t cheap, but they are fairly priced. I have a couple more coming up for tasting that retail in the $20s and $30s; I’ll talk about them later in our paid-tier edition.

Today’s featured wine, though, Jean-Paul Brun 2022 “Le Ronsay” Beaujolais, is both delicious and affordable. I can’t recommend it too highly, and while it’s in limited production and distribution, it should be worth the search. Wine-Searcher.com lists vendors that ship. I was also able to get some when my local wine shop offered to put in a special order.

Today’s Tasting Report

Jean-Paul Brun 2022 “Le Ronsay” Beaujolais ($15.99)

Jean-Paul Brun "Le Ronsay" Beaujolais

Made with organically grown Gamay grapes from young vines, Jean-Paul Brun 2022 “Le Ronsay” Beaujolais shows an attractive bright red-cherry color in the glass. Ripe cherries and fresh red berries mingle in the aroma with a spicy back note of floral black pepper. The flavor is full of juicy red fruit and perky acidity that persists in a very long finish. Fermented in concrete vats with never a touch of oak, it’s a fruit cocktail but not a fruit bomb: A balanced, delicious young Beaujolais from J. P. Brun. 12.5% alcohol. U.S. importer: LDM Wines LLC, NYC; Louis/Dressner Selections (Dec. 27, 2023)

FOOD MATCH: It’s good enough to enjoy on its own but like its cousins from nearby Burgundy, should be a versatile pairing with a range of foods from pork or poultry to egg or bean dishes or almost anything mushrooms. It was a delight with a deeply flavored mushroom risotto.

WHEN TO DRINK: While it’s possible that its Burgundian style could shepherd it into something fascinating with time in a good cellar, it’s so fresh and delicious now, and so affordably priced, that it seems silly not to buy it and drink it up.

This is a spectacularly good basic Beaujolais, and Wine-Searcher.com’s $18 average U.S. retail is more than fair.

Here’s a fact sheet on Jean-Paul Brun and his wines from importer LDM Wines. There’s also a transcript of an interview with J.P. Brun about the 2022 vintage at this link.

Check prices and find vendors for Jean-Paul Brun “Le Ronsay” Beaujolais on Wine-Searcher.com.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to read more about Jean-Paul Brun’s Domaine des Terres Dorees find listings for a portfolio of wines from this producer.

Read about Beaujolais at this Wine-Searcher link and browse dozens of other Beaujolais wines and their vendors.


Wine Focus December 2023
Benchmarks of Grenache

Our online Wine Focus topic for December 2023 is Benchmarks of Grenache. This easy-to-like red variety is one of the 13 permitted grapes in Southern Rhône blends, including the classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Grenache is probably best known for this historic role, but it’s also important in Spain, and gathering steam in California and other wine regions around the world.

As always, you are welcome to open a bottle, jot down a note, and bring your impressions and your questions to our WineLovers Discussion Group. Let’s talk about Grenache!


Find the wines you want

Explore Wine-Searcher

Wine-Searcher.com is the place to go online if you want to find where to buy a particular wine that interests you. What’s more, Wine-Searcher.com offers so much more. It’s well worth a visit just to discover its many features, including its popular list of the world’s Top 10 Best Value Wines.


Good wines we’ve tried under $10.99!

Want tips to still more good, inexpensive wines? Here are Wine-Searcher links to vendors and prices for a bunch more wines for $10.99 or less that I’ve told you about in recent years. In some cases the prices may have risen over the $10.99 mark since I reviewed them, but they should still be excellent bargains. Please tell us about your favorites!


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