a-tasting-tour-of-french-wine

By contributing writer Steve Gross

Beaujolais – Approachable, Drinkable, Juicy Reds

Just to the north of Burgundy, you’ll find the birthplace of one of the easiest drinking red wines.

Flowery labels on inexpensive bottles entice many new wine drinkers to try the wines of Beaujolais. Relatively simple, fresh, and juicy (an odd term for grape juice, but it fits in this case), Beaujolais is a great summer picnic wine, a apt compliment to warmer temperatures and fresh air.

Each year, in November, comes the release of Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Nouveau is the bottling of that year’s vintage, and it certainly tastes new. If you haven’t noticed, many wines are not released until several years after they’ve been put into barrels. Sometimes this is the result of laws regarding the naming of the wine (for example, the Italian reds Chianti Classico and Chianti Riserva). Often, however, wines are allowed to gain age at the winery before release. This allows for a merging of elements within the wine, and the time is worth it in most cases. Beaujolais, however, is usually drunk early in its lifetime, within two or three years of release.

Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape

The grape in Beaujolais is Gamay, which makes for very juicy, fresh-tasting, relatively uncomplicated wine, even after a few years of age. Due to the pricing of most of the available wines (seldom more than $20, though there are exceptions), Beaujolais is a great wine to try, and to help white wine drinkers move into the world of red wine. You won’t have to untangle layers of oak-induced spiciness, chocolate, or smoke here.

Georges Duboeuf is perhaps the best-known producer of Beaujolais (This is the flowery label reference from the opening of this post), with wines from several of the villages within the region: Morgon, Fleurie, Julienas, and Brouilly are several of them. Cru Beaujolais, the highest designation, uses the name of the village, not just calling themselves Beaujolais. These wines can offer more complexity and a bit of a sense of place, though the name comes from the entire village, not the name of a single vineyard as is the case in Burgundy.

Today’s wine drinkers have been lucky to have several outstanding vintages of Beaujolais in recent years. The 2009 and 2010 wines have been considered very strong demonstrations of what Beaujolais is all about, and we are lucky to have these wines on our store shelves right now.

What to expect in the taste of Beaujolais

When I first started buying and drinking wine, Beaujolais was a frequent choice. The French name was impressive sounding, and the wine was easy to drink. In those days, I drank a lot more white than red, but Beaujolais (and later, Burgundy) helped me along the way. Not overly tannic, with lots of fruity freshness, I was able to handle these wines easily, and they did exactly what they were designed to do: offer an enjoyable accompaniment to warm-weather activities – lunch with friends, picnic fare, etc.

In two weeks, on  June 12, I’ll discuss a few Beaujolais I’ve tasted. In the meantime, why don’t you taste a few and let us know your thoughts…

Need a place to track your own tasting notes? Check out this tip for tasting notes from Sommelier Vanessa Trevino-Boyd.

This is the fifth post in the series, A Tasting Tour of French Wine. Click back to see what you’ve missed and what is ahead.

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