Friday, June 12, 2009

The Many Moods of Beaujolais

Beaujolais has a reputation as a simple wine, but maybe it’s got more going on than meets the eye.
I never thought of the grape as very age-worthy, but last night at a tasting at Snooth headquarters on Madison Avenue organized by Gregory DalPiaz, I heard tell of 10 year and older Beaujolais showing very well, comparing favorably with younger Burgundies. Well, I haven’t tasted old Beaujolais, and I’m not in a big rush to do so, because, frankly, I like Beaujolais very much for its youthful, fresh taste.
When it comes to Beaujolais, I subscribe to the Kevin Zraly school of thought. In his Windows on the World Wine School, he talks about it as a great choice for a bottle when out to dinner with friends. It’s the red that can work well enough with both fish and red meat. He also likes to drink it at the end of a long day, when he doesn’t want to analyze his wine.
But analyze we did, at least enough to figure out that there are some substantial differences in the Cru Villages. While wine marked Beaujolais Village is a blend of grapes from across the region, Cru Village Beaujolais (it will have the name of the village on the label) comes from one of the ten small towns that have earned this designation.
The wine that stopped me in my tracks was the 2007 Thenevet Grain & Granite from the village of Régnié. This was a darker, fuller bodied Beaujolais with greater tannins than any I had ever tried. I enjoyed the wine, but felt like it wouldn’t be my first choice if I wanted to reach for a typical Beaujolais. The Domaine des Terres Dorrees Jean-Paul Brun Cotes de Brouilly was also a bigger version of the wine.
More in line with my expectations were the wines from Fleurie, Chenas, St. Amour & Julienas. This were lighter in color & flavor and offered the fresh, strawberry goodness that I love in Gamay.
My personal preferences: when I want a typical Beaujolais that still has a bit of character, I’ll go for Fleurie or Julienas, two of my favorites, and serve them chilled, as they do in France. However, I won’t turn down a glass of the bigger Beaujolais if I’m in the mood for a heavier red wine.
No matter what the style, one thing to love about Beaujolais is the price. You can buy the best ones for under $25. Now how many wine regions can you say that about? I think of Beaujolais as a spring wine—when temperatures rise it’s often nice to have a lighter red. I recommend sampling wines from several of the cru villages in order to find the mood of Beaujolais that suits you.

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