Spring Fever – The Magic of Beaujolais

I cannot think of a more honest, unassuming, pleasurable red wine than a great Beaujolais.
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Beaujolais is obviously a bottle of wine, but more importantly it is actually an area of France’s great Burgundy region that encompasses about 60 communes (villages) in the southern district, as you head into the Rhone valley.

The primary red grape grown here is gamay. Gamay is similar in style and taste to the more aristocratic pinot noir, grown to the north in Burgundy. Hence, many wines are named for regions like Champagne, Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Bordeaux.

There are various “levels” (of quality and pedigree) in Beaujolais and for some reason, many wine geeks have become obsessed with putting the cheaper versions down.

ImageEspecially ridiculed is the the Nouveau Beaujolais, a simple red wine that is quickly fermented after being picked (almost too soon) and then rushed to market to be on your table by the third week of November.

It’s pretty timid juice. Kind of acidic. Mostly all about fun and frivolousness. It is indeed sometimes tasty, but sadly, it has left a bit of a bad taste in so many people’s mouths that most folks run from the mere utterance of the word “Beaujolais,” even if it doesn’t have the word Nouveau attached nearby.

This is where the problem really is. There’s something really special beyond Nouveau.

Think about it. Would anyone turn down a glass of Opus One just because California makes a billion gallons of box wines? I think not.

Simply put, if you leave the grapes on the vines a few weeks longer, pay attention to the vineyards in the right locations that have a little incline and vine age and add a dedicated cultivator and winemaker to the mix, you have to believe something special can be created.

The Parisians certainly love their wine and every trip that I have taken to Paris has certainly confirmed that Beaujolais is indeed a particular favorite house wine.

This spring break, I am packing only Beaujolais for the beach as my red wine of choice. I can’t wait. Think about it. A light red wine, slightly chilled, not overwhelmingly full-bodied.  Most Beaujolais’ could literally be midday sippers, low enough in alcohol to keep you vibrant and alert after a glass.

RED’s pick of the week is a magnificent Beaujolais. A limited quantity producer maintaining a small acreage organically farmed vineyard. This is not a mass produced wine in any sense of the word. We’re talking a delightfully different hidden treasure.

DOMAINE GEORGES VIORNERY

Cotes du Brouilly Cuvee Vieille Vignes Cuvee Unique, 2009  [was $30, SALE $24.99]

ImageAdmittedly, a long name for a simply delicious wine! This one could stand a few years (5-10) of age.
But, I can’t let it wait. And neither should you! The color is beautiful. Like a sunset. Hints of reds, purples and even a tinge of blue.

On the nose, which takes hours to open up, are hints of licorice, rosemary, tobacco, lavender and fruits of blackberry perfume with just a touch of strawberry. Chill down to 65 or so and pop the cork. On the serious side of wine, it is important to note the 2009 was a benchmark vintage and the vast majority of top level Beaujolais will possibly outlive us.

ImageFittingly, this was Georges’ last vintage as a winemaker after over 50 years! Many of the vines were planted about the time he was born. The wine is aged In concrete and stainless steel. The soils of this small vineyard are fragile granite, which imparts a depth and purple-fruit richness. Rated 90 points by The Wine Advocate.

Cotes du Brouilly is one of ten “crus”. These crus are basically areas of Beaujolais divided into smaller regions, many around a commune or geographic landmark. The cru Moulin-a-vent is centered around a windmill and thus it’s name.

Brouilly is a cru. Cotes du Brouilly is a smaller cru within Brouilly that is located among the hills (cotes) created by a now dormant volcano. Each cru has a specific set of growing conditions (soil, slopes, weather, etc) that creates a slightly different style and taste. Vieilles Vignes means “old vines’ in French.

Add all of these pieces together and you get a lot of wine for $20-$30!

Stop in to RED this week to taste what true Beaujolais is all about.

– Ed

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