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September 8, 2008

Wine 101 - Bb is for Beaujolais

chaizebojo.jpgDON'T stop reading because I mentioned the dreaded B word. PLEASE. Just give me a few minutes and you might be pleasantly surprised. I know, I know what you're thinking... Of all the great wine 'Bs' out there, why would I choose Beaujolais? And I shall tell you. There are, in fact, a plethora of fascinating grapes and regions that begin with the letter B -- all the Bs from the Boot: Barolo, Barbera, Brunello, Barbaresco would surely make an interesting and tasty post. So true, my friends, but alas only a handful (mostly Barbera) are suited to the "cheap" part of our cheap and fun profile. The rest are left for special occasions and Swanky Wine Fridays.

So here we are.

And here are the Top 5 Things You Might Not Know About Beaujolais:

1. Beaujolais is from Burgundy! However, this southern area of Burgundy and its light and fruity wines bear little resemblance to its more refined brethren of the north.

2. Beaujolais is made from Gamay grapes which have black skins and white juice. They tend to be much less tannic and fairly fruit forward.

35561-1.jpg3. There are 3 categories of Beaujolais (not including Nouveau): Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages and Beaujolais Cru. Chances are, if you hate Beaujolais, you've probably only tasted Beaujolais or maybe a Beaujolais Villages. Most of those are, as you experienced, overly fruity and devoid of character or finish. That is because they are--for the most part--made by negociants. The grapes are sourced from the lesser vineyards and blended then bottled. The resulting wine is a mish-mosh of mediocrity. The Beaujolais Crus, on the other hand are from 10 specific villages. These wines are produced more traditionally as estate bottled wines and found much less frequently than its cheaper brothers, but possess much more character and interest.

4. Beaujolais should be served slightly chilled (but not cold!). About 15 minutes in the fridge does the trick. Think of it as a darker rose. Its quaffabilty and lack of tannins makes it just about the most food friendly wine on earth. But drink it within two years. Gamay, with its lack of tannic structure does not make wines that age well.

5. Beaujolais Nouveau is NOT the same thing. The Nouveau is a special Beaujolais that is released every year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving (the second Thursday of the month, I think). It is intended as a celebration of the harvest and as such it is very young--usually only 7-9 weeks old. I often celebrate its release--who doesn't enjoy a good excuse to throw a wine party? But I almost never drink it. I'll buy a bottle for my guests to try a tiny taste and raise a toast, but the rest of the night we celebrate with mostly the Crus.

If you want to continue this lesson, here are a few crus to peruse. Every one is a winner and completely expressive of what Beaujolais should be. Look for them locally but if all else fails, you can find them on WineLibrary.com:

Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais 2007 $10.98

Chat De La Chaize Brouilly $10.98

Domaine Chanrion Cote De Brouilly 2006 $16.98

Clos De La Roilette Fleurie 2006 $15.98

And your homework is to read Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France by Kermit Lynch, wine merchant extraordinaire and my beaujolais hero.
There will be a test on Monday.

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Posted by Noël Wallace at September 8, 2008 6:56 PM
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