11/17/09 – a “better” better Beaujolais

By Jesse on November 15, 2009

Last year at this time, the LA Winos ran a tasting called A Better Beaujolais. Our goal was to find some delicious alternatives to the unfortunate Beaujolais Nouveau that so many people regrettably choose to drink with their Thanksgiving dinners. The 2009 batch of Beaujolais Nouveau will be arriving from France next week, so we thought we’d better hold this tasting again, lest anyone be tempted to make a less-than-inspiring purchasing choice for this most important annual meal.

Beaujolais Nouveau (literally “new Beaujolais”) is present-year vintage wine that’s specially bottled for the Thanksgiving season. Typically hailing from the least-celebrated vineyards in the Beaujolais region, the wine is harvested early (sometimes leaving it unripe), bottled, aged for about a week, and then shipped off to unfortunate customers all around the world. In most vintages, it’s pretty poor wine — and definitely not worth the $10 to $14 it commands. (For further reading, here’s a great piece on the history of Beaujolais Nouveau by Mike Steinberger.)

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to once again encourage all Young Winos to skip out on the Beaujolais Nouveau marketing ploy, and instead embrace one of the other excellent wines that hail from this storied region. It’s no surprise that Beaujolais has traditionally been a November hit; its light fruitiness and earthy undertones pair perfectly with the ripe harvest flavors that dominate the Thanksgiving table. For our tasting this week, we’ll “say no to Nouveau” and concentrate instead on the region’s other winners:

Beaujolais is the basic red, and is made entirely from the Gamay grape. It’s meant to be consumed young, so try to find an ‘07 or ‘08. Beaujolais-Villages (the French word “villages” rhymes with “mirage,” not “pillages”) is a step up; these wines are from one of 39 villages designated as superior. Finally, there are ten Cru Beaujolais, each from an individual village from which the wine takes its name. These are the best and most interesting wines to be found in the region. They are:

Brouilly — fruity and grapey
Chénas — subtle and graceful
Chiroubles — very light bodied
Cote de Brouilly — heady and lively
Fleurie — floral and velvety
Juliénas — richly flavored
Morgon — purple and masculine
Moulin-a-Vent — hearty and balanced
Régnié – has two accents on it
Saint-Amour – silky and spicy

Be creative when searching for your bottle! Great bottles can be found for south of $20. Eric Asimov offered several Beaujolais suggestions in a recent column, while Steinberger’s article also lists some good producers. Also, you can click here to check out our favorites from last year’s tasting! (Please note: the ten Cru Beaujolais above probably won’t say “Beaujolais” anywhere on the bottle, so you’ll have to look for the individual place names.)

We’ll be meeting at Coldwater Cavern (Andrea and Vanessa’s place) in Sherman Oaks. The RSVP system functions like this: if you want in, you click on this link and tell me so (don’t forget your full name, e-mail address, and a cute message conveying to me your intentions). If you’re denied entry due to a meeting exceeding capacity, don’t worry — you’ll be at the top of the list the next week.

Once you’ve received your confirmation e-mail, go find an interesting bottle of Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, or one of the Crus — or, as always, simply bring ten dollars. Can’t wait to see you ebullient youngsters on Tuesday at 9pm.