06/08/11 – buoyant Beaujolais for beaches and barbecues

By Jesse on June 7, 2011

In his masterful book Adventures on the Wine Route, legendary importer Kermit Lynch writes: “Beaujolais must be the most inspired invention in the history of wine.  What a concept, downing a newborn wine that has barely left the grape, a wine that retains the cornucopian spirit of the harvest past.  It even serves to remind us of the first time man tasted fermented grape juice and decided it was an accident of nature worth pursuing.”

In the past few years, the Young Winos have primarily concerned ourselves with Beaujolais’ well-documented popularity as a Thanksgiving wine, given its ability to pair with diverse and varied cuisines.  During these tastings, the most popular bottles have often been those with a certain degree of fullness or robustness — after all, Thanksgiving is an autumn feast, and robust wines are perfect for cooler temperatures.

However, there’s another side of Beaujolais: the light, playful, berry-driven side.  At its most buoyant, Beaujolais is actually a wine that’s begging to be served chilled — not as much as a Riesling, perhaps, but definitely colder than most reds.  A cool bottle of Beaujolais performs largely the same duties as a dry rosé, but has enough red wine cred to pair with burgers and grilled veggies at your next barbecue or beach excursion.  This week, let’s try to find some of those bottles.

A bit more about the wine: Beaujolais is the basic red, and is made entirely from the Gamay grape.  Beaujolais-Villages (the 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. They are:

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

Usually, we advise Winos to seek out Beaujolais-Villages or one of the ten crus, which are often the most complex.  However, since we’re going for “light and simple” this time, plain ol’ Beaujolais might be the way to go!

In his book, Lynch complains about the region’s shift over the past few decades to richer, fuller wines, away from what he calls “real” Beaujolais: light, slightly fizzy reds that are characterized by low alcohol.  To assist you when purchasing your bottle, try to find Beaujolais that boast 12% alcohol or lower.  In addition, tell your friendly wine merchant that you’re eager to purchase a Beaujolais light enough to be served chilled, and he or she should be able to help you find an appropriate one.

Finally, huge props will be given to any Wino who finds a Beaujolais imported by Kermit Lynch!  The producers whom he imports include:

–Cedric Vincent
–Charly Thevenet
–Chateau Thivin
–Domaine Chignard
–Domaine Diochon
–Domaine Dupeuble
–Guy Breton
–Jean Foillard
–Jean-Paul Thevenet
–Marcel Lapierre
–Nicole Chanrion

We’ll be meeting at Andrew and Rachel’s place in K’Town.  The RSVP system works like this: if you want in, simply select “will attend” on the right side of this page.  On Wednesday, I’ll send you an e-mail with the address and additional info.