Tuesday, November 17, 2020

French Appellations: Beaujolais!

Two days from the date of this post, we will see all wine stores full of signs that will read "Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est arrivée" (Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived). This year, it will arrive on 11/19. It is the first wine of this vintage (2020), made 7-9 weeks after the harvest, usually arriving in wine stores every year in time for Thanksgiving. 

The appellation of Beaujolais is located to the south of Burgundy and to the north of the Rhone. It is a 35 mile long enclave where crafted winemakers make a light, delicious red wine from Gamay Noir, the child of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc.

There are 12 appellations here, Beaujolais which comprises 50% of all wine production (half of this in the form of Beaujolais Nouveau), Beaujolais Villages (25%) and 10 Grand Cru where the most serious wines are made, and these are: Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly,  Regnie, Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Moulin A Vent, Chenas, Julienas and Saint Amour.

98% of all wine production in Beaujolais is red wine, the other 2% is white wine (Beaujolais Blanc) made from Chardonnay that grows in limestone soils, yielding a similar style like the wines of Macon, in the south of Burgundy. 

Beaujolais, though geographically located closer to Burgundy, enjoys a different climate and soils. In Beaujolais, the climate is continental, with cold winters and warm summers, much warmer than Burgundy. The soils can be divided into two groups, the soils in the north are mostly granitic and schist (poorer soils), and in the south are mostly clay, rocks and sand. These two differences are key, since the best and most complex wines come mostly from the north where all the crus are located. Most vineyards are planted to the west of the river Saone on undulating hills. Some of top vineyards have altitudes that can reach up to 1,000 ft. 

See map courtesy of the Beaujolais Campaign/Sopexa.

But the most special thing about Beaujolais is their fermentation/ vinification known as Carbonic Maceration. All of Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages are made with this technique (either completely like in Nouveau or partially, meaning the wine will start up with the carbonic maceration and eventually it will continue with the traditional fermentation). While wines from the Crus are mostly made with the traditional/ conventional fermentation. 

The Carbonic Maceration basically consists of full grapes (not crushed) that are hand harvested and introduced in vats with some CO2 (carbon dioxide), this will cause fermentation to start intracellularly, meaning inside the whole grapes that eventually will explode. After maceration (usually as short as 3 days for Nouveau but longer for the other styles), the cru wines will see some aging in oak for a few months to a year. 

The fact that grapes are not crushed but fermented whole, yields a young wine that is very fruity and very low in tannins, featuring banana, bubble gum and pear drops flavors. In ascending order the wines will get more interesting, gaining body and seriousness. Basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages are not as fruity as Nouveau, and yet, still they are light reds. Things will get better with the Cru wines, the lightest styles are those that come from Brouilly, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Regnie and St Amour, are usually perfumed and charmy. Julienas, Chenas, Morgon,Côte de Brouilly and Moulin a Vent make the beefiest wines that can age and are more intense and generous, similar to a Pinot Noir in style.

Most Beaujolais Crus feature aromas of strawberry, raspberry, cherry, blackberry, with some oak aging: vanilla, smoke, minerals and leather. These wines will show refreshing acidity, soft tannins, light to medium bodies and balanced alcohol.

Indeed! Beaujolais can be a great start for those that are not familiar with red wines and want something that is easy to drink and uncomplicated. This is why, I often recommend Beaujolais to have with turkey at Thanksgiving, since this light red will be a perfect match for the bird. Remember to stick to the crus if you want/need more substance in your wine. Other pairings with Beaujolais will be cold cuts, chicken, veal, pasta, vegetable tarts, burgers, etc.

Beaujolais Nouveau should be consumed within six months from its release, remember the new vintage coming in two days is the 2020. Slightly chill it to pop up its fruity flavors. Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages (the current vintages are 2019 and 2018) can be drunk up to 2 years from release and crus between 3-10 years, (the current vintages are 2018 and 2017). Moulin a Vent wines, which have the biggest bodies can last up to 10 years.

All Beaujolais wines offer a great value with most samples costing you between $16-30. Exceptionally you can also find wines from a top producer at $50. 

My wine recommendations:
Thanks to Europvin, Taub Family Selections, Quintessential Wines, H Mercer Importers and Vineyard Brands for donating samples.

Yohan Lardy Beaujolais Villages Blanc Les Bruyéres 2018 $21

Alexander Burgaud Beaujolais-Lantignié 2018 $23

Georges Duboeuf Jean Ernest Descombes Morgon 2018, $25

Château de La Chaize Brouilly 2017 $28

George Duboeuf Fleurie 2018, $29

Thibault Liger-Belair Beaujolais-Villages Les Jeunes Pousses 2016 $30

Happy Thanksgiving and Cheers! Silvina.

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