I am convinced that one of the best kept and most unfortunate secrets in the wine world is how good wines from Beaujolais actually are. Yes, that’s right–Beaujolais. The word itself creates a certain conundrum. It has been misappropriated and used as a gigantic ruse to convince the American wine drinking public that Beaujolais is actually that thin, fruit juicy froth that Georges Duboeuf has celebrated for years. Quel disastre!
Let me break it down: red wines of all stripes are crushed during harvest (the vendange), racked and barreled to age. Some wines – like great Spanish Riojas don’t get released for 7-8 years after they are harvested. The wait is worth it and the wines benefit from age. Not Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Nouveau is crushed and rushed into the bottle mere weeks after being picked. And it tastes like it. What the heck was Dubouef thinking? Obviously he wasn’t.
However, you can regard the Beaujolais debacle two ways: Yes, it was a bad marketing gimmick that caught up to Georges Deboeuf once Americans began to realize how bad Beajolais Nouveau was. Conversely, without Beaujolais Nouveau we never would have heard of Beaujolais - and there is good Cru Beaujolais. It clearly needed a better P.R. rep. and better distribution. Up until recently, 60% of all Beaujolais making it into this country was of the Nouveau variety – meaning 60% of it was not really wine to be enjoyed at all.
The Cru Beaujolais label (the stuff you want to be drinking) differs from the generic Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages labels in that they include one of the ten village names (there are actually more – but these are the ones to focus on) that have earned the AOC designation: Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Regnie, Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Moulin-a-Vent, Chenas, Julienas, and Saint-Amour. These are the Beaujolais labels you want to look for. Lucky for us, the global economic meltdown has allowed really good Cru Beaujolais to be made available at really great prices. Do not miss the opportunity to taste these beauties.
So, now that you know what to purchase, let me give you the lowdown on Cru Beaujolais. It is a red wine that is fantastic slightly chilled…yes, chill it – you will love it! It is also a red wine that you can drink with fish, and get this – it goes great with a ham and cheese sandwich. Or, if you are looking for the ultimate American comfort food match made in heaven...try it with mac and cheese. I am not kidding. Cru Beaujolais is on the light side, offering up red berry flavors like strawberries and raspberries, with a nice light structure, but its flavor does not get overwhelmed by food. You will be amazed by how many different ways you can pair it.
Stick to the Cru Beaujolais labels from smaller producers who are mandated to pick their grapes by hand and you will be getting a great drinking experience. Below you will find our recommendations of wines available now, in Fairfield County from three great wineshops. Wherever you shop for wine, engage your local merchant in a conversation and you are bound to be pointed toward a wonderful Beaujolais experience. In fact, I am cracking a bottle open right now to go with my Croque Monsieur and homemade mac and cheese! Le Beaujolais Nouveau n'est pas arrive! (and that’s a good thing).
67 1/2 Winfield St Norwalk. 203.854.9138
2006 Domaine Pascal Granger Moulin-a-Vent. $22.00 International Wine Cellar (91)
Ruby-red. Spicy cherry and dark berry aromas are deepened by exotic floral and Indian spice accents. Mineral notes brighten the blackberry and blackcurrant flavors, with a strong peppery note and firm tannins giving the wine a serious aspect. But this remains elegant and almost light in weight, finishing with fine, dusty tannins and excellent length.
Henry Fessy Morgon 2007 $16.00
Characterized by their dark garnet color and aromas of kirsch and pure blueberry and strawberry aromas with a fresh earth note. Silky tannins support a dark core of black cherry fruit. Wonderfully versatile—perfect for a buffet or holiday meal. Able to stand up to beef or lamb, but won’t overwhelm lighter dishes, even meaty fish.
122 East Putnam Ave. Greenwich. 203.340.2440
Potel-Aviron 'Julienas' Vieilles Vignes 2006 $24.95
Julienas, a top cru, is located toward the northern limit of Beaujolais and tends to produce wines that are more substantial compared to other crus. They have deeper color, richer fruit density, and may obtain more tannins than most. This one in particular is made from 100% Gamay grapes grown on 60 year-old vines and older, giving the wine more depth and succulent fruit. Lively cherry and cassis fruit jump out from the glass and dance on your palate, following with baked spice nuances and supple tannins to round out the finish.
Domaine de la Chapelle des Bois 'Fleurie' 2007 $26.95
Fleurie, which stands for "flowery", is often considered as the Queen of Beaujolais. Domaine de la Chapelle happens to be my personal favorite producer in Beujolais, as they produce some of the most concentrated and elegant wines consistently vintage after vintage. Their Fleurie stands tall, showing ripe, silky dark fruit that mingles with smoky accents and a beautiful integration of oak and spice.
720 Branchville Rd Ridgefield. 203.544.8958
2007 Granger Beaujolais Villages le Bouteu $16.99
“Bright medium red. Zesty strawberry and cranberry scents accented by white pepper, rhubarb and cherry pit. Refreshingly bitter flavors of vivid red berries and minerals lead to a snappy, focused finish. A quintessential light-bodied Beaujolais that would be ideal with an assortment of young and aged cheeses, goat or cow.”
Domaine des Grands Fers Fleurie 750ml 2007 $16.19
"A fantastic Cru Beaujolais from a phenomenal vintage, with lots of black fruit aromas and violets. It's just slightly tannic, and while this is a red wine to drink today, it certainly has enough structure to hold up to rich meat dishes."