Category Archives: Beaujolais

Wine For Summer

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The temperature touched 30˚C (86˚F) in Bristol last week – a reminder that summer is here – something that’s often quite easy to forget in our climate!  And, for my wife and me, summer means a different style of eating: salads, yes, but also lighter, fresher dishes that are easier to digest.  And, of course, the wines to match.

I’ve often said in this Blog that food and wine should be equal partners with neither dominating the other.  So, with lighter dishes, I look for lighter wines.  Not necessarily lighter in colour (although whites and rosés do often go better with summer dishes than reds), but lighter in body.  Chunkier styles – and that usually means higher alcohol bottles – stay on the shelf in favour of more delicate wines, those with plenty of fruit and good acidity.

Many whites fall into this lighter category – the main exception being those which are strongly oaked – as do almost all rosés; if you’re not usually a rosé fan, try one gently chilled on a warm summer’s day, especially something from a good producer in the south of France – I’d be surprised if you’re not convinced.

Reds can be a bit more of a problem; many are quite high in alcohol these days and, when you add in oak ageing and significant tannins (both features of many of the best reds), they’re not that well-suited to warm weather.  But choose carefully – look for something refreshing, a wine that can be chilled lightly without ruining it – and the picture looks very different.  Try a Loire red, or one from Germany or Austria, a Valpolicella (avoiding the ultra-cheap examples) or, perhaps most reliable of all, a Beaujolais from one of the 10 named villages or Crus*.

From this last group, we found that Henry Fessy’s Brouilly (Waitrose, £12.99) fitted the bill nicely. 

BrouillyDelicious, clean, refreshing cherry fruit with attractive hints of bitterness, quite light in the mouth (12.5%) and really lively and welcoming after a half hour in the fridge.  Just perfect for a warm summer day – but that was last week; what a shame it’s back to sweater weather today!

*(The 10 Beaujolais Crus are: Brouilly, Côtes de Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour).

 

Beaujolais: Nouveau or Cru?

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I haven’t seen any Beaujolais Nouveau for sale this year.  It’s not that I’m a great fan of it, but there’s usually plenty around in the weeks after its official release date, the 3rd Thursday in November.  And, it’s a big seller – in supermarkets, especially – so they would normally be keen to put on an eye-catching display.  But this year, nothing!

So, what is Beaujolais Nouveau?  It’s a red wine made from Gamay grapes grown in France’s Beaujolais region, the southern-most part of Burgundy.  The grapes are harvested in late September or early October and then vinified very quickly before being bottled ready for sale just a few weeks later.

I said I’m not a great fan of it; a friend once described it as ‘alcoholic Ribena’ and I can’t better that as a way to explain the taste.  For me, the problem is that the whole process is rushed through to meet the key date and there is no time for the flavours to mature and develop.

But, not all Beaujolais is ‘Nouveau’; wines labelled just Beaujolais (without the Nouveau suffix) or, even better, Beaujolais-Villages are often very attractive and refreshing, especially when lightly chilled on a warm summer day.  But, to enjoy the best the region has to offer, look to wines labelled with the name of one of the 10 individual villages or ‘crus’ (see below).  Despite all being made from the same Gamay grape and from villages just a few miles from each other, each is subtly different from its neighbour and many make really excellent food wines.

brouilly

The Domaine Crêt des Garanches Brouilly (Grape and Grind, Bristol, £12.50) I opened recently was a good example – quite light and delicate in body but deliciously fresh and full of really intense blackberry flavours.  No rush to get this to market – it was from the 2014 harvest; the time it had been given to develop was definitely time well spent.

(The crus are: Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Chenas, Chirouble, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Regnie and Saint-Amour)