Serious Grape: Feeling Bullish About Beaujolais
On Fridays, Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20 drops by with Serious Grape. This week, why you should buy Beaujolais.
There's nothing like fall—and a falling stock market—to make me feel bullish about Beaujolais.
I'm not talking about the "nouveau" stuff—although I have to confess that I drink that too. But that is released later in fall, just before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the air is getting crisper, we've still got our grills out on the decks and balconies, and most of us are seriously worried about the economy.
It's during transition times, and difficult times, that I always turn to Beaujolais. At times like this, highly affordable wines from Burgundy's Beaujolais region are at their most welcome—and their most delicious.
Beaujolais Brings Value
I'm not the only one who thinks Beaujolais is perfect for today's climate, economic and otherwise. Just this week, Eric Asimov of the New York Times touted Beaujolais as one of the world's great value wine regions in his blog's discussion of good value bottles from France that cost between $10 and $20.
His top pick? The wines of Pierre Chermette of Domaine Vissoux in the Beaujolais. Chermette makes wines from Gamay, a grape that is often overshadowed by its gutsier compatriot, Pinot Noir. The latter is notoriously finicky, fantastically expensive when made into wine by the best growers and producers, and in great demand. Gamay, on the other hand, is easy to grow, ridiculously inexpensive even when made by a master like Chermette, and ignored by virtually everyone unless it's the week of collective madness in November when "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!"
Gamay, for Bright and Refreshing Flavors
Quite simply, Gamay from the Beaujolais is the poor man's Pinot Noir. It is tangy and fruity, with flavors of cherry and raspberry. It is silky and smooth, and lighter than most red wines which makes it perfect for grilled foods, sausages, and heavier stews when you want to drink something a bit more refreshing. And have I mentioned its affordability? Even the best Beaujolais wines can usually be had for around $20.
Earlier this week, I opened up a bottle of Pierre Chermette's 2006 Domaine Vissoux Vieilles Vignes Cuvée Traditionnelle. The cost in my local store? A mere $13.95. And it's available across the country for between $13 and $20. It was heavenly. Seldom do you find a wine that's so bright and refreshing while also being elegant and restrained. The aromas were not much to write home about at this point in its life—although you could detect cherries, berries, and some chalk—but the flavors more than made up for it. There was a pure, juicy Bing cherry taste accompanied by an earthy undertow and finished off with some mineral and limestone notes. This Gamay was very drinkable now, but like most good wines from the Beaujolais it can age for several years if you have the proper storage conditions.
Times are tough, the cold weather is coming, but there's no need to give up on finding interesting, affordable wine. If you love Pinot Noir but your bank account wishes you didn't, try Beaujolais. You'll soon be feeling bullish about it, too.