Tag Archives: beaujolais

The Beauty of Beaujolais Cru

As we prepare to sit down with Yann Bourigault, export director at Duboeuf Wines, I felt it reasonable to share some fun facts on Beaujolais and in particular, Beaujolais Cru. For those of you interested, Wine.com will be hosting a virtual tasting with Mr. Bourigault tomorrow (4/3) at 5pmPST/8pmEST as we taste through a delicious line up of Duboeuf Beaujolais Cru from the outstanding 2010 vintage.

Beaujolais run-down:

Where is it? Beaujolais lies at the southernmost point of Burgundy where about 50,000 acres of vines are planted. About 30 miles long and 8 miles wine, Beaujolais can be compared to Napa Valley in size.

What grape? The primary grape variety here is Gamay, a very light bodied grape that does will with the soils and climate of the region. Gamay is actually a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, a white varietal. Perhaps that’s why it’s often called a white wine that happens to be red. 98% of Beaujolais is planted with Gamay.

What are the soils and climate like? The region can be split into two parts – north and south. In the south, the soils are clay-based and the land is flat, while in the north, there are rolling hillsides and the soil is a base of granite and schist.

How is Beaujolais classified?  There are three main classifications for Beaujolais. In order of complexity and quality (low to high): AOC Beaujolais, AOC Beaujolais-Villages, AOC Beaujolais Cru

What is Beaujolais Cru? There are 10 Crus in Beaujolais. These “Cru” are basically villages or sub-regions within Beaujolais that produce some of the best and most distinctive wine of the region. The Cru villages are primarily located in the northern part of Beaujolais, with the rolling hillsides and granite-based soils. Cru Beaujolais creates wines with more structure, more complexity and more aromatics than the more widely produced AOC Beaujolais and AOC Beaujolais-Villages from the south of the region. The 10 Cru include: Brouilly, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, Julienas, Cote de Brouilly, Saint-Amour, Regnie, Chiroubles and Chenas.

What is Beaujolais Nouveau? Beaujolais Nouveau has  a very short fermentation process using carbonic maceration, so it is released in the November after harvest (just a few months after the grapes are picked). It is light, fresh, fruity and fun. Perfect for Thanksgiving and meant to be consumed immediately!

What is Carbonic Maceration?  To put an involved chemical process very simply, it’s where the fermentation happens anerobically rather than arobically – basically, inside the grape without oxygen. The grapes are not pressed as most grapes are to begin fermentation. Instead, whole grape bunches are put into a large tank. The grapes on the bottom are pressed by the weight of those grapes on top and once opened, begin the normal fermentation process, which releases carbon minoxide. In the enclosed tank, the CO2 wafts up to those whole berries, seeping into the skin and causing the grapes to undergo fermentation inside the berry. The result is very juicy wine with very little tannins. This process works with very few wines, but with Gamay, it’s a winner. Some of the higher end wines (like Cru Beaujolais) use less or no carbonic maceration.

Drink Beaujolais with a juicy burger, a gourmet pizza or roasted poultry. They are great food wines due to the acid and fruit structure, and completely underrated. We hope you’ll join us tomorrow to learn more! Cheers!

Still loving California, but growing more adventurous!

The customers of Wine.com were California Dreaming in 2010, according to the numbers – the region topped our list of most bottles sold and came in with about 40% growth. And why not? California represents some of the most delicious wines in the world, from value to collectible, and the diversity of varieties is so broad, it pleases a Pinot lover as well as a Zinfandel fanatic. That said, we still saw a lot of Napa Valley purchases – that region’s growth was up 92%. Guess that goes with the numbers that show Cabernet Sauvignon was the number one grape variety as well.

But beyond the California borders, we’re excited about what other regions people are trying, like Beaujolais. Often associated with only Beaujolais Nouveau, drinkers are discovering the delicious diversity and quality of Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais Crus. Not to mention, 2009 was a fantastic vintage for the region, so great wines at great values were good for all. Bordeaux was also up – another region that enjoyed the 2009 vintage. Portugal came in third at 79%, and that was not just for Port. Dry reds from Portugal, as well as refreshing whites, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. South Africa rounded out the top 4 growth regions – maybe a World Cup boost?

So it looks like 2010 was a year of both traditional drinking and adventurous tasting. We look forward to what 2011 brings!

The season for Beaujolais

‘Tis the season for Beaujolais! Not just the recognized Beaujolais Nouveau that appears on store shelves the third week of November and is gone from said shelves (or should be) three months later. Though this fresh and fruity version of Beaujolais  has its place in the wine world, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and it does not represent the majority of Beaujolais.

The region of Beaujolais is situated in the southern part of the Burgundy appellation in France. Surprising, since Beaujolais differs from Burgundy in many ways, including soil type, climate and grape variety.

The primary grape of Beaujolais is Gamay Noir, a very light-skinned grape that produces wines of light body, fresh fruit, great acidity and low tannins. The grape grows on granite and schist soils of the area and the climate is classified as semi-continental – more similar to their southern neighbor, the Rhone Valley, than the rest of Burgundy to the north.

beaujolaisMost (over half) the wine of Beaujolais is sold under the basic Beaujolais appellation. This style of wine is quaffable, juicy stuff with low alcohol and pretty much zero tannin. The next level of wine is Beaujolais-Villages, made with grapes from higher quality vineyards. Finally, you have the Beaujolais Crus, the 10 regions of the area that make the top-notch Beaujolais. There is white wine made here, though the percentage is small and it can be hard to find, but worth a try if you do.

Beaujolais Cru is why I love Beaujolais. Wine from these 10 communes contain that juicy fruit I love about Gamay, but with some extra depth – the palate has great acidity and low tannins typical of Beaujolais, but with a slight richness that distinguish Beaujolais Crus from other Beaujolais. Best part, these wines come in under the $20 mark (most of the time). The 10 crus are: Morgon, St-Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Mounlin-A-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly and Regnie.

So give Beaujolais Crus a try – it’s known as a classic for the Thanksgiving table, and I have tasted it recently with a spicy pasta dish that was a fantastic match. It’s also great with a burger or pizza. However, we did discover that it tastes metallic when paired with carrot cake, so do avoid that pairing!

Perfect Spring Sippers

Though Spring has been here for a couple of months, it certainly has not felt like it all the time… particularly in the NW. However, temps are finally getting up there and I'm ready to pop open some wines that fit the weather. Style wise, for whites, we're talking Light & Crisp. Reds mean Light & Fruity.

In whites, three perfect choices are Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino and Chenin Blanc. My picks are:

Montes Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2008
I recently arranged this to be the white for a rehearsal dinner party in April. People who thought they did not like white wine – or were usually beer drinkers – LOVED this wine. As did I. There was not a drop left by the end of the night (as you could see by some of the moves on the dance floor). It is wonderfully aromatic; citrus-driven, a touch of grass and herbal notes, and so deliciously crisp. The Leyda region in Chile is very cool and this wine shows how great the region is at Sauvignon Blanc.

Bonny Doon Ca' Del Solo Albarino 2008
I said it once, I'll say it again: I've not yet met a Bonny Doon wine I didn't like. And I mean really like. This Albarino is a perennial favorite. Even in the cold weather it's a delicious aperitif or pairing with seafood. But it just tastes so delicious in the spring. It's what I'd call CLEAN. Bright apple fruits, crisp backbone, citrus and some herb notes. Made with Biodynamic farming, which may be from where its sense of purity comes.

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2009
Another favorite, particularly for the price. Chenin Blanc is a grape that South Africa does VERY well and Mulderbosch is makes a classic version. Again, we're talking Light & Crisp, so you're going to get citrus, and bright acid. But you also get some riper tropical fruits in this one, with kick of spice, too.

Moving on to red recommendations…
Beaujolais, Pinot Noir & Cotes-du-Rhone are my top wines for Spring. Some of my picks include:

Duboeuf Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents 2008
Do not be fooled – Beaujolias, particularly "cru" Beaujolais is good stuff! Duboeuf is a classic producer of Beaujolais, the large region in the south of Burgundy producing bright wines from the Gamay grape grown on granite soils. When you talk Beaujolais, you're talking bright red fruit, some spice and acidity, but the key term for me here is bright. It's a red wine that is light and almost crisp. Perfect for warmer weather and light foods.

Escarpment Over the Edge Pinot Noir 2008
I love this wine. Mainly because I was so impressed when I tasted it and found out it was under $15! This is a "savory" style Pinot Noir, with lots of berry fruit, some sweet spice and some spicy spice, as well as a touch of dried herbs. Just lovely all over. Good finish, great for a juicy burger or some grilled salmon.

For my Cotes-du-Rhone, I have two picks. And they are both a bit more pricey, but totally worth it I think as they are from Cairanne. Cairanne is my favorite "villages" of the CDR and I think it will the next "cru" (the way Gigondas, Vacqueyras & Vinsobres were upgraded). Your choices are:

Dom. de L'Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Cuvee Prestige 2007 or Domaine Alary Cotes du Rhone Villages Cairanne 2007
Both wines are full of upfront fruit and sweet spice. The Oratoire St Martin has quite a bit of Mourvedre in the blend, so you will get more peppery spice notes and some earthy tones. The Alary (which I am very partial to) is more on the rich, sweet spice side, with a silky smooth texture. Either way, you're getting great grill-friendly wines that are perfect for spring.

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