Ever since Chardonnay has become a cult white wine in Anglo-Saxon countries, pundits and wine writers have been predicting that the popularity of this beloved wine will fade. This has not happened yet!
The same is true for red wines except that young wine drinkers seem to prefer dark, super concentrated, smooth, jammy, and highly alcoholic wines. Wines with alcohol levels of 14 % ABV are sweeping the market place. Subtlety, it appears, is an underrated quality in today’s wine drinking population.
Alcohol helps deliver flavour, thus a high-octane wine with a lot of extract will offer more taste and deep flavours. Lighter wines (both red and white) are very appealing with al fresco, summer-fresh lunches, BBQ, and generally to drink on their own. Consider that a heavy wine (even two glasses) may knock you out for the rest of the day.
Beaujolais, a light, fruity, (some say frivolous) wine from southern Burgundy, is a fine wine, if you know which and how to select.
First, there are several quality levels of Beaujolais (Least to best):
Nouveau - Regular - Villages - Cru
All red Beaujolais are produced exclusively from the fruity Gamay grapes, which thrive on the granites sub soils of the region. There is also white Beaujolais from Chardonnay, but only very few know about it. The production happens to be miniscule and there is practically no promotion for this category.
• Beaujolais nouveau is a light, highly acid wine meant to be consumed after it arrives at its destination (wherever it may be) after November 15. Beaujolais nouveau or en primeur as some call it should be consumed within a few months of release and meant to be a fun wine.
• Regular or standard Beaujolais is made from grapes grown on the plains of the region and generally over cropped (60 Hectolitres/Hectare), thus thin, acid, and more often than not, poorly made. Here the secret is to buy the product of a reliable shipper; (Mommessin, Du Beoeuf, David et Folliard come to mind).
• Then there is Beaujolais-Village appellation the fruit of which must come from 35 villages so designated. These are generally well made wines of substance and can age if the vintage was favourable.
• The last and best category is cru Beaujolais. There are 10 in this category, which can be classified, soft, medium to full bodied and worthy of cellaring.
Fleurie, St Amour, Chenas and Chriobule come in the soft and light styles. Fleurie is best known of all cru Beaujolais and Chenas, the smallest and least known. Both are also light and furity but show more depth.
Brouilly and Cote de Brouilly are fuller bodied and worthy of cellaring if the vintage was good.
Chenas, Moulin-a-Vent, Morgon improve with a few years of cellaring. They are generally full bodied, high-alcohol, fruity and well-extracted wines with a lingering aftertaste. They resemble Burgundy reds more than any other Beaujolais.
When buying standard Beaujolais, consider the vintage. Buy only one to two year old Beaujolais and consume within a few months.
Beaujolais-Village may still be in fine condition two to three years after harvest.
Always select reputable wineries and /or shippers. Here are some can rely on: Olivier Ravier, Domaine Cheysson, L. Jadot, Mommessin, David et Folliard, George DuBeouf.
By definition Beaujolais must be fruity, light, acid-driven and quaffable. It goes with practically any type of food and should be served at 14 – 15C in appropriately large balloon glasses to appreciate its fruitiness.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu