I have often said that France’s wines can be easier to understand than those of some other countries.
The major regions are easy to recognise and the grape varieties they use tend to be fairly straightforward.
On the face of it, Germany and Italy seem to be very complicated.
It is when you get into the detail that the whole thing starts to get a little more challenging.
Try the obscure!
I am going to look at the region of Beaujolais this week. I hope it doesn’t get too heavy!
This region is considered to be part of Burgundy, which immediately throws up a dilemma.
I keep going on about Burgundy only using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for their wines. Well, Beaujolais is made from Gamay, so there is the first exception to the rule.
Gamay is well known as a thin skinned variety. It is also now known as a cross breed of Pinot Noir and Gouais, an ancient white variety used by peasant farmers in the early middle ages. It was this that caused the wrath of the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe the Bold, who described Gamay as “a very bad and disloyal plant”.
Sixty years later, Philippe the Good outlawed the grape exclaiming that “the Dukes of Burgundy are known as Lords of the best wines in Christendom. We will maintain our reputation!” This sealed the fate of Gamay to be only grown in Beaujolais.
Beaujolais is situated just south of Macon and north of Lyon.
The temperature is increasing as we get south of Paris so the grapes are becoming easier to ripen.
The region has three main Appellations – Beaujolais AOC, Beajolais Villages AOC and Beaujolais Cru. The first simply covers the generic region including all 60 villages, the second is an intermediate category covering 30 villages.
Beaujolais Cru is all about the top 10 villages. Morton, Brouilly, Regnie (these are regarded as the lightest), Chirouble, Cotes de Brouilly, Fleurie (known for medium bodied wine), then Saint-Amour, Chenas, Julienas, and Moulin-a-Vent (these wines should be kept at least four to 10 years before drinking).
I have not listed these just to show off, more to show how much detail there is in one small region.
I often say that I am not a big fan of Beaujolais – well, that is really aimed at the first two appellations. The Beaujolais Cru contain some hidden treasures, the most well known probably from Fleurie.
My suggestion is to persevere and try some of the more obscure. We currently keep a beautiful Fleurie from Domaine de Gry Sablon at £14.99. This wine carries delightful aromas of violet and lightly spiced fruit on the nose with light tannins on the palate and a satisfying mouth feel which just begs another glass.
We will be bringing in more over the next year so watch this space!
Published: March 15, 2012
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