“Once you go Gamay you’ll want it no other way.” This might be a good slogan for the Beaujolais region of France (www.discoverbeaujolais.com). Or, “Beaujolais, a little fruity, but there is nothing wrong with that.” Beaujolais is in the east central area of France and predominately produces wine from the grape Gamay Noir. Chardonnay and Alitoge make up the bulk of the remaining 2%. Many of you may be familiar with Beaujolais Nouveau which is a wine released shortly after harvest in conjunction with Thanksgiving. Beaujolais Nouveau tend to be very light, grapy, and tart; showing their obvious lack of age.
Beaujolais is made up of 12 growing regions (AOC), and are classified in the following tiers, Beaujolais AOC, Beaujolais Villages AOC, Cru Beaujolais (divided into 10 distinct types), and Beaujolais’ Blanc and Rose. The wine tends to be light in color (similar to a Pinot Noir) and lower in alcohol, 9-13%. About 1/3 of the wine produced in the area is sold under the Beaujolais Nouveau label.
Having limited experience with Beaujolais, I went into this tasting with very little preconceptions. I knew, from reading, that the wine would be light, slightly fruity, low in alcohol, and moderately acidic. The wine was tasted during an online wine tasting hosted by Discover Beaujolais (@discoverbojo on Twitter).
2009 Beaujolais Blanc, Chateau du Chatelard
This 100% Chardonnay comes from Vieilles Vignes (old vines) up to 95 years old. The color of the wine is very pale and light with moderate tones of wheat. The aromas in the glass are distinctly fresh linen and ocean breeze with hints of lemon. A very pleasing profile that makes me pause to think of reading a good book on the Oregon coast. The sip gives way to an slightly viscous oily texture with pear and citrus acid on the palate. The price point is good ($15) but the flavor profile lacks anything significant to make it overwhelmingly memorable (not that all wines need to be). Solid 3/5
2009 Beaujolais Blanc, Terres Dorees, Jean Peal Brun
100% Chardonnay is slightly golden in the glass with aroma buttered bread and an apple orchard (think of that smell when there are several apples on the ground, everything is ripening and has that overripe sweet earthiness to it). In the mouth the wine seems to lose its focus and gets slightly disjointed in flavor from front to back. The fruit comes across as slightly watered down and light and a strong rocky mineral flavor jumps out on the back end. At $15, 3-/5
2009 Beaujolais-Villages, Christophe Pacalet
100% Gamay, made in the traditional carbonic maceration style using whole cluster native yeast fermentation; unfined and unfiltered. This is a truly beautiful wine to look at in the glass with shimmering garnet jewel tones and bright purple colors; moderately translucent. A sweet raspberry candy, flowers and anise (yes the spice). In the mouth the wine is tart (like a raspberry or cranberry) and slightly thin on flavor. There is an undercurrent of banana peel and rocky minerality as well. At the price of $12, this is not a sipping wine but certainly would pair well with a lot of food choices ranging from fish to game and veal. Nicely done combination of playfulness and tartness. 3/5
100% Gamay, medium to full bodied tones of ruby and plum in the glass. Tangy strawberry jolly rancher aroma mixed with a little dirt on the nose. The wine is much more full bodied in the mouth than previous Gamay wines I’ve tasted. An elegant front palate with darker cherry and blackberry fruit provides a nice preview to the pencil lead and medium tannin on the finish. Very well made and enjoyable wine. Never would consider pairing Beaujolais with steak or pork, but this wine certainly would deliver the goods and provide a nice contrast in flavor as well. At $19, very deserving of a taste or try. 3+/5
Interested in the whole Twitter conversation with the opinions of over a dozen wine writers and tasters? Check out the Discover Beaujolais web site for a replay of the tasting.