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Wine tasting and more – The Beaujolais

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THE BEAUJOLAIS


It’s a region I’m particularly fond of, having lived on its doorstep for many years, and beneath its
light, frivolous exterior, it hides all sorts of unsuspected gems: from the pleasant young wine that
goes out of the bottle quickly and without a second thought, to the elegant, fleshy, deep cru that
can be kept for over 10 years … So for once, instead of telling you about one bottle or one
winemaker, I’d like to give you as complete an overview as possible of this magnificent wine
region.

While Beaujolais is renowned for being light, easy-drinking, convivial and uninhibited, and is often
the first red wine drunk in France to accustom the palate before approaching the more dense
wines, it also offers full-bodied wines, including 10 crus and vins de garde, little treasures of the
extraordinary, cared for by top-flight winemakers!

Although it became part of Burgundy in 1930, this wine-growing region hasn’t sold its soul!
Geographically speaking, Beaujolais stretches from north of Lyon to Macon, covering more than
14,000 hectares, characterized by a succession of hills and variations in soils resulting from an
extraordinary geological history: clay, limestone, schist, granite, volcanic rock – the diversity that
gives each cru its unique character!

It also became famous for its “en primeur” wines and the tradition established in 1951 and still
alive and well today: LE BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU!

But what is it?
BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU :
History: It all began in 1951, when a decree stipulated that AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée)
wines could no longer be sold before December 15 of the vintage year.

The winegrowers are obviously outraged by this decision, as their winemaking process (known as
carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration*) enabled them to sell a large proportion of their wine a few
weeks after the harvest, and thus generate a quick income!

In the end, so-called “primeur” wines (young, to be drunk in the months following the harvest)
were allowed to be sold before December 15, provided the word “nouveau” appeared on the
label.

The tradition is born!
After years of stuttering, it was in 1985 that it was decided that the Beaujolais Nouveau festival
would henceforth take place on the 3rd Thursday in November. It was totally forbidden to sell it
before then!

Whereas Beaujolais used to be shipped to LYON in barrels the night before, today some 60 million
bottles are sent around the world for international celebration! Around a third is exported to
Japan, followed by the USA and the UK.

What to expect:
Beaujolais Nouveau is a wine made from Gamay grapes (black grapes with white juice), with
aromas of red fruits. It’s a light, easy-drinking wine with very little tannin. It’s best served slightly
chilled, at around 10/14 degrees.

THE BEAUJOLAIS
It’s a wine made for conviviality, easy to open with friends, family, colleagues… It’s simple but
pleasant, uncomplicated but festive, and conveys the wine values of sharing and pleasure!
In the kitchen, it’s easy to use everywhere! Whether you’re a fan of aperitifs, buffet dinners,
charcuterie dishes such as sausages, boudins, cervelas, grattons, burgers, cheeses or even
desserts! (Think of poaching a pear in this gourmet juice, or pairing it with a chocolate brownie;

it’s a real code breaker, but so good!) In short, it’s the ideal companion, revealing with humility and
panache its fruity juice and sweet aromas, the first signs of the character of this year’s Beaujolais,
which you won’t be able to taste until the following year!

These new wines, which have undergone a very short vinification, without ageing, reveal the
climate and seasons in which their grapes were grown: a dry, sun-drenched summer will contribute
to the development of aromas of black fruit, spices and even liquorice. Conversely, a rainy, cool
season will accentuate its light texture and notes of raspberry, for example.

However, we must be careful not to reduce the range of Beaujolais Nouveau wines to just one,
since the diversity of their soils, winegrowers and methods means that they are all full of
personality!

The other side of the coin:
While its extraordinary worldwide renown has been a major communication opportunity for
Beaujolais, it has also tarnished the region’s image.

The addition of baking powder to give the wine a different taste each year, to speed up
fermentation and enable the wines to be marketed earlier and sent around the world, was a
process that made Beaujolais “Nouveau” popular; but to the detriment of the prestige of the Beaujolais crus, which have suffered greatly from this discrediting.

Fortunately, a large number of wineries have now adopted good practices, and talented young
people and old-timers with pride in their boots have worked to break down this stereotype,
revealing the potential that was once scorned, and today offer fine “nouveau” or “crus” cuvées,
with their multiple flavors and reflections of their many terroirs!

For example, this year I was in Chania, Crete, where the 3rd Thursday in November was the
occasion for wine gatherings. What a pleasure to enjoy a Château Cambon, an estate run by
masters of natural wine: crushed red berries, a light acidity, a touch of pepper, a geo-sensory touch
of silica, guaranteed pleasure!

THE BEAUJOLAIS CRUS :
Beaujolais blossoms on a diversity of terroirs: more clay-limestone in the south, more granite in
the north.

Grape varieties: Gamay dominates (97%), with a little Pinot Noir for the reds and Chardonnay and
Aligoté for the whites.

THE BEAUJOLAIS
There are 12 appellations, of which the first “Beaujolais” dates back to 1937, and 10 crus, of which
I’d like to take you on a little tour as if you were there:

  1. Brouilly :
    Appreciated in its youth, supple and tender
  2. Chénas
    The smallest appellation in Beaujolais. Neighbor of Moulin à Vent, with a granite subsoil
    that awakens the palate with spicy flavors, Louis XIII’s favorite wine, a generous wine for
    laying down, tender on the palate. Ruby pink with garnet tints, full-bodied, with floral notes
    of peony and spices.
  3. Chiroubles
    The highest vines in the Beaujolais region (between 250 and 600 m) benefit from frequent
    sunshine, which gives this fine, tender, delicate wine its gourmet flavour and distinctive
    aroma.
  4. Côte de Brouilly
    Blue granite soil at the summit of Mont Brouilly, a more complex, denser, more
    concentrated and structured wine that reveals itself over time.
  5. Fleurie
    On pink granite soil, and backed by a chain of ridges, this is the most feminine appellation,
    a fine, elegant wine with a velvety mouthfeel, famous for its Madonna on a chapel.
  6. Juliénas
    Firm, powerful wine. A sure bet in Beaujolais, with an impressive diversity of soils.
  7. Morgon
    The most extensive appellation. Rich, full-bodied, heady, suitable for ageing up to 10 years
    with no problem! Deep garnet-red color, with notes of stone fruit and kirsch.
    LA COTE DU PY, with its terroir of crumbly, blue schist decomposed rock, is particularly rich,
    fleshy and powerful, with a deep garnet color, a nose of cherries, apricots, plums and
    crushed red fruit, and delicate tannins. It seduces with its fullness on the palate and will
    improve with age. Its hillside is recognizable by its CHENE tree, which seems to have always
    been there!
  8. Windmill
    Its mill, surrounded by vines, is now a listed historic monument. Racy, complex, with notes
    of wood and faded rose, firmer, more assertive tannins, the most powerful Beaujolais with
    a manganese soil. Very good ageing potential.
  9. Régnié
    THE BEAUJOLAIS
    Light, fruity, aromatic, very close to Brouilly, one of the last to be given the cru appellation.
    The village church of Régnié-Durette is unusual in that it has 2 bell towers, built according
    to the plans of the architect Pierre Bossan, who went on to build the Basilique de
    Fourvière…
  10. St Amour
    Powerful, fine, long on the palate, surfing on berry aromas. The most Nordic of crus. This
    adorable appellation also celebrates lovers, and Cupid is represented everywhere. Which
    doesn’t spoil the ride!
    Food and wine pairings are of course regional, with the famous rosette de Lyon and other
    sausages, andouillettes and grattons, but also cold chicken or onion tart, for example!
    Its low tannin content makes it a perfect match for regional cheeses such as St Marcellin, St
    Félicien, Tomme du Beaujolais, Bleu de Bresse, Cervelle des Canuts, Charollais, Reblochon, which
    can also be au gratin (yum), Brillat-Savarin, raclette cheese and St Nectaire with raspberry jam.
    The desserts are not to be outdone either: what could be better than a glass of Beaujolais to toast
    with a pear poached in mulled wine, a praline tart or a chocolate brownie?
    Of course, I can’t end this little talk without telling you about the whites of the Beaujolais, the
    Chardonnays that are increasingly appreciated, recognized and sought-after! Don’t forget to taste
    them… It’s all very well to play the role of Burgundian wine merchant, but it’s even better to break
    free! And it’s well done.
    Experiments are currently underway on other grape varieties, in order to meet the inevitable
    future environmental constraints:
    For example, viognier and gewurztraminer in white, syrah, gamaret (cross between gamay and
    reichensteiner), picarlat (cross between pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon), chosen for their
    adaptability and resistance to disease.
    Wine can’t be made without winemakers, so it’s appropriate to pay tribute to a few emblematic
    and essential names in Beaujolais, enthusiasts of natural or traditional wine, and who have
    contributed so much to its worldwide recognition:
    Domaine Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Jean-Louis Dutraive, David Large, Château Thivin,
    Frédéric Berne, Domaine Chamonard, Domaine Rostaing Tayard, Jean-Claude Lapalu, Georges
    Duboeuf, Dominique Piron, Château de la Chaize…
    A few personal tastings to whet your appetite:
    TOXIC – The toxic gamay’nger -2020 – David Large – VDF
    I’d loved the white Nelson, so I was itching to open another bottle of red! I have to admit that
    while I was initially seduced by the bottle’s visual appeal, it was the juice that really blew me
    away and gave me undeniable pleasure!
    THE BEAUJOLAIS
    “Glou-glou, vin de copain, d’apéro…” are the terms I’ve often read about this wine. And
    frankly, even if this wine is a little jewel of drinkability, fruit and vivacity, these are not the
    nouns it inspires in me.
    Its plum-like color, as much as its nose, associated with cherry aromas, tobacco ( toxic!), a
    juice, fruit, that passes through your palate, your throat and then your body like a whirling
    ball, a spinning earth, something present with substance and things to say! P…C’est bon
    Le clos des Lys – Domaine Chamonard- AOC MORGON – 1997
    In the depths of winter, what could be better than an invigorating gratinée à l’oignon,
    prepared with sweet onions, egg yolks and port, served with grilled croutons and grated
    Gruyère, and the delicious accompaniment of a subtle 23-year-old Gamay that had retained all
    its old-fashioned freshness! A nod to Le Chat!
    Gallic grapes – Domaine Lapierre – 2019- VDF
    An organic classic…that never gets old! A smile as soon as you see the label, a nose as if
    plunged into a basket of fruit, a mouth that’s titillated, pampered and caressed by this pure
    juice.
    People call it “vin de copain” (wine for friends), I wonder why? Maybe because the pleasure is
    immediate, no fuss, accessible to all, .between friends, neighbors, couples, families or
    business associates, it’s well made and simply good.
    DROIT DE VETO – 2019- Domaine Chamonard – AOC Fleurie
    Returning from a vacation in the sun is always a bit tricky, so there’s nothing like a local
    Beaujolais to plunge you straight back into your winegrowing roots and accept the transition
    in landscape and pace of life.
    During a meal shared with Le Chat (Jean-Claude Chanudet, a leading figure in Beaujolais),
    everyone contributed a bottle, and his daughter Jeanne, who now runs the domaine, brought
    along her very first “droit de veto” cuvée. I remember taking a bottle as a souvenir of that
    wonderful day, and as a curiosity to see what the next generation would bring!
    This return from vacation was the right day to open this 2019 fleurie.
    There’s the frisky, fruity Beaujolais, the friend of good times, and then there’s the great
    Gamays, the ones that you can feel and sense, that leave their mark, and Jeanne’s is of that
    calibre.
    It’s not good, but very very good, raspberries, blackcurrants, flowers, tannins that caress your
    mouth, it overflows with fruit, overflows with desire, overflows with excitement to give us…we
    wonder where the Madonna is in the corner…
    What a surprise and, at the same time, what a regret to have opened this bottle that I would
    have liked to taste even later.
    Contrary to popular belief, Beaujolais ages well too…
    THE BEAUJOLAIS
    Droit de veto is a tribute to Jeanne’s veterinary studies, and I’ve even heard that it was
    veterinary students who took part in the manual harvest, of course!
    The first cuvée and already a monument of natural Beaujolais!
    So get the invitations out now, grab your glasses and long live Beaujolais!
  • Carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration: Simply put, whole grapes (uncrushed, unpressed) are placed in a tank with the lid closed. The vat is saturated with carbonic gas, and fermentation begins spontaneously within the grapes themselves. The little juice that emerges is drawn off as the grapes are crushed.
    In semi-carbonic fermentation, the most common method used today, the vat is not filled, but the grapes on top float on top of the juice, crushing those below. The juice released from the vat ferments, creating carbon dioxide and triggering intracellular fermentation inside the grapes.

Myriam Perret / La Cave de Platonie

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