Today's post is a guest post by Frank Morgan
Last month I had the occasion to spend a few days in Paris at the end of a work trip in the region. Aside from the usual touristy stuff – visit to the Louvre and Eifel Tower, lots of photos I may never look at again, souvenir trinkets for those who were left at home, 10 pound weight gain due to overindulgence – I took away many random wine related observations for future blog fodder.
My first, and most obvious observation – wine is ubiquitous in Paris – the local folk drink wine, and lots of it. I know, not a revelation. Although the volume of consumption didn’t surprise me, I did however find the ‘type’ of wine consumed interesting. Being a nosey tourist, I made a point of making a mental note of the bottles atop each table at the bistros I visited – the vast majority were drinking Cote de Provence rosé or Beaujolais.
I get the reason for the mass rosé consumption – France was burdened by an oppressive heat wave the week I was there. The Beaujolais consumption is what interested me most. In Paris, the wines of Burgundy, Boudreaux, Alsace, Loire, and Languedoc are aplenty, yet the large majority of Parisians that I observed were consuming the offerings of the Beaujolais. Interesting.
As a raging Beaujolais fanatic I had to know why, if for no other reason than to validate my own obsession with this wine.
As luck would have it, on my second day in town, I sat next to a chatty Frenchman during lunch at Le Verre Vole, a quaint wine bar located in the 10th Arrondissement. When I arrived, this fellow was finishing his first bottle of Regnie (one of the Crus of Beaujolais), and had just ordered his second. Ordering a second bottle to drink solo – no doubt this was going to be a fun conversation by the time it was over.
An interesting fellow who spent two years in New York working in the hospitality industry, he had an interesting perspective on the differences in French versus American wine consumption. When I asked him why the Parisians that I observed drank so much Beaujolais and why so many in the States hadn’t quite caught on to the virtue of Beaujolais wines – he answered simply, ‘Americans prefer the big wines that are obvious and convey some type of status, while the French drink wines they enjoy regardless of the label. Beaujolais is a good wine, but not a status wine.’ Hmmmm.
This is of course the opinion of one man, who was already working on his second bottle of wine at 3:30 in the afternoon. Although I did not totally agree with my new friend’s opinion, I conceded there was certainly some truth to it – many consumers’ choice of wine is predicated on the score or status of that wine.
Here in the US, Beaujolais is obviously not a status wine and unfortunately suffers from a perception problem brought on by ‘Beaujolais Nouveau guilt by association syndrome.’ Beaujolais Nouveau is that very young, thin, banana scented; poor quality juice with the bright, flowery labels intended to appeal to impulse label buyers released globally on the third Thursday of each November just a few weeks after harvest. There is so much more to Beaujolais than insipid Nouveau.
All Beaujolais red wines are made from the gamay grape, and are typically fresh, fruity, high acidity, low tannic, approachable wines. The Beaujolais area is only 34 miles from North to South and 8 miles wide but produces millions of cases of wine (much of that in the form of Nouveau). Beaujolais wines are often considered a reasonable economical alternative to Burgundy. There are four ‘types’ or classifications of Beaujolais:
• Beaujolais Nouveau: Insipid, thin, too young.
• Beaujolais: Can come from grapes grown anywhere in the Beaujolais region.
• Beaujolais-Villages: The intermediate category of Beaujolais – these wines are made from grapes grown in thirty-nine villages in the center of the Beaujolais region.
• Cru Beaujolais: The highest classification in Beaujolais – this is the northern part of the Beaujolais region and is home to ten hillside villages (Crus) that produce the region’s most notable wines. The ten Crus from lightest to fullest bodied – Brouilly, Regnie, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Saint-Amour, Fleurie, Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent.
Given the current economic malaise, I am surprised more US wine consumers don’t appreciate the virtues of Beaujolais – wallet friendly, high QPR, easy to drink, great summer to fall transition wine, and a great red wine for white wine drinkers. Since our unemployment rate remains high and our economy seems to be taking the tortoise route to ‘recovery’ now is a great time to discover the wines of Beaujolais.
Here are a few of my favorite Beaujolais producers with national distribution:
• As a general rule, you can’t go wrong with Beaujolais imported by Kermit Lynch or Louis/Dressner Selections. Both Lynch and Dressner focus on excellent, smaller producers.
• Marciel Lapierre (I especially like the 2008 Morgon)
• Jean Foillard (2008 Morgon is excellent)
• George Descombe (especially like the 2007 Regnie)
• Theirry Puzelat (ultra naturalist, maker of Le Telquel)
• Louis-Jadot – The 2008 Beaujolais-Village is one of my personal favorites – nice fruit, spice, mineral and great QPR. At just $8.97/bottle this wine makes an excellent Tuesday night wine.
I would also recommend trying several Beaujolais wines from the 2009 vintage. According to several vintage reports and wine critics, 2009 in Beaujolais was an epic year, perhaps the best vintage in a couple of decades.
If you haven’t had a bottle in a while, or have never tried a Beaujolais wine, now is the time to expand your palate. Stop by your locally owned wine shop today and pick up a bottle of Beaujolais-Village or Cru Beaujolais for dinner. Please remember that Vinotology has a 100% reader satisfaction guarantee – if you don’t like the Beaujolais you purchased as a result of this post, Ben will promptly refund your money.
Editor's Note: No money will be refunded by Vinotology for displeasure with Beaujolais wine, however, I will happily taste the wine with you to help make a more thorough evaluation.
Frank Morgan – husband, father, work in the Aerospace industry by day, chronic traveler, reader, kinda runner, wine enthusiast and blogger by night. Frank Morgan writes the Drink What You Like blog. Twitter: @DrinkWhatULike