Beaujolais – a white wine lover’s red! As the summer starts heating up, I tend to gravitate more toward lighter dishes and white wines. However, there are exceptions, and a Beaujolais is always one of them. Beaujolais takes its name from the wine producing region of the same name in France. The primary varietal in Beaujolais is Gamay.
Beaujolais is a light-bodied easy-drinking red wine that is generally very fruit forward and low in tannins. There are different classifications for Beaujolais; Beaujolais , Beaujolais Villages and Crus Beaujolais (which usually doesn’t say Beaujolais on the label, but rather the name of the Cru or sub region – these being of the highest quality). The classification is determined by the area where the grapes are grown, with basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau being the largest area and producing the most wine, and Cru Beaujolais being the most exclusive.
Beaujolais is a great “staircase” red for those trying to introduce themselves to more red wine, because for a red wine, it is very low in tannins. This is due to the unique way that Beaujolais wine is made. It is made by a method referred to as semi-carbonic maceration. I may be oversimplifying here, but basically instead of grapes being crushed, whole grape clusters are placed into vats or tanks. The weight of the fruit presses down on the grapes at the bottom, releasing their juices. When the juice comes in contact with the inherent yeast of the grape skins, it starts to form carbon dioxide which in turn forces the oxygen out of the tank. The lack of oxygen causes a chemical reaction where the grapes start to ferment on the inside making them explode. This process takes 4-8 days after which the juice is drained and then the remaining juice is pressed. The two juices are then combined to create the finished wine. Beaujolais/Beaujolais Nouveau (always released on the third Thursday of November) is intended to be consumed within a year of harvest, Beaujolais Villages, 2-3 years and Crus can be aged even longer. Often, Beaujolais Crus are produced with a more traditional method other than semi-carbonic maceration.
This week’s Wine Wednesday feature, the 2014 Les Vins Jean-Claude Debeaune Beaujolais Special Selection is a basic Beaujolais. Ironically, I found this to be a little too basic for me. There are some very good Beaujolais on the market, but sadly, in my opinion this wasn’t one of them. Perhaps this should have been sold/consumed earlier? The nose with notes of currant, violet, cedar and plum was quite enjoyable, but the wine did not deliver what the nose suggested. I found this one to not be as fruit forward as I like, rather lackluster with a finish a little too tart and short for my taste. However, we added fruit, refrigerated it for a few hours and voilà – Beaujolais makes delicious Sangria. We enjoyed this with Fajitas. Try also with Grilled Chicken Tacos. Click the links below to print or save the recipes.