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Discovering “Quality” Beaujolais

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You are probably familiar with Beaujolais Nouveau, the cheerful red wine that is celebrated when it is released the third Thursday of November. For the last several years, it has become a reason for celebration in America as well as its native France. It is fun to drink, and restaurants go wild planning dinners around this highly seasonal wine. Wine aficionados (i.e. cork dorks) will speak fondly of its aromas of banana and bubble-gum, well known characteristics of carbonic maceration, a whole-berry method of fermentation that allows the Gamay grape to retain its fresh, fruity character.

Yet did you know that the Beaujolais region (located just below the area where world-famous Burgundies are produced) is a quality wine producing region in its own right and home to thirteen Crus? Each Cru produces wine from the Gamay grape, yet the terroir of each Cru is unique, different from all the others either in soil, climate, altitude, proximity to the water, or a combination of the above.

Recently a passionate group of “Beaujolais Benefactors” who call themselves “Expressions d’Origine” arrived in Manhattan to show in detail how their wines differ from the simple Beaujolais Nouveau many Americans incorrectly may assume is the same as quality Gamay wine from Cru Beaujolais producers. At a lunch and walk-around tasting, the producers explained their varied soils and methods of production. Consumers and journalists had the opportunity to taste the different wines and attempt to see, nose, and taste the differences between the Crus.

The Expressions d’Origine are comprised of fourteen winegrower-winemakers who – quite frankly, and rightfully so – appear rather tired of having their wines compared to the expensive and highly respected Pinot Noir grapes of Burgundian wineries, and weary of the stigma of American consumers equating all Beaujolais wines with Beaujolais Nouveau. They are proud of their varied soils and quality production methods, and made a passionate case for bringing a new awareness of their wines.

And truly, these are wonderful wines, fresh and vibrant yet with varying amount of depth depending on the region. They pair well with fresh, simple cuisine, and are ideal for picnics where they can be served with composed salads, cheese, sliced meats, and cheese. Below is a list of the fourteen winegrowers/winemakers, all of whom are enthusiastic about their wines, regions, and culture and are among the friendliest winemakers I have met.

Eager to try quality Beaujolais? Take this article to your local wine store and ask them to order some of the wines for you, or search online for where they may be available. You might want to purchase several of the wines so that you can smell and taste the differences among the regions and producers of the expression of the Gamay Grape.

Expressions d’Origine

Domaines & Châteaux of Beaujolais
Domaine du Vissoux, Pierre-Marie Chermette
Domaine des Terres Dorées, Jean-Paul Brun
Château de la Chaize, Madame de Roussy de Sales

Château Thivin, Claude Geoffray
Domaines Piron, Dominique Piron
Domaine Louis Claude Desvignes, Claude-Emmanuelle Desvignes
Domaine Jean Foillard, Jean Foillard
Domaine Marcel Lapierre, Marcel & Mathieu Lapierre
Château des Jacques, Guillaume de Castelnau
Domaine Paul Janin & Fils, Eric Janin
Domaine de la Madone, Jean-Marc Després
Domaine Clos de la Roilette, Alain Coudert
Domaine Michel Chignard, Michel Chignard
Clos de Haute Combe, Vincent Audras

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