By Howard Jarrett
Beaujolais Noveau was the 1980’s easy drinking fad wine that inspired a world-wide marketing campaign to be the first consumed on the third Thursday in November. While the logistics of the mass exodus of this wine out of France to every possible location throughout world was truly phenomenal, the wine was not. The wine that I am writing about, Cru Beaujolais, suffered through the Beaujolais Noveau craze and emerged on the other side unjustifiably tarnished – guilt by association if you will. It has been called “the only white wine that is red.” And while AOC laws permit up to 15 percent blending of white
wine with the Gamay, the wines are almost always made 100 percent Gamay. The flavor of the Gamay grape of Beaujolais is unmistakable: sweet black cherry and black raspberry, peaches, violets, and roses with a trace of pepper on the finish. Beaujolais flavors come not only from the thin skinned, low tannin Gamay grape, but also from the unusual fermenting process of carbonic maceration. Because of this process the grapes must be hand harvested in whole clusters. The grapes are put into cement vats. The bottom third of the grapes are crushed by the weight from above; and natural yeast from the skins start the fermentation process. Carbon dioxide, a natural by-product of fermentation, pushes the lighter oxygen up and out of the vat. As a result of this process the remaining grapes undergo intercellular fermentation, which brings to the front the outstanding fruit flavors, making an easy drinking wine with some aging potential in a few of the Cru Beaujolais wines. Originally part of the Rhone, the appellation of Beaujolais falls under the jurisdiction of Burgundy. Ironically, in 1395, Phillip the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy, outlawed the cultivation of the Gamay grape throughout Burgundy, calling it “a very bad and disloyal plant.” The grape found the granite-based soil of Beaujolais more suitable for the production of this wonderful wine, with appellations of Brouilly, Morgon and Fleurie each putting their
unique terroir into the wine.
Here is a sampling of the Gamay we are drinking now:
Wines to drink with friends: 2010 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly It has black raspberry, peaches, and floral notes, with nice acid and firm tannins, a nice rustic touch and austere.
Wines to drink with good friends: 2010 Jean Foillard Côte du Py, Morgon It exhibits aromas of brilliant red fruit, violets, baking spices, and smoke along with a meaty note. It is silky and soft on the palate with bright and juicy acidity to keep it fresh and lively.
Wines to drink when your good friends are not invited (just the two of you): 2010 Marcel Lapierre Morgon AC
It has exuberant aromas of strawberry, red currant, black raspberry, dried rose, and minerals, with a smoky overtone. Marcel passed away at the end of this
harvest – a poetic farewell for a man that forever changed our perception of Beaujolais. There is something life affirming about opening a bottle of a man’s last vintage. Remember, in the end wine is meant for your enjoyment. Drink what you enjoy no matter what the experts or I say. Buy new and exciting wines, trade wines that you love with your friends, and try wines that your friends love. Ask the servers at your favorite restaurants for new or different recommendations. Explore and learn – it’s a lifelong, enjoyable journey. No fans of Beaujolais Noveau were harmed in the making of this column.
As Terra’s general manager, Jarrett has managed the restaurant’s front of house andstaff since the restaurant opened. In 2009, Jarrett also earned a Wine Specialist Certification from the Society of Wine Educators. His dedication to service and wines that complement Chef Mike Davis’s menu are integral to the Terra experience.