Being the high-powered mover and shaker in the wine world that I am, most people assume that I love all types of wine. Well, I don’t.
Surprised? Don’t be. I’m just like any wine consumer, except I probably taste more wines in a month than most people try in a year.
No doubt, I love wine, just not all types of wine. I do appreciate all wines—and I mean all wines from the simplest and least expensive to the impossible-to-acquire cult wines—at some level. So when I say I’m not crazy about wines from Beaujolais, France, I’m not suggesting a distain for all Beaujolais wines. And I certainly don’t mean that I have ever stopped tasting them. (There’s a lesson here on avoiding entire categories of wine, but that’s not my point this week…or is it?)
Had I made it policy to shun all Beaujolais wines, I would have missed Guy Breton’s wine from the village of Morgon.
Before I go further, perhaps a quick primer on what I mean when I say Beaujolais. Beaujolais is a wine region to the west of the Saône River, the same river that flows through Burgundy, which lies just about 10 miles to the north. While big brother Burgundy (and many consider Beaujolais to be part of Burgundy), relies on chardonnay and pinot noir for its fame and riches, Beaujolais is the home to the red grape gamay.
There are 10 villages, including Morgon, that have the best locations for growing gamay. Thousands of acres of gamay, however, thrive in the granite and sandstone soils outside the boundaries of the 10 villages, known as the cru villages.
The Breton Old Vines Beaujolais recently made it in my tasting glass to my utter delight. Its earthy characteristics combined with its ripe fig flavors was just the thing on a sultry evening in early June.
A lot of people connect Beaujolais with light bodied reds from Burgundy, which I’ve never entirely bought into. But if you were to make a case for gamay tasting like a pinot noir, this Breton would serve your argument.
And I guess that is why the Breton makes a connection with me where others fail. At its core, gamay-based wines have—to a greater or lesser degree— a flavor that reminds me of Bazooka Bubble Gum (they still make this, right?). I have no problems judging a wine with this overtly floral, grapey, tart quality; it’s just not a wine that I would buy for myself. By the way, many cru wines lack these qualities and often have flavors and aromas approaching something that could sort of be considered a pinot noir from Burgundy—especially when they get a couple years of age on them.
So what was I doing buying a bottle of Beaujolais anyway? To be honest, I was thinking of you guys out there in newspaper land. I wanted to be able to suggest a light, interesting wine that would pair nicely with summer fare like herbed chicken or portabella mushrooms off the grill. Or a yummy red wine (that wouldn’t mind 25 minutes in the freezer) to chill out with on your back porch and listen to the crickets (or make the 17-year cicadas more tolerable).
Because while I’m not crazy about all Beaujoais wines, that does not mean you should avoid them (or any other category of wine) all together.
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Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator and a consultant for a metro-Atlanta wine shop. You can reach him at email@example.com.