Beaujolais: not only Nouveau

Some of you might recall the excitement every November of Beaujolais Nouveau – it certainly feels like a long time ago. It’s a retro classic, but when was the last time you had some?

When I first started working in wine, on the third Thursday of November we had to be up at the crack of dawn to receive the early shipment of what used to be the first wine of the year. This was before we started drinking so much southern hemisphere wine that beat the Europeans to it by six months. What’s more, Beaujolais producers had focused so much on the ‘nouveau’ wines that, as their popularity waned, people forgot just how good other types of Beaujolais could be.

If you like a lighter red or if you’re bored with hefty, heady wines (there are lots around), take a look at Beaujolais which is made from the refreshingly juicy Gamay grape. Confusingly, the best aren’t actually labelled Beaujolais, but carry the name of the individual village or ‘cru’ such as Fleurie, Brouilly, Morgon or Juliénas. However there are also some great value Beaujolais Villages (wines blended from these higher quality sites).

As winter approaches Beaujolais is delicious with richer Chinese food like crispy duck pancakes, the succulent red berry flavours and fresh acidity work brilliantly. Festive gammon is a particular favourite with decent Beaujolais (a local speciality in this part of France is jambon persillé) and it’s great with bistro classics like steak and chips, coq au vin or confit duck. Beaujolais, with its lighter touch, is ideal for jaded palates (and makes a great hair of the dog!)

Good quality Beaujolais can also age magnificently, taking on the complex flavours of more expensive wines from neighbouring Burgundy and other wines from the Pinot Noir grape. These are great value, so give them a go.

Waitrose stocks some good examples and is currently offering 25 percent discount on all wine (and Champagne) when you buy six or more bottles. Henry Fessy Brouilly £11.99 (or £8.99), Louis Jadot Chapelle aux Loups Beaujolais Villages £11.99 (or £8.99). Morrisons Signature Beaujolais Villages (£7) is tasty and juicy and the Wine Society Exhibition Côte de Brouilly has some weight and complexity and is a bargain at £9.50. Riaz at Stonewines has a few goodies, especially the distinctive Raisins Gaulois, declassified Beaujolais made ‘naturally’ (with reduced sulphur levels).

On Thursday there’s the chance to try some of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau locally on the day of release. All day Delage will be offering a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau for £3.80 or a glass with charcuterie platter or cheese board for £12. They also have a Beaujolais Nouveau dinner in the evening from 6–8pm serving charcuterie (or mixed veg and mushrooms), salad and potatoes with a warm Mont d’Or cheese, dessert and a glass of Beaujolais for £22 (minimum two people and booking recommended). Chez Tonton will be boosting the already Gallic atmosphere with an accordion player and serving some of the new wine. Again, it’s best to book in advance.

Santé!

Image courtesy Associated Press.

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