Beaujolais: not just wannabe Burgundy.

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2015 at 12:35 am

Apologies to anybody reading this who doesn’t have a solid understanding of Burgundian geography, I tried writing this in super-explanatory terms for beginners, but it was way too long and it was annoying me, so I started over. If and when I get around to writing a related post about Burgundian geography, a link to that article will replace this sentence.

Beaujolais is like the Rodney Dangerfield of French wine; it gets no respect.

I really hate that sentence, but I stand by the comparison.

And sure, a substantial factor in the underrating of Beaujolais has to do with the fact that fully 50% of Beaujolais is Nouveau, and while you will just about always find a bottle of Nouveau on my family’s thanksgiving table, I’ve never had one that blew my skirt up.

But village Beaujolais is another story, and I had the opportunity to taste several last week that….I don’t want to use the skirt metaphor again…just let’s say they were good.

For many years I’ve heard, and participated in the discussion that the best wines of Beaujolais can compete with the generally more respected Pinot Noirs of the Cote d’Or. However, I’d like to humbly suggest that the conversation should be about the unique individuality of Beaujolais in its own right.

I tasted a lineup of 2013s from Stephane Aviron and Domaine Labruyere, and rather than feeling like the wines were doing a good job seeming like Pinot Noir, I was blown away with the uniqueness from village to village, as well as the distinctive terroir and varietal character. These weren’t Gamay doing it’s best to seem like Pinot Noir. They were Gamay just trying to be the best that Gamay can be.

Now, in terms of wine and food pairing, this doesn’t change the substantial functional overlap between Cote d’Or Burgundy at Village level and below, and top-tier offerings from Beaujolais. In terms of weight and fruit profile, they’re still going to be often interchangeable. But the discussion I’d like to foster is in the direction of letting Beaujolais, and Gamay have their own identity, rather than constantly assessing them in the light of their similarities to Pinot Noir and Burgundy.

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