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Cru du Beaujolais: Every Day!

Tue, 12/17/2013
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In France’s Southern Burgundy region, which encompasses the Beaujolais terroir, the wines which are made from the Gamay grape are known to the world as Beaujolais. Its fruity, candy-like cherry and raspberry flavors are best enjoyed lightly chilled. This is the spirit of the Gamay grape, one never to take too seriously.

Many people’s first memory of Beaujolais wine is of “Beaujolais Nouveau,” the traditional first wine of the vintage.  It has become, perhaps, a victim of its own success.  So popular is the annual November event “Beaujolais Nouveau” that other styles of Beaujolais are often unknown outside France.

While the Gamay grape is a wine made for drinking young (within a few years), there are Beaujolais wines whose relative short maturity in the bottle (4-6 years) convey the wine’s most nuanced expressions:  Cru du Beaujolais

Soil and winemaking differences throughout the region of Beaujolais account for the difference in quality amongst the wines. In general, wines produced in Beaujolais’ northern regions (also known as the Cru area) are more full-bodied and offer relative longevity.   The 10 Cru du Beaujolais include the following terroir:  Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte-de-Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié, and Saint Amour; Beaujolais’ southern region includes the terroir known, simply, as “Beaujolais” and “Beaujolais Villages.”

For me, a wonderful revelation of Beaujolais’ nuance occurred in the Cru du Beaujolais commune of Fleurie, which is situated between the crus of Moulin-à-Vent and Chiroubles:

The morning I arrived at Domaine du Clos des Garands’ boutique estate, winemaker Audrey Charton, president of the Fleurie AOC was driving a tractor in a part of her family’s vineyards.  Her young son was playing with the family dog.

Domaine du Clos des Garands is situated at an elevation of 1,050 feet.  Its granite sand terroir, with southern exposures and low yields, offers cuvees which have feminine finesse.  Indeed, the Fleurie AOC has been called the Queen of Beaujolais.  I discovered why:  slowly, in the glass, the wine opened to reveal a soft, floral bouquet. Upon further tasting, the wine continued to open and re-define itself, with soft tannins and flavors of dark berries.  The wonderful 2003 and 2005 vintages sampled were from the wine-maker’s private stock, as its quality ensured all her production sold-out rapidly.

Depending on weather conditions, the Beaujolais harvest often begins in late August and continues through September. Combined, Beaujolais’ northern and southern region form, what is known as the Beaujolais Route du Vin (Beaujolais Wine Route).  During the harvest season tourists can become winemakers through organized visits:  Handpick grapes with harvesters, tour vat rooms to taste the paradis (the sweet, slightly fermented press juice), then share a communal lunch.

One of the region’s cultural ambassadors who extolled the virtue of enjoying life’s simple pleasures was Antoine de Saint- Exupéry (1900-1943), the pioneering aviator and author of “The Little Prince” (1943).  In the dedication of this modern classic, he wrote, “…I want to dedicate this book to the child whom this grown-up once was.  All grown-ups were children first. (But few of them remember it)…”  An analogy with the Gamay grape is appropos.  It is a wine best appreciated when young.  By contrast, a belief prevails amongst consumers that wine must be aged for long periods to be enjoyed; this, of course, can be true of particular wine styles, but in the case of Beaujolais, nonsense!  So, slow down and enjoy a glass of Cru du Beaujolais.  Anytime!

For more information on Beaujolais, visit: 
http://www.discoverbeaujolais.com/

For a unique lodging and dining experience in the Cru du Beaujolais region of St. Amour-Belleville, try:
the Auberge du Paradis, visit: http://www.aubergeduparadis.fr/