Gamay for May
Good Beaujolais is approachable, yet delicious.
Let’s put aside heavy winter red wines like Cab and Merlot and trend lighter. How about Gamay for May? Gamay, in its simplest and most quaffable form, is known as Beaujolais Nouveau from France — a wine released the third Thursday of November each year.
Semi-carbonic maceration is used for these wines. In this process, whole grape clusters are put in tanks, and grapes at the bottom are crushed from the weight of those on top. Natural yeast fermentation begins, and carbon dioxide is released, eventually seeping into the skins of the grapes and causing an intracellular (inside the grape) fermentation.
Due to the absence of oxygen in the tank, the resulting wine is fruity and low in tannin. Higher-end Beaujolais will impress you like never before.
Beaujolais comes in three classifications above the Nouveau level:
Beaujolais AOP: A little higher quality (in the hands of good producer); produced in 96 villages.
Beaujolais-Village AOP: Covering 39 communes; a little better quality and more expensive than Beaujolais AOP.
Cru Beaujolais AOP: The highest quality in this region; encompasses 10 crus, or terrains. From light to heavy, these are Brouilly, Régnié and Chiroubles Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie Saint-Amour, Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. These wines will age approximately four to eight years.
Sips at home
2011 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly — $24.79
Heavier than the Dupeuble and more complex, this is smooth with hints of dried red currants, herbal notes and a bit of smokiness.
2012 Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils Beaujolais Nouveau — $15.49
Soft and ripe red cherries and raspberries coupled with flavors of subtle wet clay make this a great “everyday” wine. Pair it with grilled pork loin or pepperoni pizza.
2011 Domaine Diochon Moulin-à-Vent — $24.49
This is one of the most powerful Beaujolais crus — a firm frame, so to speak, that will drink well for three to four more years. This one is smoky with red and black cherries, cassis and notes of damp forest floor.
Editor’s note: Prices current as of March 2014.