By Shelly Waldron
Personally, I prefer not to “paint myself into a corner” when it comes to which type of wine I prefer. Quite frankly, I like them all! Conventional wine wisdom says white or Rose’ on a warm day, a deep dark red on a colder day and bubbly any time! However, I don’t want the weather to dictate which wine I choose. No one should live by a definitive rule for enjoying wine. I say the rule should be, there is no rule. Drink whatever you like whenever you want.
As the month of August slips away, the sun and warmth during the daytime will soon fade into the cool nights of fall in the Pacific Northwest. I have already enjoyed plenty of Rose’ and white wines this summer. However, there is another wine I enjoy in the warmer months. It is a red wine that I think is perfect slightly chilled or even on ice with a splash of sparkling water. A self-made wine cooler of sorts, but so much more mature than the Bartell’s and James varieties of the past.
If you haven’t met already, let me introduce you to a French wine which I love called Beaujolais (pronounced boh-zhuh-leyz). Who wouldn’t love to say that a few times just to up your wine cred?
Beaujolais is an area that is south of Burgundy, France. This region is relatively small, approximately 34 miles long and 8 miles wide. The area is divided into two sections by the Nizerand River. The gamay grape is grown on both sides of the river. The North side of the river has hard rock soil and the South is more clay based. This is the key to the differences of Beaujolais’ flavor from each vineyard. In order to be called a Beaujolais, the wine must be made from 100% gamay grapes. One other interesting fact is that French law requires that all Beaujolais grapes be picked by hand. Beaujolais and Champagne are the only two regions in France subject to this peculiar requirement.
The Gamay grape can be compared to a Pinot Noir varietal. Gamay produces a light bodied, fruit forward wine with soft tannin notes. Add to this that Beaujolais is pocket friendly with most bottles running under $20. This equals a crowd-pleasing red wine that pairs well at your summer BBQ whether you are serving hot dogs, hamburgers, salmon, chicken or beef.
When shopping for Beaujolais wine, you will find 3 different quality levels:
- Beaujolais AOC: The covers the southern region of the Beaujolais wine area and accounts for about half of all Beaujolais wine and most of the Beaujolais nouveau. This is a wine that is meant to be drank soon after purchasing before the fruitiness starts to fade.
- Beaujolais–Villages: It is the next level up from basic Beaujolais. There are 39 villages that can produce wine that can be called Beaujolais Villages. This is the most common level you will find in the area stores. You will enjoy a more sophisticated fruit and mineral notes with this type of Beaujolais wine, and it holds up well in the bottle for several years but is meant to be enjoyed now.
- Cru Beaujolais: There are ten crus, and all are in the northern part of Beaujolais. Each cru has a slightly different terroir that results in a range of expressions of the gamay grape, from the more tannic, earthy wines to more floral noted wines. The names of the 10 Beaujolais crus are: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnie, and Saint-Amour. Wine from the crus are the most age-worthy, generally should be held no longer than 5 to 7 years but certainly doesn’t need aging in order to be enjoyed.
Being no stranger to attending well known drinking events, like Octoberfest and Mardi Gras. I have always been attracted to festivals that are designed around enjoying the drink of the day. This is why attending Beaujolais Nouveau Day has made it onto my bucket list. This festival is marked in France as the third Thursday in November. It come with fireworks, music and as much of the young wine as you can slurp up to celebrate that year’s harvest which only happened a few weeks earlier.
Although I won’t be making this trip in 2020, due to obvious issues impacting all things that involve travel and crowds, it is a wine experience that I look forward to in the future. Until then I am enjoying Beaujolais my way while summer slowly turns into fall, and daydreaming of this future trip.