Posts Tagged Beaujolais Villages

In search of lower-alcohol red wines Four bottles, four countries, four grape varieties, and all with an ABV of 13% or less

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 21st May, 2022

I have been contacted by several frustrated readers unable to find lower alcohol wines. Lighter white wines are easier to find than reds; in general, white wines and sparkling wines tend to have higher acidity and less alcohol. Most are 13 per cent ABV or lower and very few reach 14 per cent. Many of those from cool climates, such as Muscadet, Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Australian Riesling are frequently less than 12.5 per cent, and the great German Rieslings are often less than 10 per cent.

Finding a lighter red wine can be tricky. Part of the problem is climate change. Regions such as Bordeaux once typically produced red wines at 12.5 per cent – 13 per cent alcohol; these days 14 per cent and 14.5 per cent is common. But it is also a stylistic choice by the producer. Red grapes are picked later when they are considered fully ripe. They have less acidity and higher sugar levels and as a result the wines will have more alcohol.

I suspect that many consumers in this country and other markets prefer richer red wines. There is something very seductive about a glass of velvety ripe fruit-sweet red wine – the alcohol provides texture, warmth and balances the tannins. Lighter reds tend to have higher acidity and taste fresher. This is not always to everyone’s taste, although the best have a delicious juiciness that is hard to beat.

I suspect it is going to become easier to find lower alcohol red wines in the future, as the multiples try to offer cheaper wines; under the new alcohol regulations, lower alcohol wines can be sold at lower prices

I suspect it is going to become easier to find lower alcohol red wines in the future, as the multiples try to offer cheaper wines; under the new alcohol regulations, lower alcohol wines can be sold at lower prices.

This week, the first of the summer reds; four wines from four different countries each made from a different grape variety and all with an ABV of 13 per cent or less. There will certainly be more as we move into summer.

Beaujolais, one of my favourite wines, tends to be lighter in alcohol, including the “crus” or villages such as Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent and Brouilly. The Domaine des Nugues below has been one of my go-to wines for many years. While there are many very insipid wines produced in Bardolino, wines such as the La Prendina are perfect in warm sunny weather. If you don’t live close to a Marks & Spencer, O’Briens has the delicious vibrant fruity Rizzardi Bardolino Classico Cuvée XV (13 per cent) for €15.45.

Many of the red wines from Austria and Germany (both have relatively cool climates) are lighter in alcohol. As well as the Zweigelt featured here, look out for wines made from Pinot Noir (sometimes called Spätburgunder here) and Blaufränkisch.

All of these wines should be served cool. As the weather warms up, you could even consider drinking them lightly chilled.

Bardolino 2020, La Prendina Estate 13%, €11 Light crunchy red cherry fruits, with a herby, earthy edge. This would be great with grilled fish or whipped goat’s cheese with roast peppers. From Marks & Spencer.

Beaujolais Villages 2018, Domaine des Nugues 13%, €19.50-€20 Utterly delicious smooth ripe but juicy dark and red fruits with very light tannins on the finish. A delight to drink, either by itself, with charcuterie, firm cheese, and most white meat recipes. From; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Beshoff, Howth.

Thörle Spätburgunder 2018, Rheinhessen 12.5%, €21.95 Juicy ripe red cherry fruits with a lively peppery note. A true vin de soif. Drink this cool with tuna, duck breast, or risotto primavera. From the Corkscrew, D2.

Pittnauer Zweigelt Heideboden 2019, Burgenland, Austria 12.5%, €22-€25 A lightly earthy fruit-filled treat with vibrant dark berries, and soft easy tannins on the finish. A great picnic wine, or with dishes featuring cooked tomato sauces. From Drink Store, D7; The Corkscrew, D2; Martin’s Off Licence, D3; Morton’s, D6;; Mitchell & Son, D1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne

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Eight Green Bottles – a weekend’s drinking

Eight Green Bottles – a weekend’s drinking


Before the health brigade get going, this included Thursday, there are two of us and, as you can see, not everything was finished! From right to left.

Domaine Begude Le Paradis Viognier 2015, IGP Pays d’Oc, Organic

I don’t think the agents (O’Briens) are importing this, but they should certainly think about it. Just what you would expect from a cool-climate Viognier; lovely clean peach fruits, good acidity and a crisp dry finish. It doesn’t have the richness of Viognier from warmer climes, nor the bitter fruit-stone finish, but this is a very well-made refreshing wine.

Le Mas 2014, Coteaux du Languedoc, Domaine Clavel, Organic
€14.70 from Wines Direct

Jean Clavel was one of the great personalities of the Languedoc. His son Pierre now produces the wine. This is a lovely easy-drinking fruity wine, warming, lightly spicy with plums and a tannin-free finish. Great value too.

Domaine des Nugues 2013, Beaujolais Villages
€16.75 from Martin’s, Fairview & 64wine,Glasthule.

A delicious Beaujolais, humming with elegant crunchy red fruits. A wine of the week in the Irish Times a few weeks back.

Vouvray Sec le Haut-Lieu 1990, Domaine Huet

Dug out from the cellar and should have been dug out years ago. Old, madeirised and past it, unless you are into very orange wine.

Stemmler Carneros Pinot Noir 2012, USA

A present from my sister, who lives in California, last year. Nice wine – meaty, even v slightly bretty?, with clean ripe juicy plum fruits. Quite substantial and concentrated. very enjoyable with my roast chicken.

Tio Pepe Fino En Rama, Jerez

I love fino and I love the en rama style, which tends to have a bit more character.This is lovely; fresh, tangy, bone dry with almonds and citrus peel.

Verus Furmint 2014, Ormoz, Slovenia

A mere 12% but a delicious fresh fruity light white wine – will appear in the Irish Times a few weeks hence.

Dveri Pax Sipon/Furmint Ilovci 2011
€20.99 from Wines on the Green

Don’t be put off by the vintage; this is lovely wine. Will also appear in the Irish Times shortly.

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Beaujolais – the Perfect Summer Wine

Beaujolais – the Perfect Summer Wine

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 5th June, 2016


Domaine de la Madone, Fleurie

I love Beaujolais; the place and the wine. I have recently returned from a visit, which reminded me that this is one of the loveliest wine regions of all. In fact, if you are planning a cycling, walking or driving trip in France, I would give serious consideration to Beaujolais and the equally unspoilt Mâconnais region.

Beaujolais is misunderstood by some and dismissed by others. Older readers will have memories of drinking awful Beaujolais Nouveau many years ago; younger wine-lovers, weaned on rich Aussie Shiraz may be nonplussed by a lack of oomph.

Beaujolais is the perfect summer wine; light, refreshing and fruity, it is a true vin de soif. Cool it a little, then kick back and enjoy those vibrant pure fruits over an alfresco dinner or lunch. All Beaujolais, including the cru wines, tend to be low in alcohol (usually 12.5-13 per cent), so they make great (if pricey) party wines too.

There is far more to Beaujolais than simple summer drinking though. The region divides neatly into two sections. The southern half is home to much of the less expensive glugging Beaujolais, although there are a few really good growers here. In the northern half you will finds the top 10 villages, or “crus”, entitled to use their own name on the label. All are situated on more granitic soils.

These include the familiar names Fleurie, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. Each has its own distinctive style, ranging from light, delicate and fragrant to more powerful, richer wines. Don’t get too hung up about drinking the youngest wine either; some of the crus age very well. I am currently finishing off my last bottles of a wonderful fragrant 2008 Moulin-à-Vent, and tasted an exceptional 1990 (yes, 1990!) Beaujolais Villages on my visit to Domaine des Nugues.

However, in general with the crus, two to three years will see some improvement, and these are the vintages on our shelves. Lesser wines are best enjoyed in their glorious precocious youth.

There is certainly no shortage of cheap wine from the Beaujolais region, including some of the crus. These tend to be uninspiring. Better to go for a fresh fruit-filled Beaujolais instead of a Fleurie at the same price. Vintages do matter too: 2013 and 2014 were both very good, and 2015 was near perfect.

The wines go brilliantly with pates, cheese, a few salads and a crusty baguette. The top crus can go perfectly with all things porcine, including belly of pork, ham and boiled bacon, as well as roast chicken. On my arrival home, tired after a long journey, I cooked myself an omelette and drank a glass of delicious fruity Beaujolais – perfection!

DSCF6572Beaujolais Villages 2014 Domaine des Nugues

Wonderful aromas and pure sweet red cherry and blackcurrant fruits with a touch of liquorice.

Stockists: Martin’s, Fairview; 64wine, Glasthule.

DSCF6574Fleurie Tradition 2014, Domaine de la Madone

Lively perfumed nose with supple rounded red cherry and raspberry fruits.

Stockists: Mitchel & Son; Wilde & Green; Myles Doyle, Gorey.

ImageBeaujolais L’Ancien 2014 Domaines des Terres Dorées


From forty year-old vines, a delicious fragrant wine bursting with crunchy red cherry fruits.

Stockists: Wines Direct online, Mullingar & Arnotts, Dublin.

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