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!
Wonderful aromas and pure sweet red cherry and blackcurrant fruits with a touch of liquorice.
Stockists: Martin’s, Fairview; 64wine, Glasthule.
Lively perfumed nose with supple rounded red cherry and raspberry fruits.
Stockists: Mitchel & Son; Wilde & Green; Myles Doyle, Gorey.
From forty year-old vines, a delicious fragrant wine bursting with crunchy red cherry fruits.
Stockists: Wines Direct online, Mullingar & Arnotts, Dublin.