Most wine lovers have a lightbulb moment, when they suddenly realise that wine is not simply a very pleasant sociable alcoholic beverage that goes brilliantly with food (although it certainly is all that), but the most complex and wonderful drink known to man. One of my several “wine moments” (I am a slow learner) was a glass of Beaujolais. It was one of the best names, a Moulin-à-Vent, and despite being served in one of those horrible Paris goblets, which are completely unsuitable for wine, it was fragrant and gorgeous, brimming with seductive bright fruits. As a pretentious student I was hooked and ever since that encounter, I return to my first love as often as I can.
Beaujolais has been through a rough period but with the increasing demand for light, lower alcohol wines, it is enjoying a welcome revival. This is one of the most appetising and reviving wines of all. As soon as spring arrives, I regularly spoil myself with a glass of Beaujolais or Beaujolais Villages from a good producer. Frivolous and full of juicy bouncy fruit, it is liquid summer. Serve cool with salady things, pork, or simply on its own.
As with many French regions, there is an established hierarchy. Beaujolais Villages is superior to basic Beaujolais, but at the very top of the tree are 10 “crus” or villages, each entitled to use its own name. All are in the north of the region, and taste tantalisingly different depending on the soil, usually varying forms of granite. The most serious of these wines are worthy of genuine respect. I have stashed away a number of wines from the most structured of the crus including Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent and Fleurie; after a few years, they reveal a new and wonderful depth. I tasted eight vintages of Jadot Ch des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent and Morgon going back to 1996 at a trade tasting late last year. All were in very good condition. I also drank a perfectly-formed 2008 Moulin-à-Vent from Domaine du Vissoux more recently. Now that so many of the well-known fine wines are moving steadily out of our price-range, these are well-worth bearing in mind. The best certainly qualify as fine wines.
More immediately, a glass of youthful Côte de Brouilly, Chénas or any other of the crus will both slake the thirst and revive the vital functions. Most of the mass-produced versions are not great, although even here I note an improvement in quality. But Beaujolais is full of fantastic small producers; a bottle from Domaine du Vissoux (Terroirs), Jean-Paul Brun (Wines Direct), La Madone (Mitchell & Son) or Foillard (Independents) is one of life’s most welcome treats.
Fleurie Tradition 2015, Domaine de la Madone
A delightfully fresh and fruity wine from one of the top estates in Fleurie.
Stockists: Mitchell & Son, IFSC, Sandycove, Avoca, Kilmacanogue.
Côte de Brouilly 2015, Jean-Paul Brun
An exquisite wine, with refined cherry fruits, hints of strawberry and a refreshing moreish character.
Stockists: Wines Direct
Moulin-à-Vent 2013, Ch des Jacques, Louis Jadot
Solid medium-bodied blackberries with a good tannic structure. Drink or keep a decade or more.
Stockists: Ballyvaughan Stores; Jus de Vine; Mitchell & Son; Redmonds; Sweeney’s.
Bargain bin: Fleurie 2014 Terre de Granit Rose 2014, Thorin
Pleasantly plump dark fruits with a smooth rounded finish.
Stockists: Selected Spar, Eurospar, Mace, Londis