Desolé, Beaujolais (#MWWC4)
The Monthly Wine Writing Challenge is into its fourth episode and October marks my first entry (#MWWC4). The previous winner has the honour of selecting the next theme, and the latest title, ‘Oops!’, was selected by Kat Wiggins (@winekat), after her article Possession – A Short Story won the public vote last time around. So here goes nothing!
Wine is marvellous stuff; I love it, I really do. But I never thought I’d succumb to the evil that is wine snobbery. There are a few grapes I have issues with, but at least I have my reasons. I’m not a big fan of Roussanne and Marsanne; I find them to be generally flabby, flat and devoid of acidity. I also don’t get the love affair the rest of the UK seems to have with Malbec; it’s all a bit hot rubber squash ball for me.
I felt the same way about Gamay, about Beaujolais. My head was full of preconceptions and misconceptions and I’d never really given it a chance, never bothered to understand the complexities of the region. I used to think I could spend £10 on something better and more interesting; I was guilty of being a wine snob.
Thankfully, Twitter came to my rescue. A cyber-chat with @Love_Beaujolais got me thinking clearly and forced me to ask myself whether I had ever really given it a fair shot. Luckily for me, these ever so friendly folk at Beaujolais & Beyond laid down a challenge, so putting preconceptions to one side, it was time for me to give Gamay a fair crack of the whip. And I’m so glad I did because these are vibrant, fruity red wines, from simple, easy drinking numbers to more complex models, which proudly show off their terroir. I soon realised I had made a big mistake. I soon realised had got it wrong. Wine snob? Guilty as charged.
Much of Beaujolais’s negative press is down to Beaujolais Nouveau. This simple wine is the first release from the latest vintage in France, available for sale on the third Thursday of November, only weeks after the vintage. Nouveau is the lightest, freshest and fruitiest style of Beaujolais, which is produced to be drunk in its youth. London restaurants used to have a competition for who would have the latest release available first… And for the very first time I am going to get a bottle as soon as I can after the 21st November this year… because it is fun… and wine should be fun!
Beaujolais is the southern-most district of Burgundy and is one of the only regions in the world that focuses on a single grape variety. OK there is a smidgen of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Aligote planted but come on, I’m sticking up for Beaujolais here! Classification is simple, and from my recent encounters, a fair reflection of quality (very rarely the case!): Beaujolais AOC, Beaujolais Villages and then the ten Crus – each offering something slightly different. The Gamay grape is a thin-skinned and acidic variety and generally (dangerous word!) produces brightly coloured wines with low tannins and intense fruity flavours. But there is so much more to it when you take the time to investigate the terroir. The granite, clay and limestone of northern Beaujolais, in Julienas, Chenas and Moulin-a-Vent for example, produces more structured and complex wines, whereas the sandier soils of Regnie and Brouilly produce lighter, prettier and fresher drops.
I wish I’d known all of this earlier in the year so I could’ve enjoyed some of these cheeky and fruity numbers throughout the summer. But do you know what? At least I’ve learnt something. I’ve learnt to question preconceptions and to put in some work. I’ve learnt to stop making lazy, snap decisions. But most of all, I’ve learnt that I have a new friend in Beaujolais.I got it wrong but now I’ve done something about it. I suppose I’ll have to re-evaluate Marsanne, Roussanne and Malbec now… Oops!