Since 1951, the third Thursday of November marks the release of France’s Beaujolais Nouveau, a celebration of the harvest in the Beaujolais region just south of Burgundy, and a race to taste the newest vintage. Yet the fanfare, and the wine, have lost some of its lustre over the years.
Exuberant, fruity Beaujolais has become maligned and misunderstood. Thanks to some of these (undrinkable) vin de primeur offerings, it is identified as a thin, watery wine, redolent of banana and even vinegar, which has not surprisingly, led many to avoid the grape altogether.
But Beaujolais Nouveau can also serve as a gateway to the other red wines produced in the region, known collectively as Cru Beaujolais.
To mend the damaged reputation of the Gamay grape from which Beaujolais is made, are winemakers like Dominique Piron, who make enticing, terroir-driven Gamay wines with finesse and elegance.
Dominique Piron, 63, is the 14th generation winemaker at the family estate, Domaine de la Chanaise. With his American wife, enologist Kristine Mary, Piron makes his Beaujolais using the classical Burgundian method of crushing the grapes and using the natural yeasts on the grapes’ skins to start the alcoholic fermentation. The skins remain in contact with the juice adding colour, tannins, and phenolic flavors.
~ John Foy, A Glass Of Wine
The charming red also has its champions like wine writer, Janet Dorozynski, who coined the hashtag #GoGamayGo. Those who love wine have never given up on Gamay.
The characterful, humble grape is the darling light red of many sommeliers and vintners thanks to its fresh acidity, fragrant fruitiness, fine tannins and lissom structure. Its full name, Gamay Noir à jus Blanc, reflects that its skin is black, its juice is white, but the wine produced is a light bodied red.
~ Treve Ring
I decided to take part in the Beaujolais tradition, but with better wine, so I picked up this non-Nouveau bottling of Morgan La Chanaise 2015.
From the magnificent 2015 vintage—a year of unprecedented sunshine—is a wine rich in expressive flavours. Morgon is one of the two most structured Cru Beaujolais (the other is Moulin-a-Vent). Piron’s Morgon vineyard has been in the family since 1590.
This ripe, light-to-medium-bodied red sports layers of pure blackberry, blackcurrant and damson plum, edged licorice, floral and apricot details. Tangy, mouthwatering acidity highlights the mineral and spice details on the long, lightly grippy finish.
~ Rating: 91/100; Wine Spectator May, 2017
If, like me, you tasted Beaujolais once 30-or so -years ago and didn’t like it, it’s time to give Gamay another chance.
Morgan La Chanaise in BC here
SEE: Beaujolais Update