Move over big, bold reds—this French wine, with its moderate body and alcohol, is gaining attention.
For many Minnesotans—certainly myself and most of the folks I hang out with—fall and winter are our favorite seasons. We enjoy summer but often it is a matter of enduring the heat and humidity— and spring, well, it has its charms but usually isn’t really great around here. After the heat breaks in early September my thoughts turn very quickly to getting back into the red wines that I didn’t seem to want when it was 90 degrees outside. This fall I have somewhat of an unusual selection of reds lined up, but bear with me while I explain myself.
For me, I do still enjoy a big hearty red once in a while, even those with higher alcohol and robust fruitiness but I often find myself craving reds that are more moderate in body and alcohol. In our last issue I wrote about my new admiration for wines made from the St. Laurent grape (out of Austria and Germany) because they resemble Pinot Noir in many respects, but have a somewhat different flavor profile. Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) and Rioja (Tempranillo) are the other wines that typically fall into this category for me. The unusual wines that are getting my attention these days are … wait for it … Beaujolais.
I’m not going to rehash the history of wines from this region. I will tell you this area continues to see great and serious improvements in every aspect of wine production. Located in the eastern half of France, just south of the traditional Burgundy growing region and just north of the Rhone Valley, it is a bucolic region of rolling hills, vineyards, small villages and country roads. Made exclusively from the Gamay grape, these wines share many characteristics of their northern cousins.
Like Burgundy (Beaujolais is technically a sub-region of Burgundy and is often labeled as such), the vineyard land is divided into small sections denoting higher quality and superior locations. The better areas are called crus (pronounced “crews”) and each has a distinct personality. The exploding popularity (and hence, prices) of their northern neighbors in Burgundy “proper” has not gone unnoticed here, and a great deal of effort is going into the wines of Beaujolais to boost quality and prices.
Increases in quality and price go hand-in-hand. But in this business, quality must come first, price later. We have seen sporadic price increases among some of our producers, but, for the most part have seen dramatic quality improvements and not-so- dramatic price increases. I encourage you to browse our selection of Beaujolais.
We have a full range of crus in price points from the low teens up to a ceiling of around $50. The most expensive are wines of great potential that also taste great now. With time (three to seven years), they will age into beauties that are the equal of any Rioja, Pinot Noir or even St. Laurent—and often,even still, at a fraction of the price commanded by the best of those.
– Andy Hall, Wine Department Manager
Thivin Côte de Brouilly 2012
One of the longtime artisans of the craft in this region, the Geoffray family has owned and produced fine wines from these steep slopes (or côte) since 1877. The property is one of the finest vineyards on Mont Brouilly, an ancient volcano. These wines have always been great and continue to set the standard for what is possible here. $25.99
Château de Capitans Julienas 2014
Bottled by the famous shipper Georges Duboeuf, this property in the Julienas appellation is a single vineyard surrounding the estate. A truly beautiful wine, this showcases the expression of fruit and the structure that Gamay can attain. Ageable
five to seven years. $21.99
Terres Dorees Morgon 2013
Made by Jean Paul Brun from a small vineyard he owns. He eschews traditional Beaujolais techniques, preferring lighter, softer wines that age in bottle rather than fat wines that show well at tastings. This style is how I know Morgon, which historically is the most Pinot Noir-like appellation and one of two crus (the other Moulinà-Vent) that age beautifully. $23.99
Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent “Vieilles Vignes” 2012
Made by Thibault Liger-Belair, a rising star of famous Côte de Nuits Burgundies. This is one of the best Beaujolais by vignerons from Burgundy. It brings quality first and price second. A little bigger than others on this page, but also with more polish and ambition. Drink now and try to stash a few to pull out in 2020. $42.99