Beaujolais is not a wine to think too much about and you won’t find it in many lists of desert island or “last supper” wine lists, but its sheer drinkability is what makes it so charming.
First off I do not particularly advise buying Beaujolais Nouveau which is released just a few weeks after harvest and can have a distinct bubblegum aroma (but you might be lucky).
Standard Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages can be good but stick to the best producers (eg, the Piron suggestion below).
The best advice is to go straight to the top and learn some Beaujolais ‘Cru’ Village names.
The region is split into Northern and Southern (Haut and Bas-Beaujolais) with the Villages and Cru wines coming from the granite slopes in the North.
Of the 10 villages the name you already know is Fleurie and probably Brouilly, Morgan and Moulin-à-Vent.
You will also find Cotes-de Brouilly, St-Amour, Chénas, Chiroubles, Juliénas and Régnié.
Brouilly is the largest by far and has rather variable soils (and styles) but at its best the wines are generous and fruity.
For structure and elegance look to Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent and I have also had success with Juliénas and St-Amour but perhaps less with Chénas, Chiroubles and Régnié (but I’ve tasted very few).
Of the 10 perhaps my favourite is Morgon as it is the closest to red Burgundy in style despite being made with Gamay (the only permitted red grape in the region) — try Le Caveau’s Foillard Morgon “Cotes du Py” mentioned here last autumn.
Beaujolais is often sold by négociants who buy in grapes — Duboeuf is the most famous followed in this market by Joseph Drouhin’s Fleurie which is quite classic in style.
I’m not a fan of the Louis Jadot Fleurie which seems to be everywhere these days.
You have probably already purchased your Valentine’s wine but if not my wine choices this week are a mix of fruity Beaujolais reds and crisp fresh whites all of which are suitable for use in seduction — particularly in conjunction with a home-cooked meal.
O’Briens Stores nationwide www.wine.ie
This is a fine light wine (11.5% ABV) that is perfect for creamy pasta dishes or as an aperitif.
The grapes are mostly local to Sicily with 50% cataratto (a grape worth watching for) plus some inzolia, greciano and chardonnay.
Peach and lime aromas with hints of tropical fruit and a clean balanced freshness on the palate.
Vanilla Grape Wines Kenmare, World Wide Wines Waterford, Vintry Rathgar, Baggot Street Wines
The wine books will tell you that ugni blanc (known as trebbiano in Italy) makes inconsequential wines but if you mix in a bit of fragrant colombard and do a cool fermentation like here then you get lots of melon and mango aromas and bright, crisp flavours.
O’Donovans, Ardkeen Stores
Everyone loves sauvignon blanc (still) so for Valentine’s Day it might be good to have a bottle in the house.
This is from the Loire but tasted blind could be mistaken for New Zealand, partly to do with the yeast used.
Bright, fresh green apples, lime and pear on the palate, lemony fresh with extra-crisp acidity on the finish.
Fleurie is easily the best known of the10 Beaujolais Cru villages and considered by many to produce the most attractive style thanks to some floral hints that match the name.
The M&S version has juicy cherry and red plum fruits with a hint of candy on the finish and is sometimes reduced on special offer.
Searsons Monkstown www.searsons.com
Searsons is now owned by Tindal Wines and this is one of the few outlets selling this fine producer in retail as Tindal mainly supplies the on-trade (Kellys Rosslare stock it and invites the winemaker over for tastings occasionally).
Bright purple colour, aromas of cherry pie and red fruits, soft and supple on the palate with lingering fruity freshness.
McCabes Blackrock, Co Dublin, Celtic Whiskey Shop www.celticwhiskeyshop.ie
Moulin-à-Vent is the most long lived and structured of the10 villages and believed to be the pinnacle of the region.
This example is indeed a little richer and has some more tannins than you would expect in Beaujolais but is still generously fruited and silky with lingering chewy black cherry.