As the last week of August approaches I’m not giving up on summer just yet.
Beaujolais is perhaps the perfect wine for late summer as its bright cheery fruits never fail to make me smile.
While Beaujolais is technically part of Burgundy it rarely gets spoken of in the same tones and is often unfairly dismissed because it grows gamay rather than pinot noir.
Gamay is an old Burgundian variety but is most famous for having been banished from the region by Duke Philippe le Hardi in 1395 for being ‘un très-mauvais et très-desloyaulx plant’ (‘very bad and disloyal’).
Far too many dull confected pinot noirs abound from all parts of the world but they sell thanks to the fame of the grape. Producers growing gamay know they need to try harder.
A wine labelled Beaujolais or Beaujolais Villages is produced in the south of the region closer to Lyon and yes, some are rather light but you can find some depth if you stick to good producers. Beaujolais Nouveau is best drunk in a wine bar on the day (or weekend) of its arrival on the third Thursday in November.
To find the best gamay you need to learn the names of the Cru Villages that produce the best Beaujolais.
These villages are in a line south of Mâcon and have mainly granite and schist soils unlike the limestone soils in the south which suit the grape less.
Some Cru you likely know already — Fleurie, Brouilly, Côtes de Brouilly, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent and if you want to be a super swot you should also learn Saint-Amour, Régnié, Juliénas, Chénas and Chiroubles, particularly the former two.
At a tasting a couple of months ago showcasing all 10 Cru villages my highest marks were for Morgon and Fleurie although no village showed badly, only producers.
My highest mark went to Domaine de la Fa Fleurie from Nomad wines which had gorgeous lively fruits and textured complexity (€32 via www.siyps.com).
I also liked the examples from Domaine des Nuges from the same importer (Whelehan Wines, www.siyps.com) and also watch for Domaine Lardy (Inis Wines), Domaine de la Madonne (Mitchell & Son) and Louis Claude Desvignes which had my favourite Morgons (Vinistito).
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Celtic Whiskey Shop Dublin and Killarney, Nolans Clontarf, Mchughs, Baggot Street Wines, www.celticwhiskeyshop.ie
This is a joint venture between Burgundy producer Nicholas Potel and Beaujolais producer Stephane Aviron who met when studying Oenology in college.
The range is very well priced for the quality and even this entry-level wine has lots of bright juicy red fruits and good cherry skin flavours.
The Aldi Exquisite Collection is fairly reliable and ridiculously good value for the price. Watch also for the amontillado, fino, Marlborough sauvignon, albariño and the Côtes de Provence rosé.
The Exquisite Collection Fleurie has light plum fruit aromas mixed with cherry, red fruits on the palate and a cheery bright finish. Best served at around 10C.
This is the cheapest Beaujolais on the Irish market as far as I can tell and that is reflected in the quality but even at room temperature this has lively and pleasing red fruits.
For best results chill this down to around 8C (or serve straight from fridge) with some charred barbecue lamb cutlets or marinated chunks of spicy beef. It will help remind you of summer days.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Cinnamon Cottage, Rochestown; Searsons, searsons.com
Villa Ponciago in the village of Fleurie, Beaujolais, claims a heritage dating back to at least 949AD when they donated land to the famed Benedictine Abbey at Cluny a few miles to the north.
Their Fleurie is their best known wine and has a touch more fragrance, but this Brouilly Cru has more weight with textured cherry fruits and lovely lingering floral red fruit notes.
Wines Direct Mullingar and Arnotts, winesdirect.ie
I’ve featured the wines of Jean-Paul Brun here before but not this version made from old vines.
This has an almost Burgundian (Pinot-Noir) character with earthy red fruit aromas, bright lively raspberry and red berries on the palate and good length.
Brun’s Beaujolais Blanc and his Brouilly and Beaujolais Villages wines are also well worth a look.
JJ O’Driscolls, Ardkeen Stores, JC Savage, Sweeneys, wineonline.ie, widely available.
This is an old classic.
Thanks to the name we expect Fleurie to have light floral notes but never underestimate this Cru as it can have depth and structure to match Morgon.
This has floral and plum aromas, black cherry fruit flavours and decent weight matched by elegance.