Wine of the WeekJadot 2006 Combe Aux Jacques Beaujolais-Villages ($16.95, 89 points, 7682)The new vintage gushes gamay charm, and yes, elegance. Lovely sweet aroma black cherry-raspberry fruit in fresh cream with gentle pepper and underbrush/berry patch nuances. Medium bodied, rounded and fruity with a tart juiciness on the finish. Very good length. The 2006 should be arriving anytime. If you see the 2005 on the shelf grab it anyway—slightly bigger, drinking very well. Vintages Essential.
In the July Toronto Life I devoted my column to a piece that my editor niftily titled “A Grill’s Best Friend”. I put forth the notion that big, high alcohol, hot climate fruit bombs are not necessarily the wines of choice for summer BBQs, despite every wine/lifestyle pundit and back label copywriter proclaiming otherwise. On a tepid evening they simply don’t suit the mood, and they warm up and get soupy in the glass. Furthermore, if grilled meat is already slathered in hot marinade the high alcohol in the wine fans the flames and turns your mouth into a fire pit. A wine’s primary role at the table is to refresh, and those big New World shiraz, cabs and even merlots often don’t cut it, literally.
This summer I’ve been practicing what I preach and have come back to Beaujolais; those vivacious gamays from the dramatic hills of southern Burgundy in France. There is something about a Beaujolais’ fragrance— fresh strawberry and/or raspberry, violets and roses, pepper and hay—that clearly evokes and celebrates summer outdoors. Then there is that lovely, fresh, piquant acidity that refreshes so well, and an absence of drying tannin that allows that cool, sweet fruit to hang on to its starring role. I’ve enjoyed it with grilled chicken ever since encountering this combo in a restaurant in the Beaujolais village of Brouilly in 1984. (Yes I remember how it tasted.) I’ve enjoyed it with salmon, hamburgers, and country style pork ribs basted in a fig and vidalia onion marinade.
But are there are some strongly-flavoured grill recipes that simply overpower a glass of Beaujolais? Some very peppery, smoky and fiery seasonings may shred gamay’s essential charm, but its acidity should still refresh. And you can always increase the wattage of your Beaujolais by moving up into one of the 10 “cru” village wines that have more concentration, but not necessarily more alcohol or tannin. The excellent 2005 vintage also packs a bit more concentration.
Here are six Beaujolais currently on LCBO and Vintages shelves to consider this weekend, or tonight, should you want to test my theory yourself. And, oh yes, chill, but don’t overdo it.
Chateau de Raousset 2005 Chiroubles ($16.45, 91 points, 7997)Released back in February, a few bottles remain scattered through GTA stores (Weston and 401, Avenue Rd and Lawrence), so grab what you can. Chiroubles is one of smallest of the “cru” appellations of Beaujolais, known for fragrant, gentle gamay, and this hits the bullseye. Terrific bloom, with violets and blackberry fruit and a lovely sense of ripeness and poise. It’s sweetish with fine, well integrated acidity and a very gentle mesh of tannin. Very good length.
Louis Jadot 2005 Chateau des Jacques, Moulin-A-Vent ($31.95, 90 points, 700187)If you must have oaked red, try this estate grown “cru” gamay made more like pinot noir—fermented normally and aged in oak. Vanilla, cedar and spice overlay gamay’s bright strawberry-cherry fruit. It’s light to medium-bodied, very poised and genteel with well integrated acidity and minerality. Very good length. Enjoy now through 2010.
Georges Duboeuf 2006 Brouilly ($16.90, 88 points, 70540)Distinctive bowling pin shaped bottle. Stylish gamay from one of the ten “cru” villages of Beaujolais. Fresh raspberry, plum and violet aroma. Light to mid-weight, with crisp, slightly tart acidity, wet earth and a bitter pomegranate finish. Mouthwatering; very good length Best 2008 to 2011. LCBO
Domaine du Clos Verdy 2005 Chiroubles ($17.95, 88 points, 453241)Some producers claim 2005 was the best year they’d ever seen for Beaujolais. Discover the ripeness, richness demonstrated here through the classy blueberry black cherry, with flecks of pepper and leather. A bit of gamay’s particular earthiness as well. Firm, tart and fleshy, with very good length. Will age a couple of years as well. Vintages
Georges Duboeuf 2006 Beaujolais-Villages ($12.80, 87 points, 122077)Great value. Deeper colour, more ripe cherry fruit and more density than the slighltly cheaper “regular” Beaujolais with fennel and pepper traces. Mid-weight, firm, and dry. Should age a couple of years but enjoy now. Same pretty charm. LCBO
Georges Duboeuf 2006 Beaujolais ($12.05, 86 points, 526327)Pale bright colour. Strawberry, floral, leesy aromas. Light, bright, sweet and juicy with easy tannin and a fresh strawberry-raspberry finish. Balanced. Buy two bottles for four people; you’ll be amazed how quickly the bottle drains. LCBO
Bouchard Pere 2006 Beaujolais-Villages ($13.20, 85 points, 665448)More rustic style with twiggy, wet hay, cran-raspberry flavours. Light, smooth with initial juicy fruit and acidity then a dry, earthy finish. Good length. Now to 2009. LCBO