Beaujolais Crus reds are a tasty way to chill summer's heat
By Dave DeSimone
Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Summer's arrival need not dampen enjoyment of red wines. Even as lazy, hazy days bring hot sun and higher humidity, certain reds served slightly chilled deliver immense pleasure.
Consider France's Beaujolais Crus reds. Unlike vapid Beaujolais nouveau wines arriving with ballyhoo each November, Beaujolais Cru reds offer authenticity and personality by expressing unique terroir.
By law, all Beaujolais reds use only one variety: the gamay noir à jus blanc, or gamay for short. Gamay naturally lends itself to making juicy, fruity wines, but each Cru's unique vineyards and deft winemaking make the difference in realizing terrific wines.
The Crus cover 10 appellations starting at Burgundy's southern tip to the Rhône Valley's northern reaches above Lyon. Since ancient Roman times, grape growers have recognized these areas' superior grape-growing qualities featuring granite-laden gentle hillsides with favorable exposures.
The minerals in the soil allow the grapes to retain fresh acidity while the hillsides permit excellent drainage. Meanwhile, vines perched with eastern exposures bask in plenty of sunshine, a critical factor for ripening grapes in Beaujolais' unpredictable weather.
The softest and most fruit-forward Beaujolais Cru reds generally come from the Régnié, Brouilly, and Chiroubles appellations. The Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, and Juliénas crus typically yield more robust and full-bodied wines. Finally Chénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent growers produce the most-concentrated, structured and age-worthy reds.
The most accomplished Cru Beaujolais growers carefully handpick only undamaged whole bunches before placing the uncrushed grapes in sealed fermentation vats. The grapes' weight at the bottom releases juice that natural yeasts convert to alcohol with conventional fermentation.
Uncrushed grapes at the top of the vat go through carbonic maceration, a process where fermentation actually takes place within the skins of the uncrushed grapes. This results in especially fruity wines bursting with juicy flavors.
Then, instead of immediately bottling and rushing to market, Cru Beaujolais producers permit the wines to mature in vats at least until the following spring. The extra time allows the wines' personalities to blossom while developing complexity.
But let's not dwell on technicalities. Drinking delicious, chilled Cru Beaujolais for sheer, unpretentious pleasure makes summer picnics more fun.
The 2009 Domaine Vissoux Moulin-à-Vent “Les Trois Roches,” France (Luxury 39217; $24.99) takes its name by blending grapes from three vineyards — Rochegrès, La Rochelle and Roche Noire. Winegrower Pierre-Marie Chermette uses hand-harvesting, natural yeasts and aging in older, large oak vats to frame this delightful wine's blackberry and strawberry aromas. Vibrant berry fruit balances with elegant tannins through the fruity finish. Highly recommended.
The 2010 Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon “Côte du Py,” Vieilles Vignes, France (Luxury 36319; $25.99) comes from “Côte du Py,” a specially named, highly regarded hillside vineyard within the Morgon appellation. Monsieur Burgaud blends grapes grown on “old vines” in several sections of the “Côte du Py” in producing a classic representation. He uses traditional carbonic maceration techniques and sparing oak-barrel aging.
The wine's dark-ruby color unfolds violet, plum and brown-spice aromas. Ripe black-cherry fruit leads to bright acidity, refreshing mineral notes and firm, yet elegant, tannins. Match with grilled rib-eye steaks for a delightful combination. Recommended.
The 2011 Marcel Lapierre Morgon, France (Luxury 31262; $27.99) exemplifies Cru Beaujolais at its best. The late Marcel Lapierre embraced “natural” winemaking and bucked common practices by eschewing chemical treatments and synthetic pesticides way back in 1973. Instead, he used traditional, labor-intensive methods, both in the vineyards and winery.
Lapierre famously took risks by harvesting late to allow complete ripening and then sorted rigorously to ensure only healthy, undamaged bunches made the cut. Today, his son, Mathieu, carries forward the tradition with the 2011 vintage.
After initial fermentation, the wine ages on the fine lees — spent yeast — for nine months in large, previously used oak fourde vats. The process adds flesh to balance the wine's pure, red-fruit essence and intense freshness.
The wine's ruby color unfolds cherry and raspberry aromas with violet and black-liquorice notes. Juicy red-fruit flavors and fine acidity balance with soft tannins through the dry, fruity finish. This delightful wine is, as the French say, gulpable. Enjoy it with grilled all-beef franks. Highly recommended.
Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Analysis: Kesler remains on Penguins’ radar as Shero looks bring back ‘Big 3’ formula
- Starkey: Steelers know when to say goodbye
- Penguins GM Shero’s deadline deals: Addition by subtraction
- Pirates’ big risk with pitch-heavy draft focus might soon pay off
- Ex-Colts executive Polian: Approach free agency with caution
- With so many needs, Steelers can ill afford to miss in draft
- Steelers defense doesn’t make the grade in 2013 review
- Ukrainians steel to resist Russian aggression
- Penguins minor league report: Defenseman Dumoulin optimistic for home stretch
- Kids turning attention to archery in record numbers
- Fashion essentials: Pittsburgh’s style watchers tell what they can’t live without