Last month Eric Asimov’s wine school focused on Beaujolais. His May 7 column describes how the quality of this region’s wine was negatively affected by the runaway marketing success of Beaujolais Nouveau, which led many producers to turn to chemicals, early harvests, and Frankenstein-like manipulation in order to meet the demand. When the vogue for Nouveau cooled, too many producers had given their acres over to Nouveau, and the bubble burst. The region was, economically speaking, cut off at the knees.
Full disclosure: We always buy Frankenwine at Thanksgiving, and suck it down quite happily!
Luckily, a few determined producers had continued to focus on small batches, farmed without chemicals and lovingly transformed into the quaffable yet quality beverage of old. Although “the great majority of the Beaujolais produced falls into the mass-market category,” there is still good wine to be had. And yes, good Beaujolais is joyous, which I take to mean “fun to drink.”
Eric recommended the 2011 Juliénas from Domaine Michel Tête, and the 2011 Jean-Paul Brun Côte de Brouilly Terres Dorées. Both are cru Beaujolais, from the ten village appellations. Knowing that many of us would not be able to find these wines, he added a more widely available choice, Louis Jadot’s 2011 Beaujolais-Villages, which comes from less select and specific terroir. We ended up purchasing the Jadot, as well as another cru offering ($18): 2011 Manoir du Carra Brouilly.
You may remember my New Year’s Day post about drinking the Nouveau from Manoir du Carra after it had sat around for too long. It was still surprisingly good. Having enjoyed the photos of the Sambardier family and the estate on their charming website, I was delighted to try one of their cru wines.
My impression was similar to Eric’s: the Manoir du Carra Brouilly was surprisingly weighty. Eric is very well educated, so he calls this quality “gravitas.” According to Eric, the Brun Côte de Brouilly had “an almost stern berry aroma” with “an earthy, stony quality.” It was complex on the palate and made him feel “contemplative” but in the end “buoyant.”
I wouldn’t go that far in describing the Brouilly that we tasted. What struck me immediately was its stunning ruby color, and the deep, dark berry nose (“Stern!”), as well as the silky texture. It was a bit tart, too, like rhubarb, but I missed the complexity that Eric described. In spite of the serious first impression it created, it turned out to be an easy-drinking wine. After all, Beaujolais is made entirely from the unassuming Gamay grape, not blended to produce the complex flavors of a Bordeaux, but designed to be joyous.
Next month the wine will be a white (yes!): Sancerre. Eric says to enjoy it with food, and mentions goat cheese and, intriguingly, cucumber fritters! I can hardly wait…