I Love French Wine and Food - A Red Beaujolais
If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Beaujolais region of southeastern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local red Beaujolais Cru (high quality) wine.
Among France’s eleven wine-growing regions Beaujolais surprisingly ranks number eight in total acreage devoted to vineyards. However, it is one of the best-known wine regions in large part because of the enormously successful Beaujolais Nouveau marketing campaign. I review Beaujolais Nouveau wine in a companion article in this series.
Beaujolais wine is usually, but not always, red. Almost all red Beaujolais wine comes from the Gamay grape which, while grown in many parts of the world, does its best in Beaujolais, in particular in the northern part of the region with its granite soil.
There are no cities in the entire region so tourists will have to be satisfied with the 14 mile (23 kilometer) Beaujolais wine route and its villages. Most of them are. This wine route is home to nine of the Beaujolais grands crus including Chiroubles, reviewed below. Not far from the wine route is the city of of Bourg-en-Bresse, whose suburb Brou includes a magnificent Gothic church and museum with numerous paintings from the 16th to 19th Centuries.
Bresse chickens are said to be among the world’s most delicious and most expensive. It is said that when Henry IV stopped in Bresse following a traffic accident and had his first taste of Bresse chickens, he insisted on adding them to the royal menu. Growers must raise these blue-footed birds under strictly defined conditions. A large part of their short life is spent outside, scratching for food. These magnificent birds were the first animals to receive the coveted AOC classification that crowns many great and not-so-great French wines.
Before reviewing the Beaujolais wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Andouillette (Pork Tripe Sausage). For your second course savor Poulet de Bresse (Bresse Chicken). And as dessert indulge yourself with Ile Flottante (Floating Island Meringue).
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Wine Reviewed Domaine du Clos Verdy Chiroubles 2004 12.9% alcohol about $14.50
Let’s start by quoting the marketing materials. George Boulon is the mayor of the town of Chirboubles. He produces this single vineyard Gamay in a fruity and ripe style. Enjoy it as sipping wine or with grilled fish or roasted chicken breast. And now for the review.
My first meal consisted of a barbecued rib eye steak in a homemade sauce of ketchup, horseradish mustard, garlic, pepper, and fresh lemon juice, accompanied by fried potatoes. The wine was nice and fruity with a pleasant acidity that cut the grease. After finishing the meal, the wine was enjoyable on its own. As you know, Beaujolais wines have little tannins, which is one reason that many people who don’t like red wine like Beaujolais. The relative lack of tannins was no problem with this steak.
My next pairing was with a slow-cooked beef stew and potatoes. The wine was very fruity and quite pleasant but not complex or powerful. My final meal involved poulet chasseur (chicken cacciatore) that I made with a lot of care. The wine was round and fruity but short. I wonder if it would have been better with a Bresse chicken.
I tried the Chiroubles with a French Saint-Aubin, a soft cow’s milk cheese traditionally packed in a wooden box. This cheese has a creamy brie-like texture and a stronger taste. Unfortunately the cheese gave this wine a bit of a dull aftertaste.
I next tried the wine with an Italian Bel Paese, a mild buttery cheese suggested to accompany fruity wines or to be eaten alone as a snack or a dessert. The wine and the cheese simply didn’t gel; they remained two separate entities.
Final verdict. I first started drinking Beaujolais decades ago, in part because I was no fan of tannins. Then I sort of dropped Beaujolais with the exception of the yearly tryst with Beaujolais Nouveau. This bottle was my first Beaujolais Cru wine, and I cannot say that I was particularly impressed. There are ten Beaujoalais Crus. I will taste at least one more somewhere along the line, but not before tasting many, many other French wines.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine French or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine websites are www.theworldwidewine.com and http://www.theitalianwineconnection.com