Tasting the Beaujolais Pyramid at Dinner #Winophiles

A variety of Beaujolais wines

Even though they are all made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais wines span quite a range of flavor, body and age-ability

French #Winophiles Take on Beaujolais Beyond Nouveau
This is the time of year when Nouveau Beaujolais bursts onto the market. Met with both excitement (PARTY!) and dread (not another Nouveau release, yuck). This year, the French Winophiles teamed up with some generous Beaujolais Vignerons to offer some wonderful Beaujolais choices beyond Nouveau. Take a look further down this post for a full list of over a dozen links to our findings on Beaujolais beyond Nouveau.
Disclaimer: Three of the four wines featured in my post today were provided as samples. All opinions expressed are mine.

4 beaujolais wines

If you look closely, you can see the wines do get darker from left to right

Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages and the Ten Cru’s
Beaujolais classification follows a general pyramid with basic Beaujolais AOC at the base. The next level is Beaujolais-Villages. The top level is shared by the ten Cru Beaujolais. There isn’t a pecking order among the Cru’s, everyone has their favorite.  Confusingly, the Cru Beaujolais are no longer labeled “Beaujolais” at all, they only carry the village name.  A sure recipe for success in the US (not!). All Beaujolais wines will fit into the general descriptor of lighter, food friendly red wines high in acidity and low in tannins.  Generally, Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages will be light, easy drinking wines perfect for the porch or lunch. The Cru Beaujolais can be more serious, and some are known to be lighter in body while others are quite a bit darker and richer. Let’s dig in!

Beaujolais-Villages

Vignerons de Bel Air Beaujolais-Villages "Natural"

Vignerons de Bel Air Beaujolais-Villages “Natural”

Vignerons de Bel Air
The Vignerons de Bel Air are an interesting group; they are a cooperative of 250 growers with a total of 700 hectares (1 hectare = 2.2 acres) in which all the members estate bottle their wines. This is different from most cooperatives which suffer from quality vs. quantity struggles. The Vignerons de Bel Air retain control over individual wines, thus assuring a personal attention to quality.

Vignerons de Bel Air – Beaujolais-Villages Nature Terra Vitis AOP 2016 (sample, € 10 SRP in Europe)
The lightest in color of all four wines sampled, this wine showed classic Beaujolais earthy nose with bright strawberry fruit from semi-carbonic maceration (traditional Beaujolais vinification). The palate was ripe with lively acidity and low tannins. This wine was very good with the pork dish, on the  lighter side. Perhaps a bit underpowered for steak, it could take a slight chill and be easily served with chicken, pork, fish and be a great wine for the deck in the summer.

The Lighter Cru’s

Chiroubles, Regnie, St. Amour, Fleurie

Gilles Paris Chirobles "Terroir" Beaujolais wine

Gilles Paris Chirobles “Terroir” is a natural wine that conforms to all the typical Cru Beaujolais AOC requirements

Gilles Paris
Gilles Paris takes as natural an approach as possible both in the vineyard and in the cellar. He farms 5 Hectares (HA) organically including vines of up to 50 years in age. The soils in Chiroubles consist of decomposed granite. The vinification is all native yeast fermentation, no sulfur is used either in-process or at bottling. Chiroubles “Terroir” is fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel tank using semi-carbonic maceration for 15-20 days.

Gilles Paris Chiroubles “Les Genets” 2015 AOC ($24 from Sunfish Cellars)
This wine pale to medium in color and slightly hazy, indicating it was unfiltered.   The wine has definite fine sediment, again showing no flavor was lost in filtering. This wine showed typical Beaujolais earthiness, with quite tart cranberry fruit notes, which matched up with the semi-carbonic maceration. Again with lively acidity and low tannins, it showed good Beaujolais character.

If you think all natural wines are funky and flawed, you should seek this wine out. This wine is marked “sans soufre” so no sulfites were used to stabilize the wine. It meets all the AOP requirements and tastes as fresh and pure as any other well made Cru Beaujolais.

The Medium Body Cru’s

Chenas, Brouilly, Cotes de Brouilly, and Julienas

Domaine de Briante Brouilly "Naturellement" Beaujolais wine

Domaine de Briante Brouilly “Naturellement”

Domaine de Briante
Here’s one to save: when you visit Beaujolais, consider staying at the Domaine de Briante! The winery is also a Maison d’Hotes, so they have guest rooms and they look beautiful! The website is in French, so you may want to use Google translate or view the web page in Chrome.

Domaine de Briante Brouilly “Naturellement” AOC 2015 (sample, $15 online)
Medium in tone, this wine showed a bit darker richer side of Cru Beaujolais. Always earthy with darker blueberry and black berry notes.  This wine also showed a bit more tannic punch than the prior wines.  Still not mouth scouring, just a bit more than the earlier examples. This wine shifted over to a place to be comfortable with grilled red meats, although it was still very enjoyable alongside pork chops with a tasty bed of onions, spinach, cornichons and tomatoes.

Cru Beaujolais with Bigger Bones

Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent

Dominique Piron Morgon Côte du Py Beaujolais wine

Dominique Piron Morgon Côte du Py

Dominque Piron 
Dominique Piron’s family has been rooted in Beaujolais since 1590 with 14 generations of winegrowers to their credit. Dominique Piron is engaged in sustainable winegrowing. On winegrowing land filled with old broken-down granite and schist, the watchwords are natural balance and biodiversity.

Fermentation is in the Burgundy style, that is to say not carbonic maceration but traditional fermentation in vats with daily pigeage (foot trodding) or puchdowns, aging in neutral oak, being careful to avoid oaky flavors which aren’t appropriate for Gamay.

Dominque Piron Morgon Cote du Py AOP 2015 (sample, $22 online)
Medium in color, this wine was the darkest of the bunch. Fresh dark fruit and lovely herbs on the nose. Again, deeper in tone with lively acidity and medium tannins. The structure of the Brouilly and the Morgon Cote du Py stood out as deeper and fuller in body than the others. While very good with the pork, this wine would have no trouble pairing with braised, roasted or grilled meats.  Maybe not so much with delicate fish.

Test Driving Beaujolais Over Dinner
Our Beaujolais wines showed different sides of Beaujolais character, but the differences were more of nuance than broad strokes. The first two showed the bright red fruit typical of semi-carbonic maceration, while the last two showed darker fruit, likely due to a more burgundian fermentation style. Still, they were all Gamay and showed lovely Beaujolais character.

We paired the wines with a dish from my favorite cookbook with recipes seeming to originate from the environs around Lyon, which is perfect for Beaujolais.  The dish included pork chops with an unusual (to my American palate) combination of onions, cornichons, spinach and tomatoes, but it was perfect with the Beaujolais. The cornichons gave the entire meal that vinegary acidity and snap, so a wine with lively acidity is needed to match up with the dish. Gamay did the trick!

A selection of Beaujolais wines with Butcher's wife's pork

Pick your favorite Lyonnais dish to serve with Beaujolais. Or hamburgers. Or chicken. Or beef. Beaujolais is versatile!

French Winophiles Posts and Chat
Go ahead and pick up a bottle of Nouveau, but not two!  Instead, take a look at our posts and pick up something equally economical, equally perfect for the dinner table, but with more personality, more depth, or more OOMPH.

Here’s a compilation of our posts. Don’t forget to join our chat!

Join our chat on Saturday November 18 at 10-11am CST (11am EST, 8am PST, and 1700 hours in France)! See what we think of Beaujolais, and tell us about your experiences! Simply log into Twitter and search for the #winophiles tag, and you’re in!

Cote de Cochon Charcutiere or Butcher's Wife's Pork Chops

Recipe is adapted from French Feasts  by Stephane Reynaud

Ingredients

  • 4 bone in pork chops
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 oz. bacon or pancetta chopped into small cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 12 oz. baby spinach leaves
  • 3 oz. cornichons, julienne cut
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled, and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp port wine

Instructions

  • Saute the pork chops in butter in a medium heat cast iron skillet until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Remove the chops from the skillet and keep warm
  • Place the pancetta cubes and onion and cook until the fat has rendered and the onions are lightly browned
  • Add the cornichons and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted and the corninchons are heated through.
  • Add the port and stir with the vegetables to deglaze the pan
  • Add the tomatoes and heat through.
  • Serve the pork and vegetables over couscous or rice.

 

 

Comments
30 Responses to “Tasting the Beaujolais Pyramid at Dinner #Winophiles”
  1. Interesting meal pairing. Sounds delicious. This was a fun adventure.

  2. Wendy Klik says:

    Wow….What a great write up on all the wines of Beaujolais. I can see that pork is a great pairing with wines from this area and your recipe sounds delicious. Thanks for hosting this month Jeff.

  3. Lynn says:

    Appreciated the informational side of your post Jeff! That tad of acidity in a meal/dish definitely works with Beaujolais- I found that first hand too. Thanks for hosting #winophiles this month!

  4. The Beaujolais quality pyramid concept is so easy to understand. Thanks for the idea! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the wine and the pairing. Wonderful as always!

  5. Odd Bacchus says:

    Love the idea of chilling the Beaujolais-Villages a bit. So often, red wines are served too warm, even in really top-notch restaurants. But that wine in particular, what with its rather bodacious acids, surely wouldn’t be quite as good at room temperature as at cellar temperature.

    • thanks, Rob. I started getting better about my red wine temperature in the summer and now I’m really adamant about it being just right. They all need to have just a bit of chill, but the Beaujolais even more so!

  6. That recipe is calling my name! Or maybe it’s my husband calling, begging me to make it soon. I’m always looking for new ways to cook pork chops, and this sounds delicious. Another great post, Jeff. Thanks for hosting this month!

  7. Good to learn a bit about what causes the different flavor profiles.

  8. Great post! Your photos of the wine clearly capture the slight difference in color between the wines. I think I need to attend your photo school!
    I agree tasting the semi-carbonic maceration Beaujolais side by side with the burgundian fermentation style Beaujolais made for a memorable (I hope) comparison for future reference.
    Thank you for hosting!

  9. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    So many lovely Beaujos and quite a few new ones for me to seek out and try! That pork chop with the cornichons also sounds soooo delicious!

  10. Excellent! Enjoyed this post, Jeff.
    So bummed to miss this December Winophiles, especially since I love Beaujolais (work, life, yada yada…). January for sure!

  11. Yum! Interesting recipe — my spouse loves pork and this looks like a worthy new recipe to try!

  12. Jill Barth says:

    I find the cru comparison fascinating. Honestly, I’ve had all of the Rhône crus, side-by-side and individually, but there is something a bit more systematic it seems about Beaujolais. Something consistent in the structure. I am so pleased we had this in-depth month with Beaujolais!

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