IN THE classic 70s play, Abigail’s Party, the terribly snobby Bev puts a bottle of red wine in the fridge. How we laughed at her snooty ignorance.
Red wine in the fridge? Pah! Except it was beaujolais – and it is better slightly chilled.
Beaujolais may not be fashionable, and it has suffered from the hype around beaujolais nouveau, but it is a pleasant, easy-drinking wine.
The red wines – from the gamay grape – should be youthful and fruity with strawberries, raspberries and red fruit; or they can be more complex with flowers and violets and spice. It is made in such a way that there’s very little tannin – that’s the dryness you feel around your gums – but the process can add flavours of peardrops, even bubble gum.
If you’re staring at wine racks and don’t know where to begin, then here’s a helping hand – my other one is busy pouring wine.
Beaujolais AC produces the most wine. Along with Beaujolais Villages AC, it is the home of nouveau – but put that out of your mind, as only half of the crop accounts for that drinking flurry.
According to official figures, Beaujolais AC produced 40m bottles in 2011. These wines are simple, uncomplicated and enjoyable.
Alain Chatoux Vieilles Vignes Beaujolais 2011 (£10.95, Berry Brothers & Rudd, www.bbr.com) is a ruby wine with aromas of cranberries, cherries, roses and the herby sweetness of freshly pruned twig sap. To taste, tingles of acidity and softly balanced cherries.
Waitrose Beaujolais 2011 (£6.99 or two for £12 until March 13 in store, or at www.waitrosedirect.com) is fresh with punnets of strawberries and a gluggable drink for a midweek “what have you done today?” chat. Its label declares “once transported to the bars and restaurants of Paris by train” which sums up nicely the simple feelgood factor of beaujolais.
The next appellation – Beaujolais Villages. In 2011, it produced 33m bottles from the rolling granite hills where 39 villages have the right to give their wine the name.
A tiny proportion of Beaujolais Villages is white, from chardonnay, and it has been described as “the pearl among the Beaujolais gems”.
Arnaud Aucoeur Beaujolais-Villages Blanc 2011, (£10.95 Yapp Brothers www.yapp.co.uk) has steely mineral notes and fresh apples on the nose with sprightly lemon and apples to taste.
It is, indeed, a gem.
Sitting within the Beaujolais Villages are the Beaujolais Crus – the class acts – these are 10 villages with their own appellation and distinctive tastes.
They are Saint Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnie, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly.
Georges Duboeuf Chiroubles, Beaujolais, (£7.49 – until March 13 – at www.waitrosedirect.com) has a youthful nose of fresh cherries, redcurrants, hints of pepper, violets and wet grass.
Domaine Matray Saint-Amour 2011, (£14.40 Nick Dobson Wines www.nickdobsonwines.co.uk ) should – by its name – be a choice for next year’s Valentine’s. But why wait that long? It has aromas of fresh cherries, green bean pods and a fleck of spiciness with smooth, balanced cherries to taste with a sprinkling of herbs. Blink, and it’s gone.
Domaine de l’Oseraie Morgon 2011, (£10.59, from Strictly Wine www. strictlywine.co.uk) has aromas of cherries, white pepper and a whisper of menthol and to taste is vibrant with cherries and good acidity – 13% abv makes itself known on the finish.