At the beginning of lockdown, I created a free “open mic” section on my website for small food and drink businesses to explain what they do and give people five reasons to buy from them. It’s a good way to focus on what it actually is about a business that makes it worth supporting, so I thought I’d apply a similar approach to this week’s column about beaujolais. It’s a wine I’ve often written about before, but still one that people seem to need encouragement to buy.
1 It’s not just about nouveau (the new season’s beaujolais, released in the third week of November). While a bit of fun, that has never been the region’s best wine and gave it an unjustifiably lightweight reputation.
2 Beaujolais is perfect for this time of year. Its typical flavours are summer berries, especially raspberries and cherries. Liquid summer pudding in a glass.
3 You can drink it with so many things, from the classic French picnic of baguette and saucisson to a vegetable curry; it’s also great with fish, especially salmon and tuna.
4 It’s cheaper than neighbouring burgundies. Looking at some of the prices, you might not think so, but believe me, it is. (Thank the fact that it’s not held in such reverence.)
5 It’s fashionably modest in alcohol; many are 12.5%, and few go over 13.5%.
Not all bojo, which I really must stop calling it, is great, of course. There are some weedy and underwhelming examples (I’ve never been a fan of the widely available Georges Duboeuf, for example). In general, beaujolais villages is better than basic beaujolais, but not invariably. I like the joyously gluggable La Galoche 2019 from Domaine Saint-Cyr (£14 Uncharted Wines, 12.5%), which I’d serve as cold as rosé.
I also think the difference between the crus – the villages after which the better-quality beaujolais are named – is sometimes overplayed, falling back on clicheed sexual stereotypes such as that fleurie is “feminine” and morgon more butch. It depends on the producer and the vintage. Fortunately, 2018, the most widely available one right now, was a particularly good year; 2017 is decent, too (you may also be surprised that beaujolais ages).
So, in short, be grateful that beaujolais doesn’t have much of a fan base and that suppliers who normally rely on restaurants to list it have wines to offload. Beaujolais is charming. It’s versatile. It’s smashable. And it’s red wine for people who like white. Yes, I know that’s more than five reasons, but then I’m a fan.
Four lovely beaujolais that are not nouveau
The Wine Society’s Beaujolais Villages £4.95 a half-bottle, 13%. If you live on your own, this popular, own-label bottling is the ideal summer treat. Also available in full-size bottles for £7.95.
Taste the Difference Beaujolais Villages Côteaux Granitiques 2018 £9.50 Sainsbury’s, 13%. Consistently one of my favourite supermarket beaujolais – the 2018 is particularly good.
Domaine de La Grosse Pierre Fleurie Bel Air 2018 £84.48 a case of six (ie, £14.08 a bottle), plus delivery, Howard Ripley Wines, 12.5%. The drawback is the high delivery charge (£15-18 if you’re outside London), but this is so glorious, and for once lives up to the floral moniker, I couldn’t bear to leave it out.
Domaine des Billards Saint-Amour 2018 Héritiers Loron £15.99 Laithwaites (or £14.39 as part of a mixed case), 14.5%. A rare example of a high abv beaujolais: deep, rich and cherry-flavoured. Perfect if you’re a lover of fuller-bodied reds.
• For more by Fiona Beckett, go to matchingfoodandwine.com
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