Beaujolais wine explained and some lovelies to try

Domaine de l'Oseraie Morgon 2011 beaujolais wine review

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 wine – and it is better slightly chilled.

Beaujolais wine 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.waitrosecellar.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
    Domaine Matray Saint Amour beaujolais wine review
    Domaine Matray Saint Amour

    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.

This column first appeared in the Liverpool Post on February 22 2013

Warm yourself with glugs of Spanish grenache wines

Honoro Vera wine review grenache

WELL, what a week of snow. You may have escaped it , but if you didn’t I bet you couldn’t wait to be tucked up at home in your onesie. Don’t worry, that will be our secret.

Once the door is locked fast against the cold, is there a more satisfying way of thumbing your nose to the snow and ice outside by tucking into winter warming casseroles and glugs of peppery, juicy red wines?

It wasn’t planned this way, but two wines I’ve enjoyed most with my comfort food in the past wintry days were both Spanish, with garnacha at their heart.

The grape is known as grenache in France and is mainly found in blends in the south of the country. In both countries it is seen at the heart of luscious reds, distinctive rosés and in the southern Rhone, as a key grape in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

I’ve warmed to this grape, native to Aragon in Spain, over the past few months. It has matador strength alcohol and dances flavour flamencos. It makes tempting, gluggable, juicy wine; but its alcohol levels can easily lead you astray. This is no subtle cool climate grape.

Wine expert Tim Atkin – often seen on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen show – ran a masterclass at a recent Three Wine Men event I attended and he described grenache as “a very old grape which loves sunshine. If it could walk it would be the first to the sunbeds”.

My first winter warmer was Honoro Vera (£14.99, Morrisons, 14.5 abv). It’s a bold rustic red from the Calatayud wine region in Zaragoza.

The tannins were soft and it tickled and teased with sparky white pepper notes and stewed plums.

Apart from anything, it had the most beautiful artwork on the label. A mysterious eye tantalised as I sipped.

The previous vintage Honoro Vera 2010 (by producer Bodegas Ateca) won gold in the International Wine Challenge Awards. The 2011 I tried was one of the best 110 wines in the 2012 Wines from Spain Awards. Judges – coincidentally Honoro Vera wineheaded by Tim Atkin – described it as a “rich red colour, meaty, spicy, with explosive bright sweet strawberry fruit”.

(You can find a full list of the Wines from Spain 2012 awards at www.winesfromspain.com)

My second Spanish warmer: Taste the Difference Priorat (Sainsbury, £10.49, 14.5 abv) is 40% syrah, 40% garnacha and 20% carignan and has powerful black fruit on the nose, and cocoa-edged vanilla. It has concentrated fruit to taste with a juicy, sultry finish.

Priorat comes from Catalunya and alongside Rioja is one of only two wine regions in Spain to hold the prestigious classification Qualified Denomination of Origin (DOCa).

Grapes grow on old vines on steep, rugged terraces in red slatey, mineral soils known as llicorella. The soil keeps the vines warm, helping grapes to ripen. The vines fight hard to seek the nutrients they need, resulting in grapes with concentrated flavours. Together with oak aging, Taste the Difference Priorat is a rich, complex wine.

Drink garnacha with big meaty dishes; braised or roast beef; especially with big bowls of casseroled lamb. Even torn chunks of rustic bread and slithers of Spanish Manchengo cheese can make an indulgent winter wine wonderland.

This column first appeared in the Liverpool Post on  February 21 2013