As I sit here on a Sunday morning enjoying a Bellini and listening to the Buffalo Bills pregame, I start to think about wine for the holidays, Thanksgiving to be exact. Having the right wine on this “party for your palate” holiday is crucial. As you read along, I will break down Beaujolais, Burgundy, Gewurztraminer, and bubbles. I’ll give interesting facts and tasting notes, as well as why they belong with dinner and (most importantly) which ones to bring that will be a crowd pleaser and not break the bank.
I am going to break it down so that even if you have never had a sip of wine, you will be running to the store and bragging at Thanksgiving dinner as if you were the new sommelier (certified wine professional) in the family.
First up is a wine from southeast France. The flavors your palate will experience are fresh raspberries, bright cherry, and hints of cranberry. Depending on what village (cru) it’s from you could even get hints of banana and bubble gum, yum!
The acidity is high and the tannins are low. Acidity is the tartness and leaves you refreshed always wanting more. Tannin, on the other hand, is the dryness that sends your tongue to the roof of your mouth. This does a great job cutting fat in dishes.
The alcohol is usually lower in this wine (10-12.5%) than normal because is a relatively a cool climate grape and is not overly concentrated.
Has anyone guessed it yet?
It is BEAUJOLAIS, it comes in many different styles but the grape varietal, Gamay, never changes.
The wine comes in many different styles is because it is broken up into ten “crus,” or villages, all just a little different from each other. Here is a list of all ten starting from north to south.
1. Saint Amour- light, floral and bright fruit
2. Julienas- Volcanic larger in body spice, flowers, and red fruit
3. Chenas- earthy and floral known for their ageability
4. Moulin-a-Vent- touch of tannin and develop spice and earthy qualities with age
5. Fleurie- rose pedals and ripe fruit, cooler climate
6. Chiroubles- cool climate light, fresh, similar to Fleurie
7. Morgon- often dense creating cherry and darker fruit characters
8. Regnie- Black currant, raspberry “new guy to the party”
9. Cote de Brouilly- volcanic, touch of minerality and cranberries
10. Brouilly- volcanic, warmer temp, think strawberry and red currant
What makes Beaujolais unique is that it goes through a fermentation process called Carbonic Maceration. This means whole grapes and stems are thrown into a tank to ferment with the skins unbroken. When this is all completed regular fermentation begins. Carbonic maceration creates that banana and candied fruit qualities you get from Beaujolais because very little tannin (tartness) is extracted, causing the grape to be light and floral.
The qualities that make Beaujolais great, pair beautifully with the leanness of a turkey, the fluffiness of the stuffing and the fruitiness of the famous cranberry sauce.
When picking out not just Beaujolais but any wine, the producer can tell you a lot about the juice. For example, in Champagne (which we will get to soon), Vilmart is an amazing producer and I trust all of his product. In Beaujolais, Michel Tete who is located in the heart of Julienas, and Laurent Martray who has crop all over Brouilly, are two producers who stand out in my book.
Here are some specific wines I have had in the past that are for certain in need of a spot on your Thanksgiving table:
Julienas “Cuvee tradition” Michel Tete ($16-18)
Morgon “Cote du Py Jean- Marc Lafont ($13-15)
Fleurie Jean Louis Duraive Cuvee Veilles Vignes “Le Clos” ($50-55)
Brouilly Domaine Laurnet Martray Combaity Vielles Vignes ($17-19)
Beaujolais is one of my favorite regions in the world and it goes with way more than just Thanksgiving dinner. I want everyone to experience the elegance of gamay and to grow the popularity of this amazing wine.