I tasted my first Beaujolais Cru while in my French Wine Scholar class a few years ago. As a Pinot Noir fan, especially the earthy/dirty/funky kind, these Crus were right up my alley. I was smitten!
They’re complex and interesting – and generally won’t break the bank. Depending on the specific Cru, flavors can range from peach, apricot and flowers, to spice and meaty undertones. And these wines are drinkable year-round. Delicious, and can even take a slight chill during the toasty summer months, and downright perfect for the upcoming holiday season. Beaujolais Crus are excellent “default wines” that can go with everything from an outdoor BBQ to a Thanksgiving table.
The only issue I have with them is that they’re somewhat challenging to find. Although, with the recent support and buzz from sommeliers, that might (hopefully) be changing soon.
Each of the ten Crus has its own personality – Fleurie is aromatic and floral, Moulin-a-Vent is usually fuller bodied and age-worthy, while Morgon tends have ripe cherry fruit flavors and silky tannins. And it’s my favorite of the Crus 🙂 which is why I started my Beaujolais section with it – here’s the outline for Morgon.
I love historical fiction, it’s one of my favorite reading genres. I recently finished “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah which is about two sisters’ lives during WWII. The novel takes place in several different regions of France – from Paris to the Pyranees.
One of the story’s main settings is the fictional village of Carriveau. The village is supposed to be located somewhere in the Loire Valley – which in our nonfiction world is sometimes referred to as “The Garden of France.” (In ‘The Nightingale’ the eldest sister’s farm is, somewhat cheesily, named “Le Jardin.”)
Even though wine isn’t frequently mentioned in the novel, while reading it I couldn’t help but envision vineyards of Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, and villagers downing glasses of Vouvray and Chinon at local cafes. At least, until the Nazi occupation of the area.
Carriveau does not exist, so I decided to pick a location as close to this fictional village as I could for my next outline. I chose Chinon – located just southwest of the city of Tours (which plays a major part in one of the sister’s lives).
I often find Chinon to be an easygoing, medium bodied wine with crazy aromatics that remind me of my Grammy. Seriously, it’s like someone spilled a dash of her rosewater perfume into the wine. I get that aroma almost every time, and it makes my heart happy.
Exactly one year ago, my hubs and I were in France for two weeks trying to cram in as many of my favorite wine regions as we possibly could. We did amazingly well – visiting Champagne, Burgundy, Beaujolais and both the Northern and Southern Rhône. And while I loved each of these places, I would honestly put Burgundy at the bottom of my list.
It certainly wasn’t the wines of the region – in fact one of my favorite bottles of the trip was a Pernot Belicard Puligny-Montrachet (and a Bouvier Gevrey Chambertin was up there as well). Rather, it was the overarching pretentious attitude that seemed to permeate the region. Granted, we were staying at a 5 star hotel with a Michelin starred restaurant just outside of Beaune. But while I can swing 5 stars America style – the French take it to a whole new level that’s just way outside my comfort zone.
That being said, there were definitely moments when I felt like I was experiencing the real Burgundy . . . like when we pulled off the side of RN74 to watch some workers busy at harvest, or wolfed down Beef Bourguignon at a small, crowded little bistro in Beaune. These experiences were much more memorable than the fancy schmancy hotel or restaurant with a menu full of items I couldn’t pronounce or identify WTF they were when they were served.
Vineyards in Fixin
Classic Beef Bourguignon
So perhaps it’s rather ironic that I recently joined the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin – a group described as “an exclusive bacchanalian fraternity of Burgundy wine enthusiasts.” Just typing that makes my eyes roll it sounds so incredibly pretentious.
Historically, the Confrérie has consisted of older, wealthy, white men (shocking, I know). My “liberal and casual” local chapter was looking to add more women and younger people. Since I can’t remember the last time my 44 year old self was included in the classification “younger people” – I was intrigued. And having access to a cellar full of Burgundy wines doesn’t hurt either. 😉
The Château du Clos de Vougeot is the headquarters of the Confrérie, so I figured I should know something about this area prior to my official “knighting” ceremony – fascinating history of this place, here’s the Vougeot outline.
And P.S. – so far, what I’ve seen of my fellow Chevaliers is a bunch of wine loving individuals who don’t take themselves too seriously. And I’m at least a decade younger than most of them. 🙂
I’ve been taking the Rhône Valley “Master Level” program through the Wine Scholar Guild for the past few months, so lately I’ve been completely immersed in all things Rhône related. Which is not a bad place to be!
Although I’m confident in my knowledge of the Northern Rhône, the South hasn’t come quite as easily.
Maybe it’s because there are about 27 permitted grape varieties in the South compared to only four in the North. Or because the Southern Rhône represents a whopping 95% of the area’s total production. But it’s likely due to the fact that one of my best wine days ever occurred last Fall when my hubby & I did a private all day tour of Côte Rôtie and Condrieu. Places I’ve visited in person tend to stick better in my brain.
Site of our guide, Vincent’s, future tasting room in Condrieu
Sampling Syrah in Côte Rôtie (with permission of course!)
Whatever the reason, I decided to pick a Southern Rhône Cru at random (congrats Vacqueyras!) and do a more detailed outline on that region. At least then I’m guaranteed to nail exam questions on this area. 😉 Here’s the Vacqueyras outline.
[Note: There was some conflicting information among sources while I was putting together this outline. Since I’m taking the exam through the WSG, I went with their materials – even if they differed from GuildSomm. As a general rule though, I prefer and trust GuildSomm as a resource pretty much above everything else.]