Sip on This: Beaujolais
Thanksgiving is always one of the bigger wine pairing holidays of the year. The thing about it is that almost everyone has different food traditions they observe. Believe it or not, some people don’t do turkey. Some do prime rib, beef tenderloins, fried duck or even filets of smoked salmon. It’s hard enough to pair one wine with multiple palates but add in all the different proteins and sides and you’ve got yourself quite a task. Fear not, there is an answer.
Beaujolais. Firstly, it’s not the name of a grape. It’s the region in France where the Gamay grape is grown that goes into the wine. Next, I’ll address the Nouveau in the room. When I say Beaujolais (Bo-jut-lay), most people think of George Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau and rightfully so. It’s probably one of the most well marketed wines out there. It comes out around Thanksgiving and it’s usually a race to get it and have on the table when the turkey drops. Nouveau started in Beaujolais as a sort of harvest event. Local growers of Gamay would pick the grapes, juice them, ferment and bottle them. It makes for a fruity, very easy drinking red wine that can please most anyone in the crowd. Since it’s such a fast fermentation and bottling, the wine is very reflective of everything that affected the harvest that year (precipitation levels, heat, sun exposure, cold, etc.) so it varies year to year. The official release date is November 15th. Any wine lover should check it out at least once in their drinking career.
Now, there is so much more to Beaujolais than just Nouveau. The area has multiple Cru Beaujolais regions that produce some serious juice. Sommeliers and wine geeks alike famously adore these regions. Each one has a different style and profile even though they all grow Gamay. How cool is that? What they have in common and what make them a great table wine for Thanksgiving are their red fruit flavors (prominent cranberry, cherry and raspberry), high acidity levels and they also have some earthy flavors as well. These aren’t sweet wines by any means, but they do have big fruit flavors and balance, which makes them ideal for pairing. So here are two areas that I love.
The Fleurie region is kind of famous for being the lightest style with the most finesse. It has lots of fun aromatics as well as some really easy to appreciate red fruit flavors of tart cherry and cranberry. I always suggest this one to someone who is typically a Pinot Noir drinker or trying to get into red wine. Drink it with anything with cranberry sauce.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Moulin-a-Vent (Moo-lawn-a-vahn). This is a bigger wine with more tannic structure (a bit dryer). With this area, the fruits are also deeper and more full in flavor. Still lighter than a Cabernet or Merlot but something a fan of either could enjoy. This is a great one to enjoy with red meat but can still be enjoyed with turkey.
The Beaujolais region produces some world class red wines that get overlooked a lot. These are perfect wines to have around for the holidays. Try one out on the table this year and see how it goes. But, when trying something new it never hurts to have a bottle of your favorite wine waiting in the wings. Happy Holidays!