What to drink…

Mas­ter of Wine Richard Hem­ming ex­am­ines the wines of Beau­jo­lais

Living France - - À La Maison -

After years in the dol­drums, Beau­jo­lais is resur­gent – and pro­duc­ing some of the best-value red wines in France. For years, the fash­ion for big, hefty reds meant that the nat­u­ral qual­i­ties of Beau­jo­lais – the quin­tes­sen­tial light red – went un­ap­pre­ci­ated. Then came the 2009 vin­tage, which was one of the best in decades. Peo­ple started to take no­tice, and Beau­jo­lais has been bounc­ing back ever since.

It is made from a sin­gle grape va­ri­ety, Ga­may, which is rarely found out­side the re­gion. Most Beau­jo­lais is bright pur­ple in colour, light in body and low in tan­nin, with a crunchy, re­fresh­ing, acidic twang. Any­thing la­belled Beau­jo­lais-Vil­lages or Beau­jo­lais Nou­veau is likely to be made in this style. The ‘Nou­veau’ label is tra­di­tion­ally the first re­lease of the new vin­tage in France, but it has fallen out of favour with UK drinkers over the last 10 years.

That is only part of the story, how­ever. Within the Beau­jo­lais re­gion there are 10 vil­lages that qual­ify to use their name on the label, the most fa­mous of which is prob­a­bly Fleurie. These days, the wine trade is get­ting very ex­cited about the po­ten­tial of these wines, which man­age to com­bine a light­ness of touch with com­pelling com­plex­ity of flavour at a frac­tion of the price of Bur­gundy or Bordeaux.

For most wine drinkers, Beau­jo­lais is still off the radar. Re­dis­cov­er­ing the wines of this re­gion is an ex­er­cise in pure plea­sure – so here are three to get you started.

“Beau­jo­lais is made from a sin­gle grape va­ri­ety, Ga­may, which is rarely found out­side the re­gion”

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