Beaujolais: The greatest of all summer drinks

Basic Beaujolais, in good hands, can be a true vin de soif but quality rises exponentially over €15

 

One of my first wine trips was to the Beaujolais region. On a balmy summer evening, I found myself wandering along the tree-lined banks of the river Saône in Mâcon, where I came across a large airy restaurant serving a no-choice menu to diners seated at long benches. It turned out to be run by the wives of members of the nearby Beaujolais co-operative. I started with a plate of local rosette salami, radishes served with salt and butter, followed by a grilled local sausage with plainly boiled potatoes and mustard, a green salad, then finishing with a local cheese.

I ordered a half bottle of Beaujolais-Villages and fell into conversation, using my rudimentary franglais with a Parisian couple returning from holiday and a father who appeared more interested in us than talking to his children. We shared a bottle of Fleurie, which improved my French-speaking skills no end. Every time I drink a glass of Beaujolais I think of that evening, the perfect introduction to the greatest of all summer drinks. 

The white wines of Beaujolais are very underrated and can be excellent. The rosés can have real charm, but the vast majority of wines are red. Basic Beaujolais, in good hands, can be a true vin de soif, light fresh and fruity. Beaujolais Villages is the next step up in quality, generally with more concentration, flavour and a bit of structure. At the very top, there are 10 villages or crus, each with a different form of granitic soil. As a result, the wines vary from light and elegant in crus such as Chiroubles, Régnié and Brouilly to more full-bodied, structured and long-lived in Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent. Happily all Beaujolais can be drunk the day you buy it, and it goes very well with a variety of foods. 

At the less expensive end of things, Aldi has a light, juicy Beaujolais for €7.49, and Marks & Spencer a very good value Beaujolais Villages for €11.80. Supervalu has the Goichot Beaujolais Villages (€12.99) and Centra the Thorin (€11.99). All of these are very drinkable, but once you pay more than €15, the quality rises exponentially.  

Wines Direct has a range of excellent wines from Jean-Paul Brun, Bret Brothers (who also produce some great white wines from the Mâconnais) and others. Mitchell & Son also has a fine selection of Beaujolais including the Domaine de la Madone below. For an extra four euros you could treat yourself to the same producer’s very stylish, fruit-filled Fleurie (€20.95).

Other favourites, available from independents, include Domaine des Nugues, Domaine du Vissoux, Desvignes, Longere, Chasselay, Frédéric Berne and Daniel Bouland. The Beaujolais region was one of the first to practice low-intervention winemaking; here Domaines Lapierre and Foillard are the names to seek out.  

Beaujolais Le Ronsay 2019, Jean-Paul Brun

Beaujolais Le Ronsay 2019, Jean-Paul Brun

13.5%, €16.55
Vibrant and juicy with bouncy light refreshing dark fruits. Perfect summer drinking by itself or with mixed snacks before dinner. 
Stockists: Wines Direct, Mullingar, winesdirect.ie 

Beaujolais-Villages 2018, Domaine de la Madone

Beaujolais-Villages 2018, Domaine de la Madone

12.5%, €16.95
Classic Beaujolais with enticing refreshing raspberry and strawberry fruits. This had me dreaming of a plate of mixed charcuterie, including some paté en croute, and semi-firm cheeses with crusty sourdough. 

Stockists: Mitchell & Son, D1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; 1601 Off-licence, Kinsale; Myles Doyle Grocer, Gorey, Nectar Wines, D18, Nectarwines.com; Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown, Whelehanswines.ie

Côte de Brouilly Terres Dorée 2018, Jean-Paul Brun

Côte de Brouilly Terres Dorée 2018, Jean-Paul Brun

12.5%, €23.85

For me, a glass of this is summer holidays, the delightful, fragrant aromas and flowing succulent fruits enjoyed with a grilled Toulouse sausage and a salad in the evening sun. 

Stockists; Wines Direct, Mullingar, winesdirect.ie 

Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Les Charmes 2019

Morgon
Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Les Charmes 2019

13%, €27.99

Racy acidity, fleshy seductive dark cherry fruits with a pleasing grippy edge. You could  drink this throughout the meal with most foods, but a roast chicken or creamy chicken dishes would be prefect. 

Stockists: 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; The Corkscrew, D2, thecorkscrew.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Wineonline.ie. 

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