From the Wine Cellar: Beaujolais for the New Year

The best of the gamay grape

Beaujolais wines are among the most versatile in the world, as the gamay grape that is the source of Beaujolais can yield fruity wines that are similar to a cross between the tastes of pinot noir and merlot, or it can produce leaner, mildly tannic wines that have some of the elements of the Bordeaux of St-Emilion.

Moreover, expect to see more of them. Beaujolais is technically a part of Burgundy, even though the rest of Burgundy uses pinot noir as its primary grape. But gamay is similar enough that it’s increasingly been used as an "entry level" wine and marketed, especially in Europe, as "Bourgogne Gamay."

Here are some recent releases from different producers from different vintages and from several of the villages that are known as crus, or the best vineyards.

2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages ($10). Good mixture of fresh raspberry flavors with touches of balancing bitters in the finish. There are light tannins, but it could use a little more "oompf" in the mid-palate.

2011 Georges Duboeuf Morgon ($13). Ripe cherry flavors with good tannins is the story here. Morgon is one of the best of the Beaujolais cru villages, and here the vintners have produced a well-structured and well-made wine — a perfect choice for a light lunchtime red that will go with most food choices.

2011 George Dubouef Chiroubles ($13). Nice rounded fruit with lots of Bing cherry flavors plus a balancing sparkling acidity and a long gamey finish. Good companion for ribs.

2010 Joseph Drouhin Brouilly ($18). Good, tangy raspberry and black cherry flavors with a welcome touch of crème fraîche in the finish. Very fresh, yet mellow. Try it with a quiche or other mild cheese dishes.

2009 Potel Aviron Juliénas ($19). Almost like a Bordeaux with cabernet franc leanings. Good richness, yet lean with pencil lead accents light tannins and some bacon fat. A very good food wine, perhaps with a carbonara.


2009 Domaine des Braves Regnie ($18). Very dark fruit flavors, but a light mid-body and just a little thin overall, although it has a long finish. But for those of you who like Manhattans, this wine has the wonderful flavor of  the cherry you fish out of the bottom of the glass. Some woodsiness in there, as well. Just drink and enjoy.