Beaujolais is a French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée wine generally made of the Gamay grape which has a thin skin and is low in tannins. The wine takes its name from the historical wine producing province of Beaujolais. First cultivated by the Romans who established the region as part of a trading route, the tradition and expertise associated with winemaking was kept up long after the fall of the Empire. From the seventh century through the Middle Ages the art was kept alive by the Benedctine Monks. In the tenth century the region got its name from the town of Beaujeu and was ruled by the Lords of Beaujeu until the fifteenth century when the region was ceded to the Duke of Burgundy. The wines actually stayed local and only began expanding with the establishment of the French Railroad in the nineteenth century which brought it to a very lucrative Paris Market.
The winery was founded in 1859 by Louis Henry Denis Jadot who had already established himself as a substantial producer in the region with his purchase of the winery Clos de Ursules back in 1826. The family tradition of winemaking stayed intact for more than a century until its sale in 1985 to Rudy Kopf, Jadot’s U.S. Importer. The original family does keep an interest in the company with Pierre Henry Gagey holding the position of president.
France has long been known as a wine-producing country and it does produce a wide variety of fine wines. Although we here in the states mostly think of France as the home of champagne, which it is. However, a good French red or white is really of very high quality and very satisfying, although lighter than its Italian cousin. Originally produced as a celebration of the harvest once the Beaujolais AOC, a regulatory body was established in 1937, it could only be sold after December 15 in the year of the harvest. Taking its name from the region, as I said, which is just north of the city of Lyon, it is still relatively unknown, but in some vintages Beaujolais will produce more wine than the regions of Cote d’Or and Chablis combined.
I found this wine first because I liked the label, which is usually a draw for me. It is a dry red wine with a slightly acidic taste, again, indicative of the region, but does manage to add a slight touch of sweetness. It is very refreshing and light bodied, so it stands well on its own as an aperitif with very slight hints of strawberry, black cherry and spice. But the dominant taste is that of the light-skinned Gamay grape, the main ingredient. I guess that sometimes, the additional flavors can be fun and add some body or a more distinct personality to a wine. But a good quality grape and a correspondingly good fermentation process defines wine.
Just as an aside, the Gamay grape, from which this wine is made exclusively, is a cross between a pinot noir and the ancient white variety, Gouais, a central European fruit, most likely introduced to the region by the Romans. Seems as though wherever the ancient Romans travelled, they left behind a trail of wine grapes. I guess they are more attractive than the standard road sign.
Now, as a French wine, this vintage has it all. It is a bit on the lighter side, but that by no means is to say that it lacks flavor. With a slightly acidic taste and an alcohol content of 13% it pairs well with light cheeses and is perfectly suited to a wine and cheese party or a holiday get-together. It also enhances dishes such as duck, goose or game birds, as well as white fish. Because it is a red wine you would not expect such suggestions, but remember, this is light enough to enhance the flavors of lighter fare, rather than overtake them. And in the $12-14 price range, it is perfect for someone just starting out on their own wine journey.