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Category Archives: France

Longing for Some Summertime Red Wine

It’s only the first week of July, but it already feels like a long, hot summer. Here in NorCal we’ve seen near-record heat including a week-long heatwave (seemed more like a month) with temperatures pushing, or exceeding 110°F…and that just was in June!

Naturally, when the mercury rises this high, we all gravitate to the cold, crisp wines. But seriously, one can only drink so much Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Rosé. (Yes, I know the more adventurous among you are cracking refreshing Albariño, Picpoul, and Torrontés. I’ve had my share of those, too!)

What I’m really craving right now is a nice, juicy red wine. But it’s just too hot for a big, heavy Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Malbec. What is one to do???

Beaujolais.

No, not the young, fun, fruity Beaujolais Nouveau released in November. You should have finished all of that by now. I’m referring to the grown-up, big brother: Beaujolais Villages wines. Made from the same Gamay grape as the youthful Nouveau wines, “standard” Beaujolais is often aged in oak before release, giving it more depth of character while still retaining that light, refreshing flavor that can satisfy your red wine craving in the heat of summer.

The Beaujolais region is located just south of Burgundy, but is actually part of the Rhone region of France. With a warm growing season, the resulting wines tend to be fruity, yet with proper care and aging, can develop complex flavors. The most prized Beaujolais wines are those from the 10 “crus”; those vineyards recognized as the best in the region.

Wandering through my local Total Wine & More store the other day, I was in search of a  red wine that I could pair with a grilled, New York strip steak that wouldn’t be too heavy in the sweltering heat. In a momentary flash of inspiration, I asked the store associate to direct me to the Beaujolais section. He gladly did so, but as I reached for the familiar label of the Louis Jadot Beaujolais (Retail $11.99), the clerk suggested I up my game.Jadot

While there’s nothing wrong with the Jadot (and I bought a bottle for a BBQ that would be attended by less-discerning palates), for a mere $3 more, we could enjoy one of the best-of-the-best…a cru Beaujolais Villages wine. Powerless to resist, a bottle of Jean La Perriere Belles Grives Morgon 2014 landed in my cart. Morgon is one of the cru vineyards, producing superior Gamay. As you can see, the best quality can be had for a bargain price!

As expected, my craving for red wine and red meat was satisfied that night. The steak was cooked to perfection, and with wine was magnificent; fruity and light, yet deep and complex.

 

Belles Grives

Good price point for a Cru Beaujolais. Brick red with garnet rim. Aromas of raspberries and black pepper. Flavors of ripe raspberry, earth, and smoke, with medium body and super soft tannins. Finish is long with red berry, plum, and baking spice.

Retail: $14.99 ($13.49 with the six-bottle discount.)

 

That’s not the end of the story, however. A few days later, we popped open the Jadot at the BBQ party. It was a huge hit, and complemented the Tri-Tip very nicely! Fruit-forward with raspberry and cherry, but less of the oak influence and depth, everyone loved it. That bottle didn’t last long!

If you are already growing weary of summer, and can’t bear the thought of one more Rosé or crisp white, head down to your favorite wine shop and grab a bottle or three of a wallet-friendly Beaujolais Villages red wine. It’ll help you through until Cabernet season!

Cheers!

 

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Review: Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac Rosé

Summer is the traditional season for Rosé wine. There is a movement afoot to encourage wine lovers to enjoy Rosé all year, and I’m all on board. I do enjoy Rosé wine year around. Nevertheless, lighter bodied, crisp wines taste best to me (any many others) when the weather is warmer. Poolside, lakeside, or parkside, a refreshing Rosé is a great way to enjoy a summer afternoon.

Rosé wine comes to the plate with two strikes against it. First of all, many people I know still think all Rosé wine is like the syrupy sweet White Zinfandel popular in the 80’s and 90’s. This is simply not true. The reality is that a good many of the Rosé wines available today are crafted in the classic, Provençal style: dry, crisp, and refreshing. Still, some simply aren’t willing to give dry Rosé a try. I say their loss is my gain: more for me!

Strike two is that there are a lot of low quality Rosé wines out there, lacking in flavor, interest, or character. I suppose this is to be expected when a product suddenly becomes as popular as Rosé has in recent years. Everybody wants a piece of the action; to ride the wave while it is high. So they’ll rush to put something, anything out there to enter the market before the tide turns. (I’m detecting a surf theme here. Appropriate, given that Rosé is a great beach wine!)

Fortunately, there are also many excellent Rosé wines available! I found one of them recently at my local Total Wine & More store. Château Bélingard AOC Bergerac Rosé (Retail: $11.99) is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. As one might expect from the use of these two big, bold red grapes, this Rosé has a bit more body and heft than most. Make no mistake, though; this is still a dry, crisp, refreshing wine!

logo-header-chateau-belingard-03

Founded in 1820, Château Bélingard is located in Southwest France, in the Bergerac appellation, east of the more famous Bordeaux region. While Bergerac wines are made predominantly with the same varietals as those of Bordeaux – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based red wines, and Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon based whites – Bergerac wines are often considered softer and less serious. I don’t take this as a criticism in any way! On the contrary, these are high quality, value wines! Not everyone is a collector or connoisseur, and there is definitely a need for affordable, easy-drinking, everyday wines.

In addition to this Rosé, Château Bélingard produces an impressive portfolio of reds and whites, including a Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon/Muscadelle blend, and several levels of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blends. Below is my review of the Rosé, which we recently enjoyed as a cool refresher on a 102°F Sunday evening.

 IMG_2337

IMG_2342Salmon, almost orange color. Aromas and flavors of tropical fruit including mango and passion fruit, with a hint of mandarin, along with light red berry flavors of strawberry and ripe raspberry. Dry with medium body and a soft, round mouthfeel and lively acidity make this a refreshing wine, yet big enough to pair with grilled tri-tip steaks or other summer BBQ fare.

We really enjoyed this wine! I rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars (92 – 94 points).

Check your local retailer and seek out some of this amazing Rosé wine! You’ll be glad you did!

Cheers!

Review & A Bit of History: Jean Claude Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrate Harvest 2015

beaujolais-arrivee

It’s a day that is anticipated and celebrated by excited fans everywhere. The third Thursday in November, at one minute past midnight, Beaujolais Nouveau Day begins. On that day, at that time, thousands of cases of new wine are shipped from the vineyards, in the MapBeaujolais region of France, to Paris, and then on to the thirsty masses all over the world. The tradition evolved as a regional event in the early 20th century, and the day was originally designated annually on November 15th. However, in 1985, as the celebration gained in popularity throughout France, this was changed to the third Thursday each year. With no more inconvenient Monday or Tuesday release dates, it became possible for revelers to celebrate over a four-day weekend. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me!

Here in the United States, Beaujolais Nouveau Day happily coincides with our Thanksgiving Day. With a taste and body profile not unlike Pinot Noir, a bright, lively, fruity Beaujolais Nouveau pairs very well with the traditional turkey dinner.

Beaujolais Nouveau is about as un-snobbish as you can get in a red wine. It’s not made for high-brow, serious, sniffing-and-swirling tasting events. It’s an easy-drinking, fun wine meant for a party! Made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be consumed young. Unlike most red wines, that are aged for several months or years, Beaujolais Nouveau is unaged, and released just weeks after harvest. In production, the wine undergoes a short fermentation process, with the skins in contact with the juice for only a brief time. This results in a light, acidic wine with minimal tannins. In this way, it is often compared to a summery white wine, rather than a more traditional red wine. And like a white wine, Beaujolais Nouveau is best served chilled. As a light, low-tannin wine, the recommendation is to enjoy your Beaujolais Nouveau within six months.

This year, my Beaujolais Nouveau selection was the Jean Claude Debeaune Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrate Harvest 2015. Here’s my review, posted to Vivino.

Beaujolais Nouveau

Delightful and lively. Beaujolais Nouveau is always a fun wine. Purple color in the glass, the aromas greet the nose with raspberry, strawberry, and cherry. The flavors on the palate are raspberry, cranberry, cherry, and red currant. The tannins are light and the acidity is brisk. This wine wakes up your mouth! The finish lingers with red fruit and a bit of peppery spiciness. Definitely a gulpable wine!

Purchased at Total Wine & More, $9.99

Rated 4 out of 5 stars

If you haven’t tried Beaujolais Nouveau yet, it’s not too late. There’s still some in stores and it would be a great addition to a Christmas dinner table, a New Year’s Eve party (before the bubbles, of course), or for any other reason you can think of to celebrate! If you miss out, don’t fret. The next Beaujolais Nouveau day is on November 17, 2016. Mark your calendars now!

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Information Sources:

[1] http://www.intowine.com/beaujolais2.html

[2] http://www.wineweekly.com/wine-basics/beaujolais-nouveau-answers/

[3] http://www.beaujolaisnouveauday.com/

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