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Thanksgiving Wines

Turkey’s Best Friend: Beef up holiday bounty with Beaujolais.


It’s no surprise that we should now turn our enological antennae to Beaujolais, since Beaujolais Nouveau gets released this time of year in France, mainly for export to the United States. You’ll start seeing signs any day now proclaiming “Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive! Since I’ve considered Beaujolais Nouveau before in this column, there’s no real need to rehash the topic here. In essence, Beaujolais Nouveau from France is an early drinking, low-tannin, thin-bodied, fruity wine that’s easy on the palate if not the wallet, given the steady increase in price over the years. It’s no bargain. However, for your holiday wine needs I suggest turning to the three other, lesser-known categories of Beaujolais wines—lesser known here in the United States anyway.

Beaujolais: All Beaujolais (named for the Beaujolais region just south of Burgundy in France) wines—from Beaujolais Nouveau through Cru Beaujolais—are made using the unique Gamay grape. It’s a juicy, fruity grape, probably the closest to purple grape juice in flavor. If Nouveau Beaujolais is the young, frivolous wine of the region, Beaujolais is its workhorse. It’s a blue-collar wine that is drunk in bistros throughout France, produced by 440 different vineyards and wine growers. It’s not terribly interesting, but it is easy to get along with—and, when all is said and done, it does the job; a versatile wine made for comfort that pairs well, not surprisingly, with comfort foods. This red wine will play nicely with most Thanksgiving dishes—everything from roasted turkey to cranberries. Or, just break out a bottle of Beaujolais the next time you sit down to mac & cheese or roasted pork for dinner. It’s the utility infielder of wines.

Beaujolais-Villages: Now, things are beginning to get interesting. These Beaujolais wines are cherry-colored and taste of black currants, raspberries and strawberries. They’re good with a variety of foods, and I’d suggest pairing these wines with roasted turkey or chicken, as well as cold meats and pate. Beaujolais-Villages gets its name from the 39 select villages in which it is made. Good examples are Beaujolais-Villages from the Beaujolais standard-bearer, Georges Duboeuf, and also the consistent and light-bodied Beaujolais-Villages from Louis Jadot. Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Villages is also very appealing. These are wines that will last a year or two in your cellar. By contrast, you wouldn’t want to keep Beaujolais Nouveau around for more than a couple of months.

Cru Beaujolais: If you get confused looking at bottles of Beaujolais in the wine store, it’s probably due to Cru Beaujolais. The Beaujolais section can look bewildering, but that’s because each bottle of Cru Beaujolais carries the name of its Cru appellation, of which there are 10: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié and Saint Amour. Of these varieties of Cru Beaujolais, Brouilly is the most plentiful and commonly found, with about 3,000 acres of vineyards in France. At the other end of the Cru Beaujolais spectrum is Chénas, which is the rarest of the Beaujolais Crus. It’s got nice structure and a woody bouquet, and is the best candidate of Beaujolais wines for cellaring. It’s even got enough bold character to stand up to game, if you choose to serve that for the holidays. Fleurie is a product of granite soil and is a silky, “feminine” Beaujolais. Some would even call it elegant. On the more masculine side, Morgon is produced from fields of broken granite and schist and is relatively full-bodied for Beaujolais; it actually needs to be aged a few years before drinking with your turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!