Typically included as a part of France's greater Burgundy region, Beaujolais has little in common with its northern neighbor. Here, not Pinot but the Gamay Noir grape dominates, and while too often associated with Nouveau, that as-close-to-grape-juice quaffer released within weeks of harvest, Beaujolais is much more than that. It is about as refreshing and fruity as wine gets, but the best bottles have the structure and depth to merit more serious attention. Here are the panel's top three picks in what was a very close tasting of exceptional wines:
2005 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais, Cuvée Traditionnelle, $12.99
A wine from Pierre-Marie Chermette's Domaine du Vissoux has finished at or near the top of every Beaujolais tasting we've held. This vielles vignes (old vines) attracts attention with its sweet cranberry and floral blueberry aromas. Elegantly structured with silky berry fruit that envelops the palate, then gives way to subtle mocha and light tannins. Those tannins are especially prevalent on the supple finish marked by notes of chocolate and cherry.
2005 Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Village, $9.99
A lovely village wine from one of France's best known Burgundy houses. Opens with lively aromas of rose hip and berry. Smooth and velvety dark cherry and ripe berry flavors explode in the mouth with mocha and caramel coming through on the long and lingering finish. Nice acid balance throughout helps make this a refreshing bargain of a wine.
2005 Georges Dubouef Chiroubles, $10.99
Chiroubles, one of the classified crus of northern Beaujolais, is known for its light and refreshing wines. Duboeuf, the acknowledged king of Beaujolais, has produced a charming one with elegant cherry, light plum and hibiscus aromas coupled with touches of red licorice and sweet pastry dough. Crisp cherry and forward berry fruit liven things up with very smooth tannins adding structure. With its bright acidity, this wine begs to be paired with food. Try it with roasted chicken, grilled meats or cheesy pasta.
This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Kevin Settles, Bardenay; Leslie Young, Spirit Distributing