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Sipping Central Europe Style

Three beaujolais wines fit for fall

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Gamay noir à jus blanc is a cross between pinot noir and gouais, a white variety indigenous to Central Europe. It's the red grape of Beaujolais, the southernmost region of Burgundy. Ripening about two weeks earlier than pinot, gamay is an easier grape to manage and produces a fruit-forward wine with good acid balance--just the thing as we transition into fall. Here are the panel's top picks:

2012 Chateau de Pizay Morgon, $17.99

The Pizay estate in Beaujolais dates back to the 14th century. The grapes for this wine come from Morgon, one of the 10 classified crus, and were harvested from 45-year-old vines. The nose offers racy cranberry and fresh cherry aromas along with spicy black pepper. Edgy fruit marks the palate, which is backed by gentle earth, light tannins and smooth acidity.

2011 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, $12.99

Duboeuf is arguably the best known name in Beaujolais. This Villages wine is a step down from the classified crus, but a step up from A.O.C. Beaujolais. It's a crowd-pleasing effort with juicy, sweet red fruit aromas colored by a touch of smoke. The fruit-driven palate is filled with a mix of ripe cherry and cranberry flavors that linger nicely. A great bargain.

2011 Henry Fessy Julienas, $17.99

This Brouilly-based Beaujolais domaine dates back to 1888 and holds five acres of vineyards in Julienas. It opens with light cherry blossom aromas and hints of cedar. The most subtle of the three, it shines when paired with a bite of cheese. Black cherry and plum flavors are balanced by food-friendly acidity. This classified cru should age nicely, given a few years.