Beaujolais redux! – Beaujolais Nouveau Day (November 15th)

Beaujolais nouveau day header

You’d be forgiven for not realising that it is Beaujolais Nouveau day on 15 November, as it has rather fallen from fashion. 

Perhaps oddly in retrospect, the third Thursday in November used to be a notable date in the wine calendar, when people literally raced by train, plane and automobile to be the first to bring back and serve the newly released wine and Beaujolais Nouveau breakfasts were a fixture. 

But let’s face it: it was rubbish! Barely recognisable as a wine, it was confected, dilute and often under-ripe as the grapes were picked to hit a production date, not when they had reached phenolic ripeness. On top, it generally suffered from bottle-shock (wine typically needs a few weeks to find itself after bottling) and was further abused on the frantic journey up through France. The greater mystery is not why the British broke with this peculiar tradition but that it is now “a thing” in Japan, which accounts for 40% of the Beaujolais Nouveau market … though presumably it is not so quite so Nouveau by the time it gets there!
So it is not surprising that Beaujolais has generally been regarded as a bit of a joke in the UK.  And that is a shame as it has so much more to offer than Beaujolais Nouveau and the cheap mass-market bubble gum-flavoured wines that used to dominate the market.  Whisper it, as we don’t want everyone to know, but there is some serious – and seriously good value – wine being made there. Partly as a result of the insane land prices up the road in Burgundy, a new generation of talented wine-makers is searching out the best terroir, improving viticulture and rediscovering the ability of the Gamay grape to make wines of subtle intensity and depth.
Thankfully for us, that trend has moved out beyond the boutique producers, who make tiny volumes of exquisite but expensive wine, and into the wider market.  As a result, there is some high quality and excellent value Beaujolais available in the supermarkets.  It is generally best to avoid the basic appellation of Beaujolais AOC and focus on Beaujolais Villages AOC or, preferably, the ten Beaujolais Crus, which are essentially villages such as Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent and Fleurie and are entitled to put their names on the label, much like the rather more famous villages of the Cote d’Or in Burgundy.
Our top pick at the moment, though, hails from the lesser-known village of Régnié and is part of Lidl’s current French Wine Tour range.

LIDL Regnie Cru Beaujolais

Lidl Régnié 2017 🇫🇷
From: Lidl
Price: £7.99
The Wotwine panel thinks this is worth: £9.00
Tasting note: Good Beaujolais with ripe red and dark berries, fresh palate and a juicy finish.

 

The second wine is from Morgon, arguably the most consistently high quality of the Beaujolais Crus. A word of warning: it has been on offer at £7.33, at which price it really is great value, but the sticker price is £11.00.  Regular followers of Wotwine will know this is our perennial complaint with Marks & Spencer – excellent wines but usually a pound or two over-priced.  A real shame.

M&S Morgon Beaujolais

Marks & Spencer Morgon 2017 🇫🇷
From: Marks & Spencer
Price: £11.00 (although £7.33 on offer)
The Wotwine panel thinks this is worth: £9.00
Tasting note: Well made, fresh wine with red cherries and savoury herbs.

 

Moulin-à-Vent is another of the top Beaujolais Crus and this is a well-made and characteristic example, again from Lidl’s excellent French Wine Tour range.

LIDL Moulin-a-Vent Cru Beaujolais

Moulin-à-Vent Georges Badriou 2016 🇫🇷
From: Lidl
Price: £7.99
The Wotwine panel thinks this is worth: £9.00
Tasting note: Typical Moulin-a-Vent with a well-structured palate, tart wild berries and some leafy character.

 

To finish is a cheaper but more than respectable Beaujolais Villages.

LIDL Beaujolais Village

Lidl Beaujolais Villages Collin-Bourisset 2016 🇫🇷
From: Lidl
Price: £6.99
The Wotwine panel thinks this is worth: £6.50
Tasting note: Well made, fresh wine with red cherry and sweet red berry character.

 

The sharper-eyed amongst you might have noticed that three of the four wines are from Lidl.  An indicator of things to come in the Wotwine 2019 Supermarket Wine Retailer of the Year Awards, which will be announced on 8 November? You might well think that … but we couldn’t possibly say!

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