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Ode to the Beaujolais Crus–and Beaujolais Sorbet

8 Jan

By Sharon Kapnick

It’s easy to sing the praises of Beaujolais, for in addition to being a delicious wine–flavorful, fruity or spicy– it has several special qualities:

1) It’s remarkably versatile, the most versatile red wine of all. It’s an ideal all-season wine that’s as appropriate at the picnic table as the Thanksgiving table.

2) Beaujolais has the well-deserved reputation of being the only white wine that just happens to be red. Because it  has low tannins, a smooth, silky texture and is best when served chilled (60 degrees is perfect for the Crus), Beaujolais is the red wine that white wine fans will find easy to love.

3) Beaujolais is currently underrated by many and therefore offers very good value.

There are four categories of Beaujolais–Nouveau, Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages and Cru Beaujolais–all made only from the Gamay grape. The Crus, generally considered best because they offer the most character, richness and complexity, come from ten designated sites—Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and St. Amour.

Characteristics of the Crus

Brouilly: elegant, full flavored, not unlike Beaujolais-Villages but with more fruit, 20 percent of the Cru area

Chénas: sophisticated, full flavored, soft but concentrated, smallest Cru, rarest, sometimes described as “a bouquet of flowers in a basket of velvet”

Chiroubles: soft, light, lively, flowery, delicately fragrant, ethereal, charming

Côte de Brouilly: some call this wine the Grand Cru of Beaujolais, flavorful, rich, full, intense fruit

Fleurie: Queen of the Crus, most feminine, silky, seductive, floral, velvety

Juliénas: weighty, full bodied, earthy, intense, heady aromatics, has historically been the favorite Cru of Parisian poets, painters and journalists;

Morgon: full bodied, rich, powerful, robust, intensely flavored, virile; known for having “the fruit of Beaujolais, the charm of Burgundy”

Moulin-à-Vent: often called King of the Crus or “the Lord of the Beaujolais,” full-bodied, complex, robust, powerful, hearty, most structured; can be closer in style to Burgundy from the Cote d’Or than to very fruity Beaujolais

Régnié: many different styles, highly aromatic, can drink when young or after 3-5 years

St. Amour: most romantic, graceful, can be light and fruity or weighty and spicy

The lightest of the Crus are Brouilly, Chiroubles and Régnié; the middle in body and richness include Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie and St. Amour; the heaviest and most structured are Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent.

I recently attended a Beaujolais Cru event at David Bouley’s Test Kitchen, where I tasted nine wines from the excellent 2009 and 2010 vintages. 2009 is thought by many to be the best vintage since 1947; many of the 2009s will benefit from aging. Although 2010 is another outstanding vintage, most 2010s are ready to drink now.

One of the highlights of the tasting/luncheon was the Beaujolais sorbet–the best sorbet I ever had. I am pleased to have gotten the recipe for it. Although it’s a recipe better suited to a restaurant than to the home kitchen, I’ll include it here. After all, it’s not everyday that a chef at a top eatery reveals a recipe. If it’s too unwieldy for you–as it is for me– it’s still quite interesting. And I hope it will inspire you to find other recipes for Beaujolais sorbet more appropriate for the home chef.


3225 g water
1400 g sugar
2000 g glucose powder
50 g sorbet stabilizer
3325 g Beaujolais wine

Directions: Bring the water and sugar to a boil. Add the glucose and stabilizer until dissolved and then heat to 80 degrees C. Cool over an ice bath and add the wine. Process in an ice cream machine.

Serves: Many. The pastry chef suggests that 1/4 or 1/5 of this recipe might be the appropriate amount for home use.

The wines we tried are listed below. While all were good, my two favorites are starred.

Prosper Maufoux, Brouilly, 2009
Christophe Pacalet, Chiroubles, 2010
Nicole Chanrion, Côte-de-Brouilly, 2010
Domaine Chignard, Fleurie, 2010
*Château des Rontets, Saint Amour, 2009
Domaine Sancy, Chénas, 2009
Joseph Drouhin, Juliénas, 2009
*Domaine de la Chaponne, Morgon, 2009
Domaine des Côtes de la Molière, Moulin-à-Vent, 2010

Good Food Partners for Beaujolais: Omelets; quiche; lentil soup; salads; grilled vegetables; fish; shellfish; sandwiches; croque monsieur; roast, fried and jerk chicken; chicken pot pie; coq au vin; turkey, including Thanksgiving dinner; game birds; ham; veal; hamburgers; pâtés and terrines; charcuterie; cold cuts and other picnic food; lamb; pork; beef; venison and other game; stews; grilled fish (including salmon and tuna) and grilled meats; barbecue; curries and other spicy cuisine; stir fries; mild to strong cheeses; fresh fruit