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WINE AND FOOD WEDNESDAY
06/29/2011
Wine and Food Wednesday
Why “Easy-Drinking and Tasty” Is Sometimes All My Palate Needs

By Stephen Eliot

Now don’t get me wrong. I do not happen to think that California is in some sort of vinous free-fall and in desperate need of a new varietal savior, but I do wish that someone hereabouts would take Gamay seriously. Good Gamay has always struck me as one of the friendlier and eminently versatile red wines to be had. It is a wine meant to be drunk from big glasses. It has enough fruity substance to stand up to juicy rib-eyes hot off the grill, it will wash down simple roast chicken, and nothing makes a better partner to the noble hamburger. Maybe it’s my “California” palate, but I like my wines to be fruity and flavorful. Gamay fills the bill.

It is summarily overlooked in the rush for complexity and richness, and there is nothing at all fashionable about such an easy-to-quaff wine. I understand that there is little financial incentive for vintners to make the stuff when a really top-flight Cru Beaujolais might command but $25.00 or so, but Gamay is not as temperamental as Pinot, it does not need that lengthy elevage of Cabernet Sauvignon, and its singular lack of dissuasive tannins means it is ready to gulp as soon as it hits retailers’ shelves. It does have a few things going for it. Gamay may never win raves with cult-wine collectors, but it can provide plenty of pleasure albeit with a lighter hand. It strikes me that there is a wide-open niche just waiting to be filled.

The catalyst for today’s wishful thinking was a bottle uncorked the other night with a plate of reheated braised oxtails after an afternoon of tasting new Cabernets. I was tired. I felt jaded. I did not want to think, and I suspect any suggestion that I might want to take notes during dinner would have been met by unbridled malice. We have been tasting our ways through scores of new Cabernets here at CGCW over the last couple of weeks, and I just wanted something red, something lighter, something that could be poured with no need for thought. That at least was my aim, but a randomly grabbed bottle of the 2007 Fleurie "Les Garants" from Pierre-Marie Chermette changed everything.

It was one of those “wow”moments that we sometimes talk about -- one of those epiphinal snippets in time when suddenly everything seems to make sense. I took one sip and, with a start, looked over to my equally wine-critical significant other. She had the same look of “oh my, what is this?” in her similarly widening eyes. The wine was no more than simply delicious, but, in its simple deliciousness, it was the perfect thing. It was Beaujolais, but it was quintessential Beaujolais, and nothing just then, not Chambertin, not Chateau Latour, not Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon, not Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz could have been better.

Now, I am not here to argue that any Fleurie can possibly compare with such wines in terms of compelling complexity, and I am not holding my breath in anticipation that someone in California is going to seriously embrace Gamay, but that is not really the point of my ramblings. There are times when wonderfully “tasty” is damn near as good, and, that, dear readers, is the real message today. My evening of oxtails and Fleurie was a much needed reminder of the magic that good wine can work, and of why after nearly forty years of sniffing, sipping and spitting, I think that I may just be starting to learn something.


 

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Comments

Sometimes It's Just Right
by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:6/29/2011 9:49:30 AM

As a French wine buyer I suffered for years with Gamay. Hated it from Beaujolais to the Loire. Just something about it and no matter how many I had to taste, and buy for the shop I never, and I mean never, drank them. Used to fight with my boss every Thanksgiving when he would tell me, once again, that Beaujolais was the wine I needed for my feast. I didn't care that it went, if I hated it I wasn't about to drink it.

 

Fast forward to my third trip to France, another importer buying trip where the tastings are fast and furious. We had just spent five days in Burgundy tasting nothing but young wines out of barrel at times seeing as many as 19 producers in one day. My palate was burning and teeth were stinging when we sat down at the table of Marcel Lapierre in Morgon. Platters of house cured pork products and slightly chilled bottles of Beaujolais before me I was too tired to dread it and went with the flow. One sip. Took only one sip of that ubber refreshing and friendly wine and my world changed. In that setting, at that time the wine finally made sense to me. Now I drink them with everything from roasted chicken to my beloved bacon and egg salads.

Wordy was to say "I feel ya"....

No Subject
by Sherman
Posted on:6/29/2011 10:37:52 AM

One of the "litmus tests" I have when entering any new wine selling establishment is to see how much (if any) Beaujolais they have on the shelf. If that first hurdle is cleared, how much Cru do they have? More than one or two? Then I feel that it's a serious wine shop run by true wine geeks.

 

I recently attended a tasting where producers from all ten communes of Cru Beaujolais were represented and from the outstanding 2009 vintage. Retail prices were from $17-$35 and all ten wines were very good to exceptional -- not a dog in the bunch. What was also exceptional was the varying character and a good many consumer was introduced to the concept of terroir that day.

 

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