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Under $35 a bottle, Beaujolais trumps Burgundy

Northside StaffTasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Mark Britten, and Robert Bradley

Burgundy, one of France’s greatest wine regions, is home to one of the world’s finest grape varieties, Pinot Noir. Located in east-central France, it can be divided into distinct vinous sub-regions.

In the north, we have Chablis, known for crisp white wines produced from Chardonnay. Southeast of Chablis lies the famed Côte d’Or (gold coast), home to some of the world’s greatest Pinot Noir-based wines. Further south one then encounters the reds and whites of the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais.

Past the Mâconnais lie the hills of Beaujolais. Best known for the lighthearted Beaujolais Nouveau released each November, the region also produces finer wines, all from the Gamay grape. The best come from grapes grown in any one of ten particularly hospitable spots called “crus.”

Though made from Gamay, Cru Beaujolais is frequently compared to Burgundy made from Pinot Noir, and the wines do exhibit a family resemblance. Most tend toward medium weight and typically exhibit flavors reminiscent of red fruits (think strawberry, cherry, and raspberry). Furthermore, Beaujolais and its Pinot-based cousins both have a mouthwatering, savory character that complements the sturdy culinary fare of both areas.

The Northside Wine and Spirits staff decided it would be interesting to blind taste a selection of both Cru Beaujolais and Pinot Noir-based red Burgundies. Fourteen Cru Beaujolais and fourteen red Burgundies priced under $35 per bottle were tasted.

To the surprise of some, seven of the staff’s top ten wines were Beaujolais. The tasting’s top pick was the Stephane Aviron 2012 MorgonCôte du Py ($24). Morgon, the second largest Cru in Beaujolais, is thesource of many of the region’s finest wines. The Côte du Py is a steep volcanic slope, the source for many of the finest Morgons.

The 2012 Aviron rendition is a lovely wine full of red cherry fruit buttressed by soft tannins and just a hint of oak. It has a nicely textured mouth feel and a long, elegant finish. While it will benefit from bottle age it is very enjoyable now. Try it with grilled chicken, seared duck breast, lentil dishes, sausages, or a classic coq au vin. À votre santé!

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