Today is Wednesday, Wine Blogging Wednesday, so last night I prepared for my task of “Got Gamay?” by opening up a bottle which is readily available to most consumers. Wondering what I am talking about? (Cue up Sonny and Cher singing a variation of “I Got You, Babe” as “I Got Gamay, Babe!”)
“Drink What You Like” hosts April’s Wine Blogging Wednesday 68 – Got Gamay? where wine bloggers from around the world taste and blog on a common theme each month (thanks to Lenn Thompson of New York Cork Report who started the monthly event over five years ago!) The host writes, “Gamay is unfortunately best know as the grape that produces Beaujolais Nouveau, popularized by George Duboeuf.”
Since we also had a pork tenderloin planned for dinner, possibly stuffed with canned plums (yum!), I thought I’d double check around the web and see what people had to say about this pairing where I found this article on various chefs’ wine pairings with pork tenderloin.While each chef had a different wine to suggest depending on the presentation of the pork, I found one chef who appreciates beaujolais with the “other” white meat:
“When I think of pork, the word ‘delicate’ doesn’t often come to mind. Tenderloin is the one exception. When prepared with a gentle focus, pork tenderloin can be as supple and juicy as … well … a ripe grape. For me, there is nothing that pairs better with a pork tenderloin than the spicy, jammy, bramble fruit of Beaujolais. That’s right, I said it. Beaujolais! Not Nouveau, but Beaujolais Crus, specifically Fleurie. The appellation of Fleurie is in the north of the Beaujolais region and wines from here are made in the traditional style – little if any carbonic maceration. The resulting wines exude elegant fruit, spice, and flowers – violets, roses, peaches, anise and black currants. At around $20, the Michel Chignard Moriers 2006 is one wine that should not be missed. Learn more about Beaujolais. - Ben Spencer, a diploma student with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and an IntoWine Featured Writer”
Since I’d probably have to drive nearly an hour north to Santa Barbara or south to Los Angeles to find the wine he recommends, and since I couldn’t find any Beaujolais from Washington State as I try to earn my place on the WBC-or-Bust bus, I went for what I could find, a wine readily available to most American consumers: Louis Jadot Beaujolais from my local grocery store where it and the tenderloin were conveniently on sale ($3.99 for the meat, $7.99 for the wine instead of $12.99).
So here’s the learning part of this blog post: what the heck is gamay beaujolais? is beaujolais different? and what’s beaujolais nouveau?
As the web is overwhelmed with sites trying to sell you wine (and who knows what all else!), and not offering a whole lot of info, I went to trusty Wikipedia to learn:
Gamay is a very vigorous vine which tends not to root very deep on alkaline soils resulting in pronounced hydrological stress on the vines over the growing season with a correspondingly high level of acidity in the grapes. The acidity is softened through carbonic maceration, a process that also gives the wine tropical flavors and aromas, reminiscent of bananas.
Gamay-based wines are typically light bodied and fruity. Wines meant to be drunk after some modest aging tend to have more body and are produced by whole-berry maceration. The latter are produced mostly in the designated Crus areas of northern Beaujolais where the wines typically have the flavor of sour cherries, black pepper, dried berry and raisined blackcurrant.
Back in the 80s, when I first started drinking wine, I used to drink California Gamay Beaujolais a lot (when I wasn’t drinking Ridge Zin because I worked there!) I liked it slightly chilled, and it went well with light meals, picnics, and basically my lifestyle at the time. I could bring it to family events like turkey and ham dinners and people liked it. And I liked that I liked this wine that most people didn’t even know what it was. (Actually, back then, most people didn’t know any wines at all!) But it really wasn’t gamay beaujolais! According to the link above to Wikipedia, what was produced up until 2007 in California is actually some clone of pinot noir!
And what about the oft-disparaged Beaujolais Nouveau? I like it too, especially the 2003 vintage. Nouveau is picked early and released right around Thanksgiving. It’s meant to be enjoyed right away. Although some people cellar it, it’s not expected to develop much with age and typically loses the fresh fruity aspects that this varietal and style is known for.
When I first opened Louis Jadot 2008, a super easy to find and affordable Beaujolais, there was a nostalgic rush of memories from my early 20s: fresh, fruity, friendly grape or cherry juice. Lively, bright, and pretty in the glass, almost like a young girl. Not much to the finish, but it made me smile as it left my palate.
For dinner, I conjured up a salad I hoped would pair well: arugula, goat cheese, cranberries, cashews, and portobella mushrooms sauteed in port served with a port and balsamic reduction sauce. Yummy! The wine was neutral with the salad, just fine–didn’t add, didn’t negate.
Our main course was a pork tenderloin prepared by my spouse (when he wasn’t making a paper rocket launcher for our son’s science fair project!) The pork tenderloin suffered a bit in the transaction; there just wasn’t time to mess with the plums and while it was cooked to sweet pink tender perfection, the intense rub he used was more of a salt/pepper/cumin/fresh rosemary/fresh sage that would have paired better with a mourvedre or GSM than the light weight fruity Gamay.
The wine then went through a dull period, and then, several hours later when I tasted it again, I got a nice surprise: more complexity, some earth, some violets even, and it was much more engaging.
The Louis Jadot Beaujolais has a real cork closure, a reasonable 12.5 alcohol, and the label looks fancy and French. You can’t ask for much more for an $8 wine on sale that’s going to please most people and go reasonably well with a lot of different kinds of foods.
But is it an end all wine? a go to wine? Not really. Tomorrow, Thursday, my poet friend and fellow wine enthusiast Tim Cabrera and I are heading to LA for the Delicious Wine Tour and Tasting featuring affordable French wines seeking distribution. I went last year and tasted some amazing wines and spoke with several of the wine makers. My friend Helen went and we shot video (which we still need to edit!)
So at the Delicious Wine Tour tomorrow, I am definitely seeking out some interesting and tasty Beaujolais, and will report back the highlights!