KathyBou’s Blog

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Drinking Beaujolais

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About a month ago now, we had a Friday off and decided to take a long weekend and meet up with a friend visiting France.

While we were there we decided to do a Beaujolais wine tour since we were so close by and it happened to be harvest time.  The tour lasts all day; we got picked up at the auberge at 9 a.m.

Wine tour van

Wine tour van

We drove from Lyon north into the Beaujolais region.  Our guide said there are about 2000 separate vineyards in the area.

Beaujolais is most famous for the Beaujolais Noveau Day, which is every year on the third Thursday in November.   Basically it’s a publicity party serving that year’s newly harvested grapes in a newly made wine.  The wine is not high-quality and not meant to last long, up to one year, and seems mostly to be a good excuse for a party.

Regular Beaujolais wine has much higher quality and lasts in the bottle for years (depending on the variety).

Grape fields

Grape fields

Here, the vines are kept short, between knee and waist height.  One winemaker told us this is to keep both the quantity of the grapes per vine lower and also to minimize the amount of sap, both factors contributing to the quality of the grape.

Grape vines out the window

Grape vines out the window

We were here the first weekend in October, and the big harvest had been the week before.  This region still uses people to harvest instead of machinery.  They hire temporary labor for about 2 weeks to gather the harvest. The vineyard pays around 60 Euro/day and include meals and a party at the end.  In this photo you can see the temporary camp that was set-up and used by the grape-pickers:

Camp of harvesters

Camp of harvesters

Our first wine tasting was at Domaine Chasselay.  Claire told us all about her family’s wine business.  Her vineyard has been getting lots of press lately because they are growing the grapes organically. Nice!

La Cave de Claire

La Cave de Claire

Father and son at work:

New harvest work

New harvest work

We got a chance to see the grapes in the chambers.  In these, the red color from the grape’s skin will turn the wine red.

Getting a look inside

Getting a look inside

Beaucoup de grapes!

Beaucoup de grapes!

Barrels and barrels:

Wine

To be wine

Claire showed us where the bottling is done after the wine has aged for the appropriate amount of time:

Barrel to bottle

Barrel to bottle

We got to try the wine and also, as a special treat, we got to try the fresh grape juice, both red and white.  I was really surprised by the juice.  The white tasted exactly like grapes, without the skin or pulp, and the red grape juice tasted like raisins a bit.  Nothing I’ve ever bought in a store tasted like either, both were sweet and delicious.  The wine was great too, we bought two bottles.

After lunch and a few scenic stops, we stopped at the second vineyard, makers of the Domaine de Milhomme.

Domaine de Milhomme

Domaine de Milhomme

Here they were busy at work too, the harvest just behind them but still much work ahead.  After the wine has sat in the chambers long enough, the grapes are pressed for the juice in a machine that looks like this:

Giant juice press

Giant juice press

Leftover grape skin and stems

Leftover grape skin and stems

The owner here let us try some of the fermenting wine, it’s called paradise wine.

Wine in its early stages

Wine in it's early stages

Trying the paradise wine.  It was opaque and bubbly.

Good or not good?

Good or not good?

After the paradise wine, we walked in the vineyards. There were still grapes here so of course we tasted some too.

In the fields

In the fields

Gamay grapes - so good!

Gamay grapes - so good!

It’s a common practice to plant a rose bush at the end of each grape vine row.  The rose bushes are susceptible to the same diseases as the grape vines and serve as early warning.

Rose bush per row

Rose bush per row

Another tasting.  This vineyard has been around for 120 years.  They had some very nice wine here.

More wine

More wine

And more purchases:

Wine to take home, Wee!

Wine to take home, Wee!

For the most part my wine education has only involved learning what varieties that I liked and didn’t like.  According to many sources, Beaujolais is a great wine for new red wine drinkers because it is usually more fruity and contains less tannins than other red wines.  I’ve always preferred red wines and I liked the Beaujolais.

Ripe gamay grapes from Beaujolais

Ripe gamay grapes from Beaujolais

The tour turned out not to be a snobby affair at all.  The wine making process, in this area at least, is very earthy, and the people were friendly – that makes me happy.  I’m thinking I should find a book about French wine and it’s history.

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Written by Kat

November 10, 2008 at 12:01 am

Posted in Food, Fun, Travel

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. Mmmm… those grapes look delicious!

    Jul

    November 13, 2008 at 3:09 pm


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