Beaujolais Online Masterclass
It's 3pm on a rainy Monday afternoon, and I'm alone at my desk with eight bottles of wine. Fear not, the bottles are tiny, and I'm in the (online) presence of highly respected Master of Wine Anne McHale. I'm zooming into her Beaujolais Masterclass and ready with a stack of empty glasses.
Beaujolais has sometimes struggled with an image problem. The speedily made Beaujolais Nouveau was the height of good taste in the 1970s, but when the quality wavered, it fell quickly out of fashion- a massive blow to many consistently excellent producers. My idea of Beaujolais was cheap and cheery light reds, but I soon learned there is far more to greedily explore.
Beaujolais is a wine-growing region north of Rhône and south of Burgundy covering 15,000 hectares. Red Beaujolais is made with Gamay grapes (a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais) forming 98% of the region's vines. The other 2% are whites made with Chardonnay grapes. Beaujolais AOC covers the whole region but most wines using this name come from the south. Beaujolais-Villages is further north where the soil contains more granite and schist, adding to the minerality of the wines. The cream of the crop is Cru Beaujolais from the northernmost part of the region. Here there are ten individual crus (winemaking regions not individual producers) each with a distinctive terroir - Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly.
During the course, we tasted eight wines from across the region, one rosé, a white and six reds. The white was well balanced with spicy notes, and the rose was really delicious- with notes of strawberry and black pepper and smell of peaches and cream. The most full-bodied red we sampled was Moulin-à-Vent - a dark ruby colour with notes of plum and truffle. My favourite was the sweetly named Saint-Amour, it was lighter and more delicate, and I loved how it continued to develop complexity and open up in the glass.
Running this masterclass online wasn't Plan A (so 2020), but it never felt like a lesser option. The wines arrived in the post, and the tutor Anne McHale was professional and clearly passionate about her subject. I also enjoyed unselfconsciously swirling my wine with the camera off. I came away with a much better understanding of the variety and complexity of Beaujolais wines and keen to seek out more. (A. Sheldon)
There is some nice information about Beaujolais and food it can be paired with at www.discoverbeaujolais.com.