Bright and vivid, it’s hard to beat Beaujolais for ‘gluggable’ wines
Caves de Juliénas-Chaintré Villages Cuvée Six, Beaujolais-Villages, France 2018 (from £9.95, nywines.co.uk; eynshamcellars.com; butlers-winecellar.co.uk) It would be very hard to find a red wine region in the world offering better value for money than Beaujolais at the moment. I don’t just mean that the land north of Lyon provides some of the most reliably drinkable red wines you can find for not much more than a fiver. Wines that are relatively light and, with their soft to non-existent tannin and bright berry thirst-quenching juiciness, are the ideal incarnation of that onomatopoeic wine adjective, gluggable. Chillable, wines such as Tesco Beaujolais Rouge or Sainsbury’s House Beaujolais (both exactly £5). The region also regularly hits a thirst-quenching, prettily-scented spot for a couple of quid more, with “villages” wines, from superior vineyards, such as Morrisons The Best Beaujolais Villages (£6.50 until 4 October), Waitrose Blueprint Beaujolais-Villages 2018 (£7.99) or, in super-succulent, vivid, finger-staining, fresh-off-the-bush style, the Cuvée Six made by a 170-strong co-operative of local growers.
Co-op Chiroubles, Beaujolais, France 2019 (£10, The Co-op) As in Burgundy, the northerly neighbour with which it is sometimes bracketed (and more often unfavourably compared with), Beaujolais really starts to shine once you are dealing with wines made in a specific village or cru. French wine law allows 10 Beaujolais villages to put their names on the label, each with a slightly different take on the combination of gamay grape and granitic soils. Pound for pound, these cru wines are often even better value than the straight Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages wines – and they’re certainly in a different bang-for-buck league than the equivalent quality level of Burgundian pinot noir, or the syrahs of the northern Rhône a little further south. Certainly, I can think of very few wines that provide as much unmediated pleasure as The Co-op’s recent addition from the Chiroubles cru, with its gorgeously lithe and slinky silkiness and its fresh summer fruit compote flavours.
Domaine Julien Sunier Fleurie, Beaujolais, France 2018 (£27, robersonwine.com) Beaujolais took a while to shake off its association with nouveau, that 1970s and 1980s marketing phenomenon which saw much of the region’s crop rushed to bottle in banana-scented (and often very bad) young wines, sold just a couple of months after vintage. You can still find nouveau, some of it pretty good in a very simple, fruit-juicy style. But the region’s most lasting influence on the modern wine world may be its role in the development of what’s come to be called natural wine – a number of the early pioneers in this back to basics, organic, no additives scene were from Beaujolais, and many of its most interesting modern practitioners can still be found there. Among the best of these is Julien Sunier, who works with vines in three different crus. I’ve written before here about Sunier’s delectably, deep, dark Morgon, but his lucid, super-succulent, red-fruited Fleurie, is every bit as beautiful.