Most of us have heard of Beaujolais in the context of Beaujolais “Nouveau,” or “New,” for this festival harvest wine drunk in November in a similar tradition of Munich’s Oktoberfest when the bounty of the national drink is celebrated.
But there is a lesser-known traditional Beaujolais, aged like most red wines and quite distinguished in character. It’s a lighter-styled red just a tad heavier than a Pinot Noir (Burgundy’s other more famous regional grape sibling). Having more heft than a Pinot Noir, it’s a versatile wine that can match with most of the crazy variety of mini-quiches, lil' smokies, nuts, and cheese plates ubiquitous with the Holiday party buffet.
Beaujolais is made from Gamay grapes grown in a smaller sub-region of Burgundy. As a thin-skinned grape, Beaujolais tends to have less tannins and a fruitier flavor than most reds, and so is a crowd pleaser for the random tastes of friends and family, too.
Beaujolais’ bright red color reminds me of the classic red glass ball ornaments that used to adorn my grandparents’ tree (and the retro aluminum one I have this year). And like any unexpected gift that’s more cherished because of just that, Beaujolais will surprise your party hosts (if not Santa himself) likely being the only wine of its kind the gift or dinner table.
Like Santa, Beaujolais wines can be a little elusive, but you’ll experience the joy of believing in it when you find it under the tree at your local Binny’s. (Just don’t park in the sleigh-only spots as I hear they are cracking down this year.) Classic Burgundy wine purveyors like Louis Jadot and Georges DuBoeuf are good bets. But I’d ask for Beaujolais at your independent neighborhood wine store as they would be likely to appreciate and carry this unique wine find (as you know, mine is House Red in Forest Park--they are now not only selling, but serving wine and food so worth the trip).
So why say "Ho! Ho! Ho!" to grab your host's attention, when you can say "Beau! Beau! Beau!" this Holiday season? Enjoy it!