Hello friends. Beaujolais is the black sheep of the Burgundy family, and thank goodness, because while Pinot Noirs from the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune have skyrocketed in price, Gamay Noirs from honest, humble Beaujolais have remained stubbornly affordable, tremendously accessible.
If you’re not drinking good Beaujolais, you’re missing out on one of the true values in the wine world.
Look at where Beaujolais lives in a map of greater Burgundy: far from Dijon and Beaune, but close to Lyon, one of the great gustatory capitals of the world, where they guzzle Beaujolais by the pichet-full with all manner of delicious, artery-slamming French fare.
The marketing horrors of Beaujolais Nouveau have mostly corrupted American public consciousness about this region. And it’s a pity, because banana-bubble-gum-flavored, carbonically-macerated, air-freighted Nouveau has about as much in common with good Beaujolais as a sunflower has in common with the sun.
A good place to start with good Beaujolais is the Gang of Four: four Beaujolais producers largely credited with the beginning of the reactionary movement away from mass-market swill. Those four are Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and the father of today’s wine: Marcel Lapierre.
Marcel passed away about two years ago, and Eric Asimov’s obituary in the New York Times provides a lovely recollection of the man. Mathieu Lapierre, who had worked several vintages with his father, has now taken over winemaking duties, continuing the family’s serious pursuit of pleasure-making.
We’ll save a deep-dive into Cru Beaujolais for a future offering (did you know that there are ten separate subregions – crus – in Beaujolais; each with a different terroir-specific personality?). For today, I want to focus on a Beaujolais that approaches Nouveau in tariff but offers so much more.
Lapierre is focused on the specific cru of Morgon, and Raisins Gaulois is essentially their declassified juice. So it comes mostly from Morgon but is blended with a few lots from the greater Beaujolais AOC. Because of quirky French labeling laws, this gets the “Vin de France” designation, but it is 100% Gamay from Beaujolais proper.
The label gives a pretty good indication of what this wine is going for. Just plunge the corkscrew directly into the cluster. The goals are transparency, purity, honesty. The goals are achieved. This is fresh, appetizing; you just want to gulp it. It’s filled with juicy, crunchy, mineral-drenched berry fruit. That cooling mineral tone runs across the entire palate, and makes this so refreshing, so quaffable. It’s a slam dunk for Thanksgiving, and I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to call this one of the finest wine values in the world.
I take it seriously, but the late Marcel Lapierre never did. He had two famous quotes about Raisins Gaulois: it was “wine to quench your thirst and make you piss” and “wine to drink in the shower when you wake up in the morning.” First come first served up to 36 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.