There are lots of different ways to experience wine.
A wino can pick up a bottle at the nearest grocery, liquor store or wine shop. An oenophile can taste wines at a retail wine tasting and take home their favorites. A real wine geek can travel to the great wine regions of the world and buy from the producer.
But growing in popularity is another method and that’s wine dinners. Wine dinners usually feature several courses paired by the restaurant’s chef and sommelier. I recently enjoyed a Beaujolais wine dinner in Indianapolis at Fletcher Place’s Bluebeard restaurant.
The hosts mentioned a couple of times that Beaujolais would make a great house wine. I certainly agreed by end of the night.
Now, a bit of education before moving on. Most people know Beaujolais from the Nouveau which is harvested, fermented, bottled and shipped around the world every November. While that’s a fruity, and sometimes funky, wine it is not what you want to look for in a fine wine or house wine.
The Beaujolais grand cru wines are those from selected regions in Beaujolais. They are wines that are aged and worthy of your consideration. Beaujolais is a great house wine because most of the 10 grand cru wines can be found for $20 or less.
And if you have never tried Beaujolais the current vintage of Cru wines on shelves comes from the standout year of 2015. Legendary Beaujolais winemaker Georges Duboeuf recently called the 2015 vintage the best since 1947.
The wines I tasted at the Bluebeard dinner were good to outstanding. These wines also are not difficult to find. Many wine shops carry at least some Beaujolais. We tasted Duboeuf wines with our dinner.
The Macon-Villages and Saint Veran chardonnay wines were a nice contrast and lovely whites. The Villages wine had hints of butter and oak for those who like their Chard in a traditional style. The Saint Veran was crisper, dryer, with lovely minerality and definitely a food wine.
The restaurant served the Villages as our ‘welcome wine.’ We were served a delightful salmon cake with the Saint Veran.
We sipped three Beaujolais red wines made from the Gamay grape. The Cote de Brouilly would have been a standout in most vintage years. The dark red wine was solid with veal sweetbreads in a mushroom cream sauce.
The night’s standout wines were from Fleurie and Moulin-A-Vents, both considered top in the Beaujolais region and both from DuBoeuf. The Fleurie, served with pork loin, was silky smooth with a deep dark fruit flavor on the finish and smooth tannins.
The Moulin-A-Vent was served with ostrich steak with a blueberry demi glace. The last wine was simply the best Beaujolais I have ever tasted. The rich, dark wine reminded me of a good Mourvedre from Southern France. If tasted blind, I’m not sure I would have guessed it was Gamay.
Each of these wines sold from $19-$23. All three reds were $20 or under.
Of course you can buy a few wines of your own, pair them up with dinner plans and invite over a few friends for your own wine-tasting dinner experience.
If you are looking to keep something around the house to please all palates and guests, then try Beaujolais Grand Cru wines.
Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, In., writes every other week about wine for more than 20 newspapers. Reach Howard at: [email protected]