Memorial Day Weekend means grills will be fired up, beer will be put on ice, processed foods will be in high demand and, for the most part, wine will be an afterthought. Somehow a decanter of garnet colored wine doesn’t seem to fit in with images of sandals, beach chairs and Hebrew National hot dogs.
Most likely, I’ll be cracking open some Dale’s Pale Ale or Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale myself. But if I need some wine, there’s really only one making the trip to the beach with me this weekend… Beaujolais.
I love Beaujolais when the weather gets warmer because it’s one of the few dry red wines that actually tastes better with a decent chill to it. You can stick it right in your cooler full of ice and beer and there’s no worrying about it getting too cold. I’m not condoning making ice pops out of it, but few wines are better on a warm summer night.
My top pick for the holiday weekend is from one of the few producers in the Cru Beaujolais region who actually bottles his own wine. Michele Tete is the man behind the Domaine du Clos du Fief estate in the Julienas AOC in Beaujolais. According to Joe Dresner, who imports the wine into the U.S., he doesn’t make any claims to organic viticulture, but his methods are so old-fashioned he could easily qualify for certification.
Made from the Gamay grape, this wine has a light purple color reminiscent of the chuggable Beaujolais Nouveau fruit bombs that come out on the 3rd Thursday of every November. But don’t be fooled. Once you get a whiff of this wine, you know it’s miles ahead. There are aromas of strawberries and banana, a tell-tale sign tthis wine undergoes a bit of carbonic maceration. This is a process where whole bunches of grapes are deprived of oxygen. They then begin to implode, and the fermentation process starts within the grape itself. This often produces a scent of bananas which, when combined with the strawberry character of the Gamay grape, gives you some bubblegum on the nose. Like I said, it’s a summer wine, not something you pop in your cellar for a few years.
On the palette, this wine just cruises down your throat. At 13% alcohol and minimum tannin structure, this wine would pair well with light summer foods like simple cheeses, poached salmon, and, yes, even a hot dog – provided you don’t load it up with mustard, kraut, chili and cheese. In that case, do yourself a favor and grab a beer.
What strikes me about this wine, though, is that for all it’s levity and fun there is a bit of funk that comes through on the finish that to me represents the terroir where it comes from. Who knows if that’s the case, but it’s always nice to have a bit of funk to balance out the sweet and fruity aspects of a wine in my opinion.
If you’re like me, there will come a point this weekend when beer will begin to bore, but you’re not ready to dive head first into your white wine collection. Go get yourself a bottle of Cru Beaujolais. If you want to get your hands on Michele Tete’s Julienas, it’s available at Bottle Rocket Wines in New York for $22.