We promised in Thursday’s column on Thanksgiving wine to circle back from our general suggestions to more specific bottles that are widely available and well priced. And as much as we wince at the idea of celebrating others misfortune, we have to thank the lingering sluggish economy for widespread bargains on some of our absolute favorite turkey-day wines from Beaujolais.
In his Wednesday Wine column in the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre took his annual look at Beaujolais. And though we agree whole-heartedly with his implied suggestion to seek out wines from the ten Beaujolais villages that are thought to produce the top tier wines from this large swath of southern Burgundy, we can’t see eye-to-eye with his costly selection criteria. He takes an odd, backhanded swipe at Beaujolais’ largest producer, Georges Duboeuf, maker of some of the region’s best values, insisting that for “true exploration of Beaujolais, one must seek out wines by small, family-owned producers.”
In our view, McIntyre has Duboeuf backwards. He professes fondness for the annual release of “Beaujolais nouveau,” a marketing gimmick that was Duboeuf’s brainchild. The light, fruity juice that’s fermented, bottled and released within weeks of the harvest – and is displayed prominently in every wine shop in the States on the third Thursday of November – is widely viewed in the wine trade as having given millions of casual wine drinkers a skewed perception of Beaujolais wine (as thin and grapey), overshadowing the fine wine and great values produced there.
But while praising the nouveau craze, McIntyre dismisses Duboeuf’s wine. “There’s nothing wrong with his wines, despite what the wine geeks say,” he writes, calling them commercial and overly similar to one another “that hints of winemaking indoors rather than in the vineyard. “
We suspect that McIntyre hasn’t tried Duboeuf’s better Beaujolais cru – the term for wines made in ten specific areas in the northern half of Beaujolais considered a cut above the two lower rungs on the Beaujolais hierarchy, Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages. Deboeuf produces an ocean of basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages, as well as his well-known “flower label” wines from the Beaujolais cru areas, Juliénas, Saint-Amour, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Côte de Brouilly, and Brouilly. But Duboeuf also controls a handful of vineyards within those regions that produce delightful and distinctive wines that are also extremely affordable.
One of our favorites that would make a great Thanksgiving wine, which we recommended last year but is still widely available for $14 to $18 a bottle (even in Montgomery County Liquor stores) is 2009 Georges Duboeuf – Morgon Jean Descombes. Somewhat pricey for a value wine, this one scored 90-91 points from the Wine Advocate and a whopping 93 points from Wine Spectator magazine and is worth the typical price. But Calvert Woodley must have bought a ton of this wine, because it’s been on perpetual sale since last year for just $11.99 a bottle (regularly $13.99) and as little as $11.39 a bottle by the case. (We even recommended it as a summer wine to serve chilled, and we’ll undoubtedly buy a case of this and save some for the August heat.)
Calvert Woodley has Duboeuf wines on sale from eight of the ten Beaujolais Cru, all of them with solid scores from the critics – including another 90-91 pointer in the 2009 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie Clos des Quatre Vents. (By the way, another reason that we suspect the Post’s McIntyre wasn’t painting these wines with his broad, anti-Duboeuf brush is his crack about them being okay “despite what the wine geeks say.” It suggests that the wine critics find flaws in these wines, but the ones we like earn a thumbs-up consensus from the likes of Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar.)
Other good Beaujolais cru widely available around town include many from Henry Fessy – including the 90-point 2009 Henry Fessy Fleurie and 2009 Henry Fessy Moulin-à-Vent – and the wines of Potel-Aviron, on sale at MacArthur Beverages and Pearson’s in Glover Park for $13 to $16 a bottle. See the slideshow for a representative sample of the specific wines available and their prices around town.
Any of these wines would provide a delightful, food-friendly step up from our usual budget wine suggestions. And their approachable style also make them a nice starter red wine for white wine drinkers who would like to dabble with the dark side. Regardless of which you find at a wine shop near you, it will be one more thing to be thankful for this holiday season.
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