In the back right corner of our shop in Berkeley lies the El Dorado of quality Beaujolais. The case stacks here are a shrine to the Gamay grape, and I gravitate towards this section every time I stop by the store. I drink wines from Beaujolais more than any other region—they check all the boxes for me: aromatic, chillable, loaded with fresh fruit and minerality, just the right amount of appetizing acidity. They’re easy-drinking, and that’s a term I don’t think gets enough credit. Shouldn’t all wines strive to be as effortlessly consumed as good Beaujolais? If you find yourself hunting for Gamay gems around our Berkeley shop, a brand new wine might catch your eye… A pink wine, with a familiar label. Ghislaine Dupeuble’s Beaujolais Rosé is a new release here in California, and it’s everything I love about good Beaujolais—in a rosé. White flowers, rhubarb, and ripe wild berries pull you in. On the palate, it’s smooth and rounded yet mineral, with a hint of citrus on the finish. It has a subtle herbaceousness and vibrant acidity, making it a gastronomic stunner and the perfect match for light summer fare. Ghislaine says her rosé is all about refreshment and conviviality—it’s been essential during the recent heat wave in France. She enjoys it as an apéritif and suggests pairing with pizza, grilled meat, and fish. She also offers this recommendation for indulgent summer refreshment: “In a carafe with the rosé, add a handful of fresh strawberries, place in the fridge for an hour or so, and then.... It’s a marvel!” Domaine Dupeuble is a benchmark in Beaujolais, crafting some of the region’s freshest expressions of Gamay for over 500 years. For the quality of wine that’s in your glass, “bang for your buck” doesn’t do the Dupeubles’ wines justice. Their rosé is no exception and is undoubtedly one of our best value rosés.
In the hamlet of Le Breuil, deep in the southern Beaujolais and perched above a narrow creek, the Domaine Dupeuble has been running almost continuously since 1512. Anna’s son Paul, and her grand children Ghislaine and Stéphane Dupeuble, manage the domaine. Today the domaine it is comprised of one hundred hectares, about forty percent of which are vineyards, planted primarily to Gamay. The grapes are harvested by hand and vinified naturally and without SO2. The wines of Dupeuble represent some of the best values in the Beaujolais today and are widely regarded for their very high quality and eminently reasonable price.
After years of the region’s reputation being co-opted by mass-produced Beaujolais Nouveau and the prevalence of industrial farming, the fortunes of vignerons from the Beaujolais have been on the rise in the past couple of decades. Much of this change is due to Jules Chauvet, a prominent Beaujolais producer who Kermit worked with in the 1980s and arguably the father of the natural wine movement, who advocated not using herbicides or pesticides in vineyards, not chaptalizing, fermenting with ambient yeasts, and vinifying without SO2. Chief among Chauvet’s followers was Marcel Lapierre and his three friends, Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, and Jean-Paul Thévenet—a group of Morgon producers who Kermit dubbed “the Gang of Four.” The espousal of Chauvet’s methods led to a dramatic change in quality of wines from Beaujolais and with that an increased interest and appreciation for the AOC crus, Villages, and regular Beaujolais bottlings.
The crus of Beaujolais are interpreted through the Gamay grape and each illuminate the variety of great terroirs available in the region. Distinguishing itself from the clay and limestone of Burgundy, Beaujolais soils are predominantly decomposed granite, with pockets of blue volcanic rock. The primary vinification method is carbonic maceration, where grapes are not crushed, but instead whole clusters are placed in a tank, thus allowing fermentation to take place inside each grape berry.
Much like the easy-going and friendly nature of many Beaujolais vignerons, the wines too have a lively and easy-drinking spirit. They are versatile at table but make particularly good matches with the local pork sausages and charcuterie. Though often considered a wine that must be drunk young, many of the top crus offer great aging potential.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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