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2020 Fleurie

Guy Breton

The Fleurie is P’tit Max’s most recent cru to join his line-up. An opulent, mouth-filling expression of this granitic terroir, it has the delicate floral nuances and fine-grained tannin that differentiates Fleurie from the other crus. Serve it chilled alongside Chris Lee’s French onion soup for an indulgent at-home Parisian bistro experience.


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Few dishes are more Beaujolais-friendly than French onion soup, which is one of my favorite dishes, perfect in cold weather for lunch, dinner, or at midnight. It makes a wonderful meal accompanied by butter lettuce salad with mustardy dressing, sprinkled with chopped chives. Be sure to brown the onions for the soup carefully, and make a good beef stock. If you happen to have duck fat lying about, sauté the onions in that instead of butter and oil. Life will never be the same. 

SOUPE À L’OIGNON GRATINÉE

2 pounds yellow onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grape seed oil
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef stock
1 bay leaf
Sea salt

Melt butter with grape seed oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add sliced onions and stir to coat. Cook over moderate heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and soft. Sprinkle with sugar. Lower heat and cook for 30 minutes. As crust forms on bottom of pan, scrape crust back into onions with a wooden spoon. Repeat each time a crust forms. Continue until onions are an even, deep golden brown. Do not turn up the heat. Take care with this step and go slowly so onions don’t burn. When browned, sprinkle onions with flour and cook for two minutes, stirring continuously. Pour two cups of beef stock into onions and stir well to absorb flour. Add remaining broth, bay leaf, and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Adjust seasoning with sea salt.

Assembling the soup: 

Warm onion soup
1 onion, peeled, cut in half
4 teaspoons Armagnac
½ cup young Beaujolais
8–10 pieces country-style bread, cut 1 inch thick, crust trimmed, lightly toasted
4 ounces grated Gruyère or Cantal cheese plus
2 ounces grated Parmigiano
2 ounces unsalted butter
8–10 thin slices of Gruyère or Cantal cheese
8 ceramic soup bowls or terrines

Ladle soup into bowls to ¾ full. Grate a tablespoon of onion into each bowl. Add ½ teaspoon Armagnac and 1 tablespoon red wine. Cut toasted bread to fit bowl and place on top. Sprinkle grated cheese on bread and dot with butter. Lay slices of Gruyère over top to form a cap covering soup. Bake in 425ºF oven for 18–20 minutes until cheese forms gratinéed crust. Serve on napkin-lined plates.

Serves 8

Christopher Lee is a former head chef of Chez Panisse and Eccolo in Berkeley and co-founder of the Pop-Up General Store in Oakland, California. Visit his website here.

Christopher Lee

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Technical Information
Wine Type: red
Vintage: 2020
Bottle Size: 750mL
Blend: Gamay
Appellation: Fleurie
Country: France
Region: Beaujolais
Producer: Guy Breton
Winemaker: Guy Breton
Farming: Organic (practicing)
Alcohol: 14.5%

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About The Region

Beaujolais

map of Beaujolais

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.

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Where the newsletter started

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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