While the primary goal of my MidWeek Wines website (recommending entry point offerings) is self-evident, it does have a secondary strand. By also featuring “Friday Treat” and “Sunday Best” options, I provide a staircase to the more complex wines that a little extra money can buy.
With “Villages” and, then, “Cru” wines sitting atop its everyday versions, Beaujolais offers a great example of that staircase. And it was to that region that I turned when seeking a lightish red for my Burns Night recommendation – but more of that later.
Turning the clock back to an early Beaujolais visit, it was sad to see so many abandoned vineyards there. Clearly the onetime “golden goose” was by then eggbound. Pursuing the birdlife analogy, though, the phoenix is now rising from the ashes.
The region has worked hard to re-invent itself. Young and progressive winemakers have moved in – often bringing organic practices with them – while the titans of old continue to make their exceptional wines. Better still, encouraged by folk like the now retired Guillaume de Castelnau at Château de Jacques, Burgundian techniques and wine styles became increasingly evident.
Obviously, gamay is not pinot noir and they will never be direct rivals but comparing and contrasting Beaujolais wines with equally priced Burgundies can surprise.
Full marks, then, to Dan at Wickhams for recognising the delights of Beaujolais wines and for stocking so many of them.
Here are my thoughts on three of the wines he sells:
Les Pivoines, Beaujolais-Villages 2021
For a benchmark of what classy but well-made “Villages” versions can be, try 2021 Les Pivoines, Beaujolais-Villages (from £9.45).
True to form, its flavours encompass the region’s traditional cherry and raspberry components built into a light and pleasingly soft body.
Here, however, that is overlaid with a savoury background that gives a nod towards the type of earthiness pinot noir can offer.
Domaine de Mont Joly "La Croix Polage", Beaujolais Villages 2020
Savouriness also appears in the darker 2020 Domaine de Mont Joly "La Croix Polage" Beaujolais Villages (from £14.30) but this is a more robust wine with graphite, rather than earthy, elements.
The flavours here tend more towards loganberry and plum but with floral touches and a slight sweetness to counterbalance those mineral elements.
Château de Belleverne, Beaujolais Villages 2019
Burns Night option, though, I chose 2019 Château de Belleverne, Beaujolais Villages (from £10.35).
This is a carefully matured rendition of gamay which, to me, has a great deal in common with the Crus Beaujolais wines on the next rung up that complexity ladder.
Soft with just a whiff of the region’s violet influences, it is centred around smooth strawberry flavours embellished with cherry hints and with mild acidity - yet enough of it to cut through any fattiness in the haggis.
Alternative Burns Night recommendations for (inexpensive) beer, whisky and white wine appear on the MidWeek Wines website – where, of course, a warm welcome awaits you.
Click here to read Brian's full recommendations.
Remember however that Beaujolais, in all its various forms, is a tasty, great value all-year-round treat – and not just for 25 January.
Brian Elliott is an established wine professional, he founded the midweekwines.co.uk website, writes a weekly column for Scotland’s Daily Record and is a judge for the People's Choice Wine Awards and other competitions.