French youngster is the perfect foil for savoury snacks
Beaujolais's red wines from the region's sandy soils in the south, near Lyons, are best enjoyed in the first blush of youth, within a year of their vintage.
However, villages among the granite hillsides in the north produce wines with greater depth of flavour: Beaujolais Villages and, most notably, the 10 named villages or Crus. The most famous include Fleurie, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Brouilly and Saint-Amour. These wines improve if aged for three to six or more years.
Fleurie has 180 growers producing 5.5 million bottles a year from the three square miles of unusual pinkish granite. This contrasts starkly with 75 million bottles of the gluggable Beaujolais Nouveau, whose basic simplicity undermined the region's reputation in the past decade.
Fleurie is made from the local Gamay Noir, a grape whose thin skins produce red wines low in tannin. This enables them to be served like a white wine, cool at 12°C. Also, because salty foods emphasise the bitter tannins in a red wine, ham, creamy cheeses and even oysters are friendly partners to these low-tannin, light to medium-bodied lunchtime or supper wines.
Tip: Decant Fleurie into a jug or decanter an hour before serving to unfold the tight flavours.
1) FLEURIE 2009 'Grands Fers' Les Cotes, Christian Bernard, 13pc
Concentrated woody and gravelly mineral flavours add real interest and complete this mature wine. Snack with spicy chicken wings and a dip of guacamole.
€19.99 at Swans on the Green, Naas, and Next Door Stores, nationwide. In Dublin: Village off-licence, Castleknock; D-Six, Harold's Cross; Holland's, Bray; Blackrock Cellars; McHugh's, Kilbarrack Road and Malahide Road, and Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4
2) FLEURIE 2010 Potel-Aviron, 13pc
Silky smooth texture, fine sandy tannins and a fleshier-bodied style of Beaujolais. Well balanced by more toned-down acidity. Juicy strawberry flavours finish the wine. Veg out with a creamy risotto of roasted pumpkin or butternut squash.
€16.99 at Wines on the Green, Dawson Street; McCabe's, Blackrock; The Gables, Foxrock; Baggot Street Wines; 64 Wines; Blackrock Cellar, and McHugh's, Kilbarrack
3) FLEURIE 2011 Domaine de la Madone, 13pc
Intense strawberry and leafy vegetal palate with a granite minerality. An elegant wine and medium- bodied enough to partner with a seared salmon or tuna steak.
€17.99 at Mitchell & Son, CHQ Building, IFSC, D1 & Glasthule, Co Dublin, mitchellandson.com; Florries, Tramore; Cases Wine Warehouse, Galway; Dicey Reilly's, Ballyshannon; The Old Stand, Mullingar
4) FLEURIE 2010 'Poncie', Domaine du Vissoux, Pierre-Marie Chermette, 12.5pc
A sappy, fresh palate with mouthwatering red-berry fruits, cherry-stone flavours and refreshing acidity.
Try with a traditional corned beef and a mash of root vegetables – carrots, parsnips and turnips.
€18 at Number 21, Midleton & Cork; Matson Wines, Bandon; Next Door, Cavan. In Dublin: Sweeney's Off Licence, Glasnevin; On The Grapevine, Dalkey, and Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown
5) FLEURIE 2011 Joseph Drouhin, 13pc
Tasty with red-berry fruity flavours and an echo of the vineyard's earthiness, concluding with a mineral finish. A savoury Beaujolais and ideal with grilled lamb cutlets and a redcurrant jelly.
€21 at Tesco nationwide. In Dublin: O'Brien's Wines citywide and The Vintry, Rathgar
Julie Dupouy, Best Sommelier of Ireland, represents Ireland at the ASI Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World in Tokyo, Japan, March 26-29. More than 50 contestants compete. Results to follow next week.