Price Range: $20–23
- Ready to Drink: 2 years after bottle vintage
- Great recent vintages in Beaujolais: 2011, 2014° °=all-time great vintage
Region: Beaujolais, France
My pick for a perfect summer red is Beaujolais. The overwhelming amount of wine made in the French Beaujolais area, just south of Burgundy, is from the Gamay /gaˈmā/ grape. Gamay?—I’m game, anytime. Light-bodied (but with substance and flesh), fruity (but great Beaujolais is never cloyingly fruity), very low tannins (but with earthy complexity) and low in alcohol (usually in the 12-13% range, which means you can quaff this tasty stuff like a drunken sailor minus the drunken part) —Beaujolais is just like it sounds, full of joy, gaiety and meant to enjoy while frolicking with a beau, bro, bff, bae or babe.
The STEPHANE AVIRON Chenas is what’s called a “Cru” Beaujolais. “Cru” is a fancy word for fancy. Chenas is fancy Beaujolais, so you can have a bit more depth to your experience while you’re having fun. What makes it fancy? The northern part of Beaujolais has a designated area where the vineyards of the granite, clay and limestone enriched land produce much higher quality Gamay wine than the rest of the Beaujolais district. Chenas is one of those designated areas, and Stephane Aviron, a very small, independent producer committed to bringing out the fullest expression of “crus” across the area, has produced a 2012 bottling that is a great example of how much richer and deeper an experience Beaujolais can be. Let’s call Mr. Aviron a neo-traditionalist. The vines are very old—averaging 100 years—and the winemaking follows traditional methods, but the end-product is more relevant than ever.
The trademark Beaujolais flavors of red cherry, plum, rose and violets are all here, and then some, but it’s the purity of the expression of these flavors that really stands out. Add a grounding effect of a distinctively earthy undertone plus soft tannins of baking spices, and it’s a wine that’s entirely unpretentious while enjoyably significant. All summer long, bae, make it Beaujolais. –J.M.