ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I love Beaujolais, but I’ve never seen it on any restaurant wine list. Maybe I’m in the minority—which I usually am, a fact for which I’m eternally grateful—being a fan of the Gamay grape. Is that why eateries don’t offer it? Perhaps there’s another reason?

—Jerry W., Minneapolis

Dear Jerry,

You’re in luck. Beaujolais Nouveau (made quickly to be available soon after harvest) is released on the third Thursday of November, so more attention than usual will be paid to the Gamay grape for the next couple of weeks. I imagine you’ll see it sold by the glass and bottle in plenty of establishments through Thanksgiving, and possibly longer.

But what about the rest of the year? Other terrific Beaujolais, made in more typical fashion, feature Gamay’s natural fruity side, including so-called cru bottlings from one of the area’s 10 named classified growths. The 10 villages classified as stand-alone appellations within the Beaujolais region are Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and St.-Amour, so keep an eye out for those.

I don’t believe there’s any political movement to keep Gamay off of wine lists—there’s just a big world of wine out there, and there isn’t room to fit every grape from every region on every wine list. Beyond Nouveau, Beaujolais can be a bit of an obscurity, and you may be more likely to find it listed in restaurants of the French persuasion than in, say, an Italian joint. There is a crew of geeky somms who love the cru Beaujolais for their combination of quality, character, price and, most importantly, food-friendly attributes. You can always ask your sommelier or server about Gamay, and perhaps it will plant the seed.

—Dr. Vinny


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