Bernard Metrat Chiroubles 2004 Beaujolais

Bernard Metrat Chiroubles 2004 Beaujolais
French wine is, as I’ve learnt, labelled very differently to Australian wine. In particular, the labels don’t tell you what grape varieties are in the wine. What they have instead is a geographic region of origin, with an appellation name indicating a specific sub-style of wine from that region. The reasoning apparently goes that if you know anything about wine, then you know what sort of wine style each region/appellation makes, and don’t need to be told trivial things like what grapes they actually use.

For my first venture into this mysterious world, I decided to try some Beaujolais, from the Beaujolais region of France, naturally. This region is famous for making light, fruity red wines Рso light they are typically served chilled like a white or ros̩ Рout of gamay grapes. This sounded like a good way to expand my experience with different wine styles.

I visited a wine shop a few suburbs away for the first time, since it looked like it would have a better selection and more expert staff than anything local. This indeed turned out to be the case, with the guy behind the counter very enthusiastic and helpful, and as big a selection of Australian and foreign wines as I’ve seen. There were a few choices from Beaujolais, and I selected this mid-priced one pretty much randomly.

When I got home, I discovered that Chiroubles is one of the ten “Cru Beaujolais” designations, meaning a distinctive recognised sub-style of wine. In particular, Chiroubles is noted for being one of the lighter varieties, with aromas of flowers. Something to look for when tasting.

We took this bottle to a restaurant where I selected a pasta dish with chicken and a light sauce. And now here comes the difficult part. The first impression of the wine from sniffing it was that it smelled very similar to the sangria we sometimes get from a nearby Mexican restaurant. Very fruity – it smelled like red wine mixed with fruit. The problem is, try as hard as I might, I could not identify any particular fruit odour. Possibly raspberries, but equally possibly I was just deluding myself into thinking I could identify something. The first sniff is just not enough for me to really nail an aroma in a wine, and subsequent sniffs just dull the smell receptors in the nose, so that it gets more and more infuriatingly elusive.

The taste? Well, a similar story. Light and fruity at first, and enjoyable. Very much like sangria, in fact. Lots of “fruit”, but I couldn’t tell you what sort of fruit. It was pleasant on a quick swallow, but if you left it swirling in your mouth for a while, some tannin started to assert itself. It got stronger and stronger, until it was really quite strong. In fact, just now I’ve realised what it reminded me of – cold rosehip tea, with some extra tannin. Which is nice and refreshing in summer.

The wine was definitely enjoyable on the first glass. But a second glass became… unexciting. I guess that’s the unsophisticated nature of Beaujolais. I can see why it has a reputation as a light “picnic” wine.

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