A visit to France is cause for excitement for any wine fan. Bargains are had, incomprehensible labels are read, and complicated guides to French wine regions are pored over then discarded in the realisation that what was once a holiday has now become anything but.
A recent trip to Dieppe provided my initiation into the heady world of wine buying on French soil. I kept things simple. Having no car meant a useful limit to the amount of wine that could be bought – I was confined to whatever I could carry on to the ferry back to Newhaven. I also wanted to actually relax, with wine purchasing a bonus addendum to the pastries/paintings/general self-indulgence.
In the end I picked a couple of bottles from the plentiful racks at a branch of French hypermarket Carrefour. I was inevitably guided in my choices by the card rings around the top of some bottles, which proclaimed that they’d been featured in a 2006 edition of some French wine guide or other.
Unwilling to give all my wine money to one of the largest hypermarket chains in the world, I also got a bottle from an independent retailer. In the front of the shop was an array of bizarre cheeses, chunks of chocolate, and jars of duck liver. In the back was a small but no doubt precisely chosen selection of wine.
From here I bought a 2009 bottle of Beaujolais from Domaine Monternot. It had Beaujolais-Villages status – apparently better than plain old Beaujolais but not as refined as Beaujolais Crus.
It was certainly good enough for me. Light bodied and full of red berry fruit – as you’d expect from a wine made entirely from the thin skinned and abundantly growing Gamay grape – but with a very interesting character of its own. A savoury spiciness which somehow recalls soy sauce. It sounds bizarre but works perfectly, filling the mouth with a refined complexity.
The label on the front promises “fruit et terroir”, and this is exactly what you get in this superb wine. The fruit is obvious and the terroir (a somewhat nebulous concept concerning the character of the earth the vines were grown in, amongst other things) seems undeniably evident.
The low amount of tannin makes it very easy to drink, but if pairing it with food make sure not to overload it with strong flavours or cheeses. Even mozzarella messed up the delicate balance.
And don’t forget to lightly chill it, either. I found an hour or so in the fridge to do the job – when it got too cold it began to lose its flavour.
A bottle cost me about £6, which was a bargain. You can buy one online here.