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by Fred McMillin
for September 12, 2000

 

"Brew-yee" Apogee


Prologue

Gamay Grapes

The Gamay Makes Beaujolais.

Brouilly (brew-yee) is one of the best and most famous districts in France's Beaujolais region...The wine is one of the most attractive of the entire region, especially when young. Fruity, full-flavored yet soon ready to drink, it is among the most agreeable red wines in the world.

(Schoonmaker Encyclopedia of Wine, Alexis Bespaloff)

If it's that good, let's see where it came from.


Brouilly's Beginnings

100 A.D.—The Romans are planting vines on Mont Brouilly, between modern Macon and Lyon in eastern France.

700 A.D.—A young hermit lived near the ruins of Nero's palace as the Roman empire was collapsing. Benedict of Nursia went on to establish the first order of monks, serious and black-robed. By 700 A.D. the Benedictines had reached France and took over winemaking in a district named after the village of Beaujeu, that is Beaujolais.

1395—Burgundy, named after a Germanic tribe, is north of Beaujolais, and does it a big favor. The Duke of Burgundy, Philippe the Bold, bans the Gamay grape, forcing it to flee south to the granitic soils of Beaujolais, where it shows great improvement.

1676—While no doubt enjoying the new dessert that's the rage of Paris (ice cream), the firm of Mansart & LeNotre is not resting on its laurels (they'd designed Versailles). Instead, they start laying out what will be the largest Chateau in Beaujolais...with 360 acres of gardens, parks and vineyards (100% Gamay), Chateau de La Chaize. It produced our...


Wine of the Day

1998 Chateau de La Chaize Brouilly
Grand Vin du Beaujolais
Founded—1676
Reviews—Very consistent.

  • Vintage 1975—The La Chaize is a lovely soft wine of delightful subtle elegance...long and silky finish. (Author Robert Balzer)
  • Vintage 1995—Smooth, well-integrated, nice balance between black cherry-licorice flavors and harmonious tannins. (Wine Spectator) My panel gave it a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as they did today's 1998.

Food—When my wife took cooking lessons for eight years from the late James Beard in his Manhattan apartment, he poured quality Beaujolais with these dishes after the class prepared them.
    Chicken with Bearnaise Sauce
    Lamb and rice with pine nuts
    Oxtail ragout with Brie

Contact—Office of Paul Wagner, (707) 255-7667, FAX (707) 255-1119.
Price—Expert Anthony Dias Blue says these top-rank Beaujolais at less than $15 are among the best red wine values on the market. This one is right on target...twelve dollars!


Postscript

The 1,500-foot Mont Brouilly has given rise to two designations, Brouilly and Cote-de-Brouilly. The Cote vineyards cover the upper portion of the hill. Both are 100% Gamay from essentially the same soil and very similar temperatures, so the differences between the two wines are very small. La Chance is a Brouilly, which claims to express the true character of the Gamay a bit more. I don't think it will disappoint you.

 

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 
 


This page created September 2000

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