A summer afternoon in the Beaujolais Vineyards, France:
Discovering the surprises hidden away in the picturesque vineyards of the Beaujolais province to the north of Lyon, France.
“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know,’’ wrote Keats more than a century ago and it continues to hold true across those French pastures.
The curious and starry eyed wine lover in me hopped onto this vineyard trip during our stay in Lyon, France. The Beaujolais province located to the north of Lyon is a historical wine producing region in France covering a part of north of Rhone-Alpes and parts of the south of Burgundy areas. I am no connoisseur and yet love that glass of wine; to be specific I enjoy the milder red wines like most beginners and in Beaujolais I found the great light, slightly fruity, mild red wine made from the ‘gamay’ grapes variety, voila.
We were lucky to have arrived at the vineyards at this time of the year as the grape picking was about to begin in just a couple days, so it meant all full grown grape wine plants and ample opportunity to quickly pick (read steal) a few ripe bounties. Oh, man and the gamay grapes are juicy, out and out sweet with a thin skin and a sleek stone at the end. We picked our handfuls quickly and enjoyed the delicious fruit as we traversed through the terrain covered with the grapes plantation as far as our eyes could see.
Smoke rose from a few chimneys of the small villages scattered through the picturesque Beaujolais landscapes, one of the only few sign of activity in the otherwise almost sleeping pastures, it seemed they were literally living by the words of Keats above. But that could just be the last sleep until the hullabaloo of the picking season sets into the valley, for it all begins at once on a fixed date across all the villages of the province. It would be equally amazing to see the hustle bustle in a few days but our caravan had to move. Crossing the curves and bends of the hilly terrain covered in the lush green of the potent fruit we made our final halt outside a building that displayed the sign ‘ Bienvenue a I’Espace des Brouilly’ (Welcome to Espace of Brouilly), the official stop for wine tasting across the Brouilly Crus (crus- it’s a noun for vineyards).
Every village across the Beaujolais province usually has one or two big estates or mansions to which the villagers bring their produce and here they are aged in the oak barrels before release or sometimes fermented for just a few days like the famous Beaujolias Nouveau. Well to get into the depth of that I guess I’ll need a college degree in the subject-WINE, but still I did learn one basic lesson that day that the major difference in the wine of the same region or the same fruit essentially comes from the method or time employed in fermenting or brewing, I mean the longer you age the more full body the wine gets and the vice-versa. To my relief I soon learned, of course from our English speaking guide, that the Beaujolais Curs (of which Brouilly is the largest Cru) produces the lightest body wines in the area. It was no soon established as a fact too, with a drop from my first tasting glass of the wine Brouilly, Domaine des Pierrieres, guess it’s important to mention that in case you find one somewhere, it is highly recommended. It was nice earthy toned little fruity, light red wine that went down pretty well with my palate and I bought two bottles of them right then and there, for otherwise usually with my limited no knowledge Iwould stand facing the wine cellars with no idea of what to pick. The next to be poured was a Cote de Brouilly, released in 2011 and it was a definitely a much deeper concentrate and while the American couple across the table went crazy about it I found it strong for my beginner palate. A few other variations of the wines were served and the one other that caught my palate just right was again a Brouilly, Pisse Voilley but this one was slightly more intense than the first, I am guessing it was perhaps because of the age as its bottle dated 2010 as against the first one’s 2011.
Four straight glasses of wine and we saw all sparkling eyes around us, happy people celebrating life in general. High more on the blessed life than on the holy nectar we hopped back onto the bus, all content faces glowing with the sense of calm in our hearts we traced our way back out of the mid-summer day dream across the Beaujoliss vineyards.
It was at the end of this trip that I perhaps understood what Benjamin Franklin meant when he said “Wine is a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”