My husband John often says that if we look closely enough, we can see the first signs of the new season sooner than we’d expect. It might be the chipmunks, which go from mowing down my herbs and strawberries, to leaving acorn shells everywhere. Or the first telltale yellow-pinkish leaves on our ancient dogwoods.
So it is that, during the first days of fall, we take solace in one of Nature’s gifts, in this case the verdant blanket of leaves that obscures the ghastly McMansions on the other side of our little stream.
We seize the moment, pairing the view from our deck with whatever libation suits us. On a recent cool night, we sat outside drinking the 2011 Domaine de la Madone Beaujolias le Perreon. It was fruity and clean -- no fuss, no muss, just a charming wine. It was so fragrant that we began to worry that it would attract wasps. (Don’t laugh! Many years ago, a heady Zinfandel did just that and I got stung.)
Nevertheless, the impressive Madone reminded us of another gift of the season, the arrival of the 2012 Cru Beaujolais over the next few months, so we’ve kept this beguiling varietal in heavy rotation. There are 10 Crus, areas that make such distinguished wine that their names are listed prominently on the label (often in lieu of the word "Beaujolais): Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié, and Saint Amour. Of the 10, we’re especially partial to Fleurie. It is bold, marvelously aromatic and longer lived than most.
We gathered a bunch for a tasting -- and, in this case, "bunch" is an appropriate term, because good Beaujolais has the freshness of ripe grapes on the vine. Not all were as successful as our patio-worthy Madone. Beaujolais can sometimes taste flat, or have hints of salt or metal, none of which is a good thing.
The 2011 Domaine Michel Chignard Les Moriers Fleurie was a joy. Deeply purple, with concentrated Gamay fruitiness, it is beautifully made, serious in its own way, and possessing a totally fetching aroma.
Things that sting aren’t the only hazards to imbibing outside. There will be those hulking homes staring back at us soon enough, after the leaves fall.
We are thrilled to welcome Dorothy J. Gaiter as a regular columnist for the Grape Collective. Ms. Gaiter conceived and wrote The Wall Street Journal's wine column, "Tastings," from 1998 to 2010 with her husband, John Brecher. She has been tasting and studying wine since 1973. She has had a distinguished career in journalism as a reporter, editor, columnist and editorial writer at The Miami Herald and The New York Times as well as at The Journal.