It came as no surprise that Maison Georges Duboeuf chose L2O - Chicago's gastronomic temple devoted to seafood - for its introduction of 2009 Beaujolais.
Beaujolais's silky texture and bright fruit make it a red wine for the entire menu, from seafood, such as Tuna Sashimi with Foie Gras Snow, to red meat and - if you like living on the culinary edge - dessert of Cold Chocolate Soup with Blueberry Ice.
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Beaujolais-Villages "Flower Label"
• Suggested retail and availability: About $10 anywhere wine is sold (distributed by Southern Wine & Spirits, Bolingbrook)
"I want the feeling of biting into perfectly ripe fruit," says winemaker Emeric Gaucher of his Beaujolais-Villages. With help from Mother Nature, he has achieved that, and more, in this 2009 vintage. Enticing aromas introduce plump and juicy blueberry, currant and black cherry flavors, with silky texture and a firm, mouthwatering finish. Serve slightly chilled with late summer fare such as salads, cold cuts and lighter pasta (flavors really pop with sun-dried tomatoes). As the leaves turn, serve just cool to the palate with barbecue and tailgate favorites and to celebrate your final alfresco meals of the year.
No wonder either that Duboeuf's sales manager is French, with an accent richly laden from years in Germany, South America and our own Lincoln Park.
Beaujolais is an international quaff, as welcome in a Rio churrascuria or your neighborhood rib joint as in a French bistro. But the fact that 2009 Beaujolais lives up to its hype as the "vintage of the Century" - no, "of a Lifetime!" has me surprised, delighted and eager for the wines to reach Chicagoland.
"I asked Georges to add these same growing conditions into my yearly contract," laughs Winemaker Emeric Gaucher. "He declined."
Sufficient spring rain, followed by a warm, dry August, fully ripened sweet, thick-skinned grapes of perfect sugar and acid balance, for wines with concentrated fruit flavors and firm, refreshing finish.
When shopping for Beaujolais, you may choose from several tiers that satisfy many occasions and budgets.
Nouveau is new, a celebration of spring and the wine allowed first yearly release (November's third Thursday) by French law. Generally, Nouveau should be enjoyed by Christmas or it becomes "old-veau."
Villages is the region's mainstay with fruit sourced from 39 approved villages. (See Ross' Choice.)
Cru Beaujolais is the top category, sourced from 10 approved villages and - in 2009 - offering flavors that approach the stature of Burgundian neighbors to the north with their premium-priced real estate.
Duboeuf bottles his own Cru, such as Fleurie, crowned Beaujolais' Queen for delicacy and elegance, combining alluring floral aroma with exciting berry flavors, peppery finish and robust tannin (about $16).
Duboeuf also represents other estates, such as Cru Moulin-a-Vent, Tour de Bief, powerful and harmonious, with concentrated berry fruit, virile tannin and rich lacing of oak, a big wine for now or to cellar one to four years (about $16).
Release begins in September, so check availability with your retailer and make your purchases. You may be surprised at how quickly 2009 Beaujolais sells out!
• Contact Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.