A good Nouveau and a cheap Chianti

Nouveau Beaujolais? Does anyone even remember that stuff? It’s been almost a decade since I wrote that the long-running trend’s star was fading, and it hadn’t even crossed my mind for years.

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So imagine my surprise when I walked into my neighborhood wine shop the other day and spotted a display rack full of Nouveau in Georges Duboeuf’s familiar flower-labeled bottle.

I declined to take advantage of that opportunity, but wait! What’s this? A stack of bottles in the adjoining shelf were Beaujolais Nouveau too, from Domaine Rochette, but they bore the label of importer Alain Junguenet’s Wines of France on their more subtle and dignified labels.

At 13 bucks, I couldn’t resist, even if I am pretty much over Nouveau. It was a worthwhile investment, too.

A vineyard in Fleurie, Beaujolais.

A vineyard in Fleurie, Beaujolais.

It was about as good a Nouveau as I’ve ever tried, fruity and exuberant while clean and balanced, without the odd vinegary or “banana” scents that bedevil the genre. It’s still Nouveau, though, and not something that would be likely to hold my attention all year. Still, I enjoyed it, and I’m glad I ran across it.

While we’re talking about decent red wines at accessible prices, let’s talk about that rare and pleasant thing, a very good wine of excellent value for less than $10. Caposaldo 2014 Chianti is just such a wine, jumping out at you from the shelf with its bright-orange label, and catching your attention with its $8.99 price tag.

It’s a simple, generic Chianti, although its modern mix of grapes (three-quarters Sangiovese with splashes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and a dash of Malvasia) could qualify it as a mini-“Super Tuscan” if you want to play that game. Most important, it passes the taste test, not overly complex or elegant but clearly Chianti, with a fresh, bright aroma and flavor of ripe black cherries and dried fruit over hints of aromatic cedar.

It’s definitely worth this price and more; if you like simple Chianti as an everyday dinner wine it would be worth buying by the case. And happily, it’s going to be a lot easier to find than Junguenet’s Domaine Rochette Nouveau. You’ll find my tasting notes on both wines below.


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Today’s Tasting Reports

Domaine Rochette 2016 Beaujolais Villages Nouveau ($12.99)

Domaine Rochette Beaujolais Nouveau

Dark reddish-purple with a clear garnet edge. The aroma is exuberantly fruity, as you would expect from a Nouveau, but it’s a fresh, clean fruit – juicy, ripe strawberries and tart black plums – in an aroma and flavor that’s indisputably “grapey,” but we’re talking about European-style Gamay grapes here, not your grandmother’s Concord. Abundant fruit pours over on the palate, too, crisp and freshly acidic, 13% alcohol, with a fresh, ripe and palate-cleansing finish that lasts and lasts. U.S. importer: Wines of France Inc., Mountainside, N.J.; Alain Junguenet Selections. (Dec. 7, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: Fine sipped as an aperitif or in any setting where a light, fruity red will serve: Burgers, red-sauced pasta, pizza, cheese. We enjoyed it with fresh, homemade cream of tomato soup and thin-sliced Parmigiano-Reggiano.

WHEN TO DRINK: Soon. Maybe not before New Year’s, as the old wisdom suggested, but Beaujolais Nouveau is made to enjoy, not to cellar away.

My local price is on par with the $13 U.S. average retail listed by Wine-Searcher.com for the few U.S. vendors carrying this Nouveau this year. If you can find it, it’s the rare Nouveau that legitimately commands a mid-teens price.

Domaine Rochette showcases its Beaujolais, including the Noveau, in this brief page in French and English. Browse through the site for more about the winery and its wines.

The production run for Domaine Rochette 2016 Beaujolais Villages Nouveau was apparently limited, with only a couple of U.S. vendors.

Try this link, though, for a broader selection of Beaujolais wines from Domaine Rochette. Also, Alain Junguenet’s portfolio is widely distributed, so it might be worth contacting the importer to ask about retailers near you who handle these wines.

Caposaldo 2014 Chianti ($8.99)

Caposaldo  Chianti

Dark reddish-purple with a clear edge, showing bright ruby glints against the light. Abundant black-cherry aromas, a touch of fresh cherry and more obvious dried fruit. It’s fresh and bright on the palate, tart cherries and a hint of something like cedar wood, all framed with zippy acidity, moderate 12.5% alcohol, and just a hint of soft, fuzzy tannins. Fresh fruit and subtle aromatic cedar persist in a long finish. It’s not the most complex wine in the world, but it would be hard to find a Chianti of better value for well under 10 bucks. A blend of the traditional Sangiovese (75%) with the not-so-traditional Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (10% each), and Malvasia (5%). U.S. importer: Kobrand Corp., NYC. (Nov. 27, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: The importer suggests traditional Italian-American family fare, pizza and pasta with tomato sauce or chicken or eggplant Parmigiana. We went with another iconic Italian family dish, fennel-scented sausages with sauteed green peppers and onions, and it made a fine match.

WHEN TO DRINK: There’s no rush to drink it over the next year or three, assuming cool storage on its side, but it’s not intended for long aging and certainly won’t gain value with time.

For a change, my local price was close to the lower end of the $8 to $14 range of prices reported by U.S. retailers on Wine-Searcher.com. At this price it’s a no-brainer to pick up a bottle or several if you can find it.

Click this link for a fairly detailed fact sheet on this vintage from importer Kobrand.

Check prices and find vendors for Caposaldo Chianti on Wine-Searcher.com.

If you can’t find a local vendor or one that will ship to you there, you might check in with Kobrand, the importer, to locate distributors near you.


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