Hamming it up with Beaujolais
Let's follow up on Monday's examination of a kosher wine for Passover lamb by checking out a couple of good matches for Easter ham.
As I've said before, if lamb is on the bill of fare, your wine-matching task is easy: Just about any good, dry red wine makes a natural marriage with lamb, and the Bordeaux grapes - the Cabernets and Merlot - may work best of all.
But when the featured dish is ham, then finding a wine to match poses a bit more of a challenge. And that goes double if it is garnished with fruit and sweet flavors. Ham's relatively strong and salty flavors make it an iffy match for many table wines, but it can be done. Whether you want a red or white (or even a rosé), look for a wine that's fruity and tart.
An off-dry (gently sweet) wine, perhaps a Riesling or Chenin Blanc, makes a fine choice with ham. But if you want a red, I suggest you consider the French region featured in today's tastings: Beaujolais ("Boe-zho-lay"). The light, fresh wines from this hilly area at the southernmost end of Burgundy are made from the Gamay grape. Beaujolais can be one of the most refreshing red wines, crisp and gentle and full of exuberant fruit, laced up with snappy acidity that makes it a fine food wine. Not a wine for cellaring, it's best enjoyed while it's young and fresh.
Beaujolais-Villages - so called because it's made from fruit grown around several villages that traditionally produce superior grapes - is a step up from just-plain Beaujolais, which may be made from fruit grown anywhere in the region.
Better still are the "cru" Beaujolais, made from grapes grown in one of 10 specific villages, which have the right to put the village name on the label rather than the more generic "Beaujolais." These villages, listed alphabetically, are Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour. Among my personal favorites are Brouilly ("Brew-ye") and Côte de Brouilly, which often show a delicious earthiness that adds dimension to the Beaujolais fruit.
Chateau de la Chaize 2001 Brouilly ($14.39)
This fine Beaujolais from the village of Brouilly shows a clear, dark plum color in the glass. Attractive tart-cherry aromas add a subtle sweet-earthy note that's easier to enjoy than to describe, pleasantly reminiscent of cooked carrots. Tart and ripe, juicy fruit and tangy acidity are nicely balanced in the flavor. U.S. importer: Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, NYC. (April 10, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Light and crisp fruit without tannic astringency makes it a good red-wine match with roast turkey; it would also go very well with the sweet and salty flavor of ham.
VALUE: Superior to the run of village Beaujolais in this price range.
WHEN TO DRINK: Beaujolais in general is a drink-now wine, but the village wines can be matured - assuming careful storage at cellar temperature - and may become more akin to older Pinot Noir after a few years.
WEB LINK: To find your way to the importer's Chateau de la Chaize fact sheet, click to
Domaine Manoir du Carra 2001 Beaujolais-Villages ($9.99)
Exceptionally stylish for a Beaujolais, this artisanal wine produced by Jean-Noël Sambardier is a clear, dark cherry red. Fresh scents of strawberries make for an appetizing aroma; swirling the glass enhances the berry scent. Its appealing red-fruit flavor is fresh and dry, berries with a tangy acidic snap. A clean, tart finish makes it an exceptional food wine. U.S. importer: Kysela Pere et Fils Ltd., Winchester, Va. (April 14, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: A fine partner with ham, and went very well with a pork-chop sautee with a quick wine-and-balsamic reduction sauce.
VALUE: Runs at the head of the pack in the $10 range.
WHEN TO DRINK: Best enjoyed within the next year or so, while it's youthful and fresh.
WEB LINK: The importer's Website lists its portfolio at:
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Wednesday, April 16, 2003