It’s truly a shame that commercially produced Beaujolais Nouveau (which generally emphasizes quantity over quality) has given all Beaujolais wines a bad rap. In reality, when you go beyond Nouveau and explore the Villages and the Cru appellation, you get some truly lovely wines, all made from the Gamay grape (which incidentally is pork’s best friend when it comes to food pairing). The thin skin of the Gamay grape creates wines that are lighter bodied and easier to drink, which makes these wines super versatile.
The Villages appellation is produced across 38 villages and these wines are more concentrated and fuller bodied than the simple Beaujolais appellation. Check out my earlier blog post on the Beaujolais Villages that I tasted at Septime Restaurant in Paris.
At the top end of Beaujolais are the crus. There are 10 (corresponding to the 10 top villages in the region): Chénas, Moulin-à-vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Régnié, Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly, Juliénas, Saint-Amour, and my ultimate favorite Morgon. These wines are typically even more complex than the Villages. They express their terroir and they can be quite diverse and can range from the light and delicate Fleurie to the rich and tannic Moulin-à-Vent.
My favorite of the crus is Morgon, which typically has lovely red fruit aromas (especially cherry and pomegranate), silky smooth tannins as well as some earthiness. The crème de la crème of Morgons comes from the Côte du Py plot. My favorite producer of Côte du Py is Jean Foillard. I’m opening a bottle of 2012.
This wine smells divine: lots of red berries but there is also a certain earthiness as well as some herb aromas. And the color is such a vibrant crimson.
Now for the food… As I mentioned above Gamay pairs beautifully with pork. Other foods that bring out the best in Morgon are game meats, especially fowl. The subtle gamey flavors of pork and the game fowl generally work superbly with fruity elements, whether it is a fruit-based sauce in the dish or fruity aromas in the wine. At the same time, both of these meats are light still enough in flavor to not overpower the flavors of the wine. Similarly because of Morgon’s fruity characteristics, I also love adding contrasting smokey elements to the food. Accordingly, I prepared two dishes to pair with the Morgon.
First, I made some pork belly. I seasoned and roasted the pork in the oven. Once it cooled down, I cut it into pieces and pan seared them. I placed the pork belly on top of a smokey roasted eggplant purée. To add just a hint of sweetness and another earthy element, I sprinkled some beetroot cubes on top of the pork and garnished with some beetroot sprouts.
The pork worked nicely with the Morgon but it was the smoked eggplant that really made this pairing shine!
Second, I made a Persian dish: Guinea fowl fesenjan. Fesenjan can be made with a variety of meats and the sauce typically features walnuts and pomegranate molasses. This is not part of the traditional recipe but I also put some smoked sweet paprika to the sauce to add smokiness.
I cut a whole guinea fowl into 8 pieces and braised them in the sauce until tender. Fesenjan is typically served with pomegranate seeds as well a variety of herbs, both of which mirror the aromas of the wine. For the herbs, anything goes and I had zaatar, parsley, and mint at home.
I served both the drumsticks:
And the breast, which I put on top of a bed of couscous:
Again, even though the sauce is quite rich (which is balanced by the acidity in the wine) the flavors of this dish are more subtle. It is this subtlety of flavors, which made the pairing work well without having the flavors of the food overpower those of the wine. As in the pork belly dish, I loved the smokiness here from the paprika with this wine. The pomegranate and herb garnishes were also a great complement to the aromas in the wine.
An important note however is that pomegranate molasses can range from tangy to sweet. And if it’s on the sweeter side, that can make the whole dish taste sweet, which may not work well with the Morgon (sweet foods always make dry wines taste sour). The molasses I used is somewhere in the middle: fruity, a bit tart, and just a hint of sweetness. That together with the richness from the walnuts was a great balance of flavors and worked really well with the Morgon. Depending on which type molasses you might find, you can always adjust the flavors by adding sugar if it’s too tart or a little acid if it’s too sweet.