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Hamming It Up With Beaujolais
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. For more information go to

With our recommendation earlier for the Passover lamb, let's get ready for Easter by checking out a couple of good matches for that 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 rose), 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, Chenas, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Regnie 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.


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