Backyard Beaujolais: Régnié sur Granite

Somebody mentions Beaujolais and you might think of that pink juice-box stuff that hits the market every year at Thanksgiving. But that’s Beaujolais Nouveau, which is to regular Beaujolais what Charlie’s Angels the movie is to Charlie’s Angels the TV series: uninspired, ultimately forgettable, the $4.99 DVD in the supermarket clearance bin.

The good kind of Beaujolais comes from the southern end of France’s Burgundy region, and the fanciest ones are from the 10 so-called Cru Beaujolais. They’re made from mostly Gamay grapes grown on different geographic patches (Brouilly, Morgon, Fleurie, and so on), each with slightly different soils. The youngest of those areas—named in 1988, birth year for both Rihanna and the guy who played Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter movies—is called Régnié. And to make a long story short, this is the wine I lost my heart to last weekend.

And not just Régnié, broadly, but a particular one, made in a way that lets you really taste the essence of this particular cru: the Régnié sur Granite by two guys named Cyril Alonso and Florian Looze, cousins as well as négociants (merchants, basically), who own a wine house called P-U-R. No surprise from the name (it means “pure”), Alonso and Looze believe in natural winemaking. They planned their 2011 Régnié sur Granite to be as transparent as possible, aging it in concrete tanks to avoid any wood pickup from barrel oak.

How many wines will be called this summer's backyard barbecue must-haves? A lot, for sure, but this one actually is. The flavor is juicy, with fruit that channels crushed Bing cherries, and a distinctive Gamay perfume that makes me think of violets dusted with black pepper. That “Granite” in the name? It describes the soil, which is what wine guys call “granitic,” and makes the grapes that grow in it taste minerally, almost salty. Trac Le, wine buyer at San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Market, says it drinks “lean.”

A buyer on the opposite coast, Justin Chearno of Brooklyn’s UVA, calls this Régnié sur Granite "beautiful," full of purity and freshness, and transparently Régnié in character. “I drank it over two and a half days and I couldn’t forget it,” Chearno says.

Indeed, with a moderately low alcohol content (12.5 percent), this is a wine you can afford to have an extended session with. “We’re wine geeks, we like to drink a lot,” says Selection Massale’s Guilhaume Gerard, who (with Cory Cartwright) imports P-U-R selections to the U.S. “This is a wine that lets you down a few bottles at dinner.”

Just make sure dinner consists of something simple and meaty, grilled out back on the patio.

2011 Régnié sur Granite
Available at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, $22; Paul Marcus Wines in Oakland, California, $24; and (as of July 2) UVA Wines and Spirits, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, price TBD.

Photograph by Chris Rochelle / CHOW

John Birdsall is senior editor at CHOW. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow CHOW, too, and become a fan on Facebook.