I generally believe that Arkansas' two best months are April and October. It's not too hot, usually not freezing and, random tornadoes aside, they're the perfect months for making use of your favorite outdoor dining space. For me, that's my back patio, and in recent weeks I've been using it more than enough to make up for the months of winter neglect. Naturally, this has me searching for the perfect wine to pair with warm-ish afternoons, cool-ish evenings and an inch-thick layer of pollen.
So what is the best bet for a bottle that will transition you from your 4 p.m. Zoom call to your 7 p.m. firepit?
For me, it's the French wine Beaujolais — more specifically, Cru Beaujolais: a term meaning that it hails from one of 10 villages (or "Crus") of the Beaujolais region.
Beaujolais is just north of the French city Lyon, and its red wines are made from the goes-with-everything grape gamay. At the very least, you've heard of it from the brightly labeled bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau that pop up around Thanksgiving. Most of those bottles are middling at best, so don't let them sway you from giving the region's more refined offerings a chance.
While these wines may take a little looking to find (if your local shop doesn't carry them yet, just ask them to special order you a bottle), they're some of the most enjoyable wines available in Arkansas, and not enough people are drinking them. As much as I'd like to drink every bottle myself, my waistline and budget won't allow for it.
Here are some bottles worth hunting down:
Domaine Chignard Fleurie "Les Moriers," $28
Out of all of Beaujolais' Crus, the wines of Fleurie are the most overtly perfumed and seductive. Imagine lying in a field of violets, snacking on black cherries and raspberries. For those unfamiliar with Beaujolais, this is the perfect gateway drug.
Chateau Thivin Cote de Brouilly, $30
The folks at Chateau Thivin know what they're doing (they'd better, since they've been at it since 1877) and it's considered one of the region's benchmark producers. It's famous for farming one of the region's most distinctive Crus, the Cote de Brouilly — what's left of an ancient volcano. The wine is intense and powerful, deep and textural. It's a Tennessee Williams play trapped under cork.
Jean-Paul Thevenet Morgon "Vieilles Vignes," $35
Morgon is likely the most well-known of the 10 Crus, in part because it's the second-largest but also because (and this is just my fairly educated opinion) Americans like buying French wines that are easy to pronounce. The Vieilles Vignes, or "old vine" bottling from Thevenet, tastes like perfectly ripe strawberries rolled in freshly cracked black pepper and makes for the perfect pairing with a backyard burger.
As always, you can see what I'm drinking on Instagram at @sethebarlow and send your wine questions and quibbles to firstname.lastname@example.org.