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The shock of the inhuman terrorist attacks in Paris last week have perhaps numbed us. But this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau Wine Day 2015 has never been so symbolic this Thursday 19 November. Beaujolais producers affirm that their “wines are to be celebrated” and “they represent French conviviality and culture.
The moment of sharing this year is a strong symbol to show that France still stands strong and is proud of its values.”
The French know how to continue their art de vivre and they need our support during this tough time – as locals and tourists alike are perhaps scared to venture out for a while in the Paris we love so much. After an exceptionally hot summer and a perfectly mature early harvest, the French have good reason to be proud. 2015 will apparently be an outstanding vintage and so it’s time to celebrate wine in France and around the world.
Today nearly a third of Beaujolais production is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s the first French wine to be released for each vintage year. Harvesting takes place late August to early September and the traditional Gamay Noir grapes (which make up 98% of Beaujolais wines) are fermented for only a few days then released on the third Thursday in November, a practise that has continued since 1985 by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO).
Like Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais basic reds are to be drunk within the year. They’re real bistro wines in Paris, served slightly chilled and slightly blueish-light-purple in colour due to the Gamay grape, known for being light, fruity and easy-drinking.
This week also marks 24 years ago since I met my Frenchman. Antoine had just returned from a student Beaujolais Nouveau evening and so we quickly found a mutual conversation starter – admittedly I made him do most of the talking just to listen to his endearing, oh-là-là accent. Having blind-tasted the Scottish Wine Society’s selection the previous evening – celebrated in true Frenchie style with the official jury arriving on bicycles, clad in onion-johnnys, berets, blue and white stripy nautical matelot jerseys – the best producer was unveiled with its pretty flowery label since it typically tasted of banana and bubble gum. Although my thoughts were leaning towards the highest category, the Beaujolais Cru wines.
When I explained to my new French-Corsican friend Antoine that evening about the 10 Crus (Brouilly, Régnié, Chiroubles; Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Saint-Amour; Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent), and how some of them could keep up to 10 years in the bottle with no need to chill the red wine either – I’d somehow talked myself into a Frenchman’s heart. We had an excuse to meet again and thankfully, we’re still continuing the love of discovering of new wines together.
Chestnut Pumpkin Tarts
So to celebrate the perfect partner, here’s a delicious recipe for chestnut pumpkin tarts that match well with the basic Beaujolais or the lighter to medium bodied crus. Inspired by my Corsican family who use chestnut flour in their cooking, I’ve added it to the pastry; the roasted pumpkin and mushroom filling is also good with any turkey leftovers. Do try and find some sage to add to this, as this adds that extra je ne sais quoi to the flavour.
Roasted Pumpkin, Mushroom and Chestnut Tart Recipe
You could also replace the mushrooms with left-over turkey, as the wines also partner very well with poultry. Inspired by and adapted from a recipe from the French edition of Elle magazine. Enjoy a taste of Autumn on a plate!
Makes one large tart (28cm diameter) or 8 individual tartlets
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Resting Time: 2 hours
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
150g plain flour
100g chestnut flour
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
4-5 tbsp water
1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and mix until the dough forms a ball. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for an hour. Remove the dough from the fridge and leave to stand about 10 minutes, to make it easy to roll it out.
2. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface then using the pastry roller, wrap around the pastry to transfer it to the tart tin (I find it easier using a tart tin with a loose bottom). Press it in to the sides then, again with the roller, roll over the top of the tin to clean up the edges. Keep in the fridge while preparing the filling.
350g pumpkin (or red kuri squash/potimarron), roughly chopped into small chunks
3 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white part, sliced finely
300g mushrooms (chestnut/crimini), cut into big pieces
1 tbsp sage leaves, finely chopped
250g crème fraîche
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
salt & pepper
2 tbsp parmesan, finely grated*
* please grate from a block of parmesan and not from a packet of pre-grated stuff. The resulting taste is so different!
3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F (gas 6). Place the pumpkin with half of the oil and sage in a roasting tin and roast uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, over medium heat, dry fry the mushrooms. There’s no need to add any oil. Wait until the mushrooms give off their liquid and then transfer to a bowl. Set aside to cool slightly. In the same pan, add a little olive oil and fry the leeks until they’re translucent but not brown.
5. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, crème fraîche, nutmeg, parmesan, and season to taste.
6. Sprinkle the roasted pumpkin with sage over the tart base, top with the leek and mushrooms and pour over the creamy egg mix. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes for a large tart (30 minutes if making tartlets).
So cheers to this year’s vintage! Serve with this year’s jam-packed Beaujolais Nouveau (apparently it’s full of forest fruits on the nose!) or enjoy it at any time of year with a medium-bodied Cru: a Saint-Amour, a Fleurie, or a Côte de Brouilly and let’s raise a toast to the French.
To show your support for our local bistros, restaurants and wine bars in France, see the
List of Beaujolais Programme throughout France.
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