I first started getting into wine in college but I didn’t have a lot of money so I found myself buying up an inexpensive tasty young French wine called Beaujolais. It’s the reason I fell in love with wine. And as I’ve broadened my viticultural horizons I still maintain a love for Beaujolais. Not all wine you drink has to be bold and oaky and somber and pricey, sometimes you want a fun, berry-forward wine to relax and dance around with.
Several villages in the Beaujolais region all grow gamay grapes to produce a light, fruity, unassuming wine. Located just south of the Burgundy region the differences in elevation and a warmer temperature called for a heartier, easier grape than Burgundy’s pinot. Ripening a few weeks earlier than grapes in other regions, Beaujolais crafted a new type of wine. First, there is the properly aged Beaujolais Cru which is mellow and balanced, which you can drink year round. Then there is Beaujolais Nouveau, which is entirely different and highly seasonal. Beaujolais Nouveau, fermented in just 6 to 8 weeks, created a huge following. I like to think of it as a party wine because it was initially created as a way to celebrate the end of the wine harvest in the fall but it quickly built up a huge following. Now, on the third Thursday of November there are huge parties celebrating its release.
While Beaujolais Nouveau is only drinkable for a couple months, I like to keep the party going in the summer using a nice Beaujolais Cru and some organic strawberries to create a granita which is to say a slightly alcoholic cross between sorbet and a snow cone. What more could you really ask for in a dessert?
I love to go berry picking in Somis at Underwood Family Farms. It’s not too far from my house, there’s no cover for picking, and they charge $1.99 per pound! It’s a total bargain seeing as buying a pint of organic strawberries costs about $3 at Whole Foods and up to $6 at the farmer’s market. They also have blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries during various summer months so I usually head home laden with 5 pounds of strawberries and 5 pounds of whatever other berry is ripe during my visit. I go picking every three weeks so my fridge and freezer are always full of perfectly ripe berries. What can I say? I’m obsessed with summer produce. If you’re even a quarter as obsessed as I am you will definitely love this recipe.
Strawberry Beaujolais Granita
*Quick tip: When buying Beaujolais try to stay from the Louis Jadot and Georges Duboeuf brands. They are large-scale wine producers who buy up grapes from many villages within the Beaujolais region and mix them all together resulting in the unique qualities of the wine being muted.
Adapted from Bon Appetit.
Makes 8 servings
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 pounds (8 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1 cup Beaujolais wine
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
Stir water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. This makes your simple syrup. Set aside and let cool.
Place strawberries, Beaujolais, and syrup in a blender and blend until smooth. You may need to do this in batches. Strain the strawberry puree through a sieve and into a 13x9x2-inch metal pan. Cover the pan and place in freezer for 1 hour.
Using a fork stir frozen mixture, mashing any solid parts then return to freezer. Scrape mixture with a fork every 30 minutes to form icy crystals.
Divide among glasses or bowls and add the fresh sliced strawberries. Voilà! A simple dessert with only 3 ingredients, 4 if you count the water.