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Beaujolais winemakers: “We’re not plonk!”

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Beaujolais vintners have started a new public relations campaign to convince people that their wines are not “plonk,” Reuters is reporting. “We are the only appellation in the world known for plonk and not for its top quality,” the Reuters article quoted Jean Bourjade, Managing Director of Inter Beaujolais, the official trade association for the wines of Beaujolais, as saying.

Great word, “plonk.” My dictionary says it may derive from “blanc,” the French word for white, and defines it as “cheap, inferior wine.” I personally never thought of Beaujolais as plonk. I used to drink a lot, everything from Nouveau every November to Villages up through the finer crus, such as Morgon and Brouilly. I had a particular love for Moulin-a-Vent, which I could find at the old Draper & Esquin wine store, on Montgomery Street in San Francisco.

As part of their campaign, the Beaujolais producers will hold tastings around the world in 2009, including in New York, Philadelphia and somewhere in Florida. That’s a good idea. Exposing your finest wines to the curious, and explaining to people why it’s good, is a no-brainer if you want to attract customers and publicity. I bet the local bloggers will show up, and then, bingo! Free publicity on the Internet. (Memo to Beaujolais producers: Don’t forget the food table, especially the pate de foie gras and broiled salmon.)

As in France, there are regions in California that are considered a little plonky. Temecula has struggled to gain respect, and last month they launched a $100,000 do-over: the new Temecula slogan is “Southern California Wine Country.” It comes with a redesigned logo and a 32-page guide for tourists. Lodi, the Sierra Foothills and Livermore Valley also have wrestled with identity issues. Two areas that used to be considered plonky, but have broken through to genuine quality, are Lake County and, especially, Paso Robles. They prove that with a concerted effort, plonkocity can be overcome. But a cautionary note: PR campaigns, tastings, glossy brochures, logos and slogans will never be enough to persuade consumers, not to mention gatekeepers, that a wine region merits respect. I hope Beaujolais regains the world’s affections, the way it once did. As the late, great Alexis Lichine wrote, “If ever wine-makers were blessed, it is the growers of Beaujolais.”

DEPARTMENT OF OOPS!

Came across this invitation from a local restaurant to a wine and food event. “______ prides itself on fine food accompanied with fine wine and would love to be your Somalia for the evening. We have paired some of our incredible dishes with wines to create a perfect intoxicating match to the palate. Please note: Our parings and dishes change with seasonal menu change.” Duly noted, but one question: Would those parings be potatoes?

  1. Ahhh Beaujolais… The wines I was raised with, fruity, elegant, light, tart, interesting… I wish this region would get some regognition but on the other hand I can enjoy great Julienas, Chenas, St Amour, Moulin a Vent below $20. It is probably one of the best kept secret with Loire Valley Cabernet Franc.

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