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THE TASTERS' CHOICE : Chablis, Beaujolais and Their California Counterparts--Along With French ZIP-Code Wines--Test 16 Professional Palates at The Times' 12th Annual Judging


But the wine that spills forth from the barrel spigots in the bistros of Lyon and Paris is not the same wine that travels across the ocean. Though the appellation d'origine may be the same, the difference is in the delivery container. The shipment of bottles across the seas, not casks or barrels, means that the wine, as Alexis Lichine has accurately said, "must be racked and re-racked both to remove the sediment that would normally have time to settle out naturally and to prevent a malolactic fermentation. In the process of this premature preparation, the very heart of the wine is poured away."

There is no reason to despair, however. Young Beaujolais still has engaging charms, uniquely its own, still a fresh berryness of taste, from big, luscious ripeness of the windmill wine--Moulin-a-Vent--to the macho hardness of Morgon, or the delicacy of Fleurie with its fruitiness.

In Beaujolais, there are nine separate crus , or regions of production: Moulin-a-Vent, Julienas, Morgon, Chenas, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Cote de Brouilly, Brouilly and Chiroublies--listed in the order of the most full-bodied to the lightest. These wines are always proudly labeled with this commune designation. Wines labeled Beaujolais-Villages come from 36 smaller areas, of equally splendid production, such as St. Lager, where the Pasquier-Desvignes family has been making the Beaujolais called Marquisat since 1420. Wine simply labeled Beaujolais is blended from wines drawn from anywhere within the subregion.

Naturally, with a wine type of such popularity, California growers were quick to plant the Gamay after the repeal of Prohibition. Somehow, the wine never seemed to have that same refreshing zing. Then it was discovered that the California Gamay vines were not the same as those growing in Beaujolais. UC Davis viticulturists found the vine to be a clone of Pinot noir. So today, California growers who have Gamay Beaujolais vines may call the wine Pinot Noir if they wish. Another vine, growing in the Napa Valley, was thought to be the true vine, and it was dubbed Napa Gamay and is, indeed, the closest clone to the Gamay noir au jus blanc of Beaujolais found so far.

For our tasting of Beaujolais, we decided to make a selection of the most popular French Beaujolais, with some of the leading California wines from the French vinifera. To get the palates set in the right direction, 10 fine examples of French Beaujolais led off the blind tasting. We followed this survey of Beaujolais wines with a tasting of ZIP-code red table wines of France, and generic California burgundies, rivals for acceptance as everyday table wines. The French reds were better than the white ZIP-code wines, but in the final scoring in that category, it was a California Burgundy, from Buena Vista, that was deemed the tasters' choice.

Following are the top-scoring wines of our 1985 judging.

CHABLIS Price/Rating CHABLIS VALMUR 1983 $15/17.4

Albert Pic & Fils, imported by Kobrand Corp. Wonderful wine, with haunting floral depths in its bouquet. BEAULIEU VINEYARD 1983 NAPA VALLEY


Produced and bottled by Beaulieu Vineyards, Rutherford, Calif. Very pleasant wine with toasty floral aspect and clean, appetizing aromas. BOUCHARD PERE & FILS

1981 CHABLIS $6.50/16.9

Imported by International Vintage Wines (Heublein) Golden wine, with Chardonnay breed apparent; long and crisply clean. RODNEY STRONG 1982 SONOMA


Grown, produced and bottled by Rodney Strong Vineyards, Windsor, Calif. Elegant wine, with slight oak hints in bouquet, Chardonnay finesse. KENDALL-JACKSON 1983


Produced and bottled by Kendall-Jackson, Lakeport, Calif. Stylish wine with French floral hints. KENDALL-JACKSON 1983 CHARDONNAY-PROPRIETOR'S

RESERVE $14/16.3

Produced and bottled by Kendall-Jackson, Lakeport, Calif. Good balance of wood and fruit, with a buttery rather than crisp taste.


Produced and bottled by Beaulieu Vineyard, Rutherford, Calif. Splendid bouquet with intriguing suggestion of Chardonnay. INGLENOOK ESTATE 1983 NAPA VALLEY PRIVATE

STOCK CHABLIS $3.50/15.2

Produced and bottled by Inglenook, Napa Valley, Rutherford, Calif. Fine balance of grape and wood, lemony savors; dry, clean, crisp. WENTE BROS. 1983 CALIFORNIA

CHABLIS $3.61/15.0

Produced and bottled by Wente Bros., Livermore, Calif. Light, refreshing, with a good clean bouquet; dry finish. PARDUCCI 1983 MENDOCINO

CHABLIS $4.19/14.8

Produced and bottled by Parducci Winery, Ukiah, Calif. Rich wine with appetizing hints of oak in the bouquet.


Vinted, cellared and bottled at Modesto, Calif. Silvery pale wine, clean and refreshing in taste; dry, tart, light in body. GIUMARRA 1984 CALIFORNIA

CHABLIS $3/14.7

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