It's nearly that time of year when the "nouveau" machine starts revving up and, by Nov. 17, sweet, red Beaujolais floods the market with lightly fermented gamay that's the closest wine gets to juicy fruit.

Not entirely a bad thing before the winter doldrums set in.

But in recent years, a renewed interest in Beaujolais' more serious side - the less-sweet, earthier, and age-worthy renditions made in the "cru" villages around Beaujolais - has also taken root.

In turn, gamay itself has become a favorite grape of wine nerds everywhere for its ability to convey, even on its lightweight frame, vivid earthiness and bright acidity that pair well with food.

Raisins Gaulois, from the son of noted Morgon natural wine producer Marcel Lapierre, is a great example of what can be made for $15 or less. Most of the wine comes from young-vine Morgon, an appellation known for its structure.

But like the whimsical cartoon of a naked grape-squeezing quaffer on the label, it never loses its sense of fun, with a beam of pure, tart red fruit framed by just enough earthiness and silky tannins to stand up to a meal.

- Craig LaBan
Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois 2015, $14.99 in Pennsylvania (code 99161)