Beaujolais

Oct 27, 2023by Andrew Lowry

This blog covers the different types of Beaujolais, the Crus of Beaujolais, the best wines and vintages to try, and it covers natural winemaking, and the super fun and contentious Beaujolais Nouveau! Feel free to skip around and read whatever peaks your interest! Let's go!

What are the different tiers of Beaujolais?

You will see three different levels of Beaujolais on the market and each is a step up in quality from the former:

  1. Beaujolais - this wine can contain fruit from anywhere in the Beaujolais region. It's likely cheap and enjoyable, but the few extra bucks saved isn't likely worth it. Instead, go for a Village wine.
  2. Beaujolais-Villages - 36 villages can supply fruit to make a Villages wine. These wines rarely have the name of the village on them, but are often much better than standard Beaujolais as the fruit is sourced from the hills instead of the mass-produced flatland growing areas.
  3. Cru Beaujolais - the best of the best Beaujolais are Cru Beaujolais. These are 10 towns just south of Mâcon (and Pouilly-Fuissé) that consistently make the best Gamay wines in the world. You will need to know the names of the Crus to know these wines are from Beaujolais because they are not required to say Beaujolais anywhere on the bottle.

What are the Ten Crus of Beaujolais?

1. Brouilly
Brouilly is the largest and most southern of the crus. Its wines are known for their fruity and floral aromas, with flavors of red berries and a hint of minerality. Brouilly wines are typically light-bodied and approachable, making them great for casual enjoyment.

2. Chénas
Chénas produces wines with a deeper color and more pronounced tannins compared to other crus. These wines often exhibit aromas of violets and red fruits, with a touch of spice. Chénas wines have good aging potential and can develop more complexity over time.

3. Chiroubles
Chiroubles is known for its elegant and delicate wines. These wines are often described as having floral aromas, such as roses and violets, along with red fruit flavors. Chiroubles wines are light-bodied and refreshing, making them a popular choice for summer sipping.

4. Côte de Brouilly
Côte de Brouilly is located on the slopes of the extinct volcano, Mont Brouilly. The wines from this cru are known for their rich and concentrated flavors, with notes of black fruits, spices, and a touch of minerality. Côte de Brouilly wines have good aging potential and can develop more complexity with time.

5. Fleurie
Fleurie is often referred to as the "Queen of Beaujolais" due to its elegant and feminine style. These wines are characterized by their floral aromas, such as iris and violet, along with flavors of red berries. Fleurie wines are medium-bodied and have a silky texture.

6. Juliénas
Juliénas produces wines with a deeper color and more robust structure compared to other crus. These wines often exhibit aromas of red and black fruits, with hints of spice and floral notes. Juliénas wines have good aging potential and can develop more complexity over time.

7. Morgon
Morgon is known for producing wines with a rich and full-bodied character. These wines often display aromas of dark fruits, such as blackberries and cherries, along with earthy and floral notes. Morgon wines have good aging potential and can develop more complexity with time.

8. Moulin-à-Vent
Moulin-à-Vent is considered the most powerful and structured of the crus. These wines are known for their deep color, intense aromas of dark fruits and flowers, and firm tannins. Moulin-à-Vent wines have excellent aging potential and can evolve beautifully over many years.

9. Régnié
Régnié produces wines with a lighter and more delicate style compared to some of the other crus. These wines often exhibit aromas of red fruits, such as raspberries and strawberries, along with floral notes. Régnié wines are approachable and easy to drink.

10. Saint-Amour
Saint-Amour is the northernmost cru of Beaujolais. Its wines are known for their light and delicate character, with aromas of red fruits and floral notes. Saint-Amour wines are often described as charming and romantic, making them a popular choice for special occasions.

The Five Most Famous Bottles of Beaujolais

  1. Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau: A vibrant and fruity wine that is released on the third Thursday of November each year, marking the arrival of the new vintage.
  2. Domaine Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py: A highly regarded wine known for its depth and complexity, with flavors of black fruits and spices.
  3. Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon: This natural wine is made using traditional methods, resulting in a wine that is both expressive and elegant.
  4. Domaine Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Côte du Py: A powerful and structured wine with intense aromas of red fruits and floral notes.
  5. Domaine Chignard Fleurie Les Moriers: A delicate and aromatic wine with flavors of red berries, violets, and a touch of spice.

Top Beaujolais vintages to find

1. 2015: The 2015 vintage is widely regarded as one of the best in recent years. The wines from this vintage are rich, concentrated, and full-bodied, with intense fruit flavors and a long finish. They have excellent aging potential and can be enjoyed now or cellared for further development.

2. 2018: The 2018 vintage showcases the exceptional quality of Beaujolais wines. These wines are characterized by their vibrant acidity, ripe fruit flavors, and silky tannins. They are approachable and can be enjoyed young, but also have the potential to age gracefully.

3. 2019: The 2019 vintage offers wines with a perfect balance of fruitiness and freshness. These wines exhibit bright red fruit flavors, floral aromas, and a smooth texture. They are versatile and pair well with a variety of dishes.

Other notable Beaujolais vintages

- 2009: Known for its ripe fruit flavors and velvety texture.

- 2011: Offers wines with vibrant acidity and elegant structure.

- 2014: Known for its freshness, purity, and delicate aromatics.

Beaujolais: The Birthplace of Natural Winemaking

Natural winemaking is a holistic approach to winemaking that prioritizes the use of organic and biodynamic farming practices. It involves minimal intervention in the vineyard and the cellar, allowing the grapes to express their true character and the terroir to shine through. Natural winemakers avoid the use of additives and rely on native yeasts for fermentation. The result is a wine that is vibrant, expressive, and true to its origins.

The Pioneers of Natural Winemaking in Beaujolais

One of the key figures in the rise of natural winemaking in the Beaujolais region is Marcel Lapierre. Lapierre, along with a group of like-minded winemakers known as the "Gang of Four," started practicing natural winemaking in the 1980s. They believed in the importance of sustainable farming and minimal intervention in the winemaking process. Lapierre's Morgon wines became a benchmark for natural winemaking in the region.

Another pioneer in the natural winemaking movement is Jean Foillard. Foillard took over his father's vineyards in the 1980s and quickly embraced natural winemaking practices. His wines, particularly his Morgon Côte du Py, gained international recognition for their purity and elegance.

Today, many other talented winemakers in the Beaujolais region have embraced natural winemaking. These include producers like Jean-Louis Dutraive, Yvon Métras, and Guy Breton. Their wines are sought after by wine enthusiasts around the world who appreciate the authenticity and unique character of natural wines.

What is Beaujolais Nouveau?

Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes that are harvested and fermented for just a few weeks before being released on the third Thursday of November each year. This quick turnaround time gives the wine its youthful and fruity character, with flavors of red berries, banana, and bubblegum.

A Controversial Past

For many years, Beaujolais Nouveau was seen as a symbol of mass-produced, low-quality wine. Its release was accompanied by a flurry of marketing campaigns and events, often overshadowing the wine itself. Critics argued that the wine lacked complexity and depth, and that its popularity was driven more by hype than by taste.

However, in recent years, there has been a shift in perception. Winemakers in the Beaujolais region have been working hard to improve the quality of their wines, focusing on sustainable farming practices and traditional winemaking techniques. As a result, the overall quality of Beaujolais Nouveau has improved, and it is now seen as a legitimate expression of the region's terroir.

A Comeback in the Wine World

Beaujolais Nouveau has experienced a resurgence in popularity, both in France and around the world. Wine lovers are now appreciating the wine for its freshness, lightness, and easy-drinking nature. Its low tannins and high acidity make it a versatile pairing for a wide range of foods, from charcuterie and cheese to roasted poultry and grilled vegetables.

Part of the wine's renewed success can be attributed to a younger generation of wine drinkers who are seeking out unique and approachable wines. Beaujolais Nouveau fits the bill perfectly, offering a fun and festive experience that is meant to be enjoyed in the company of friends and family.


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