Jun 1, 2021
Beaujolais is a unique, standalone wine region in central eastern France. Sandwiched between southern Burgundy (the Mâconnais) and Lyon (where it is their preferred wine), these wines and this terroir is like no other on earth. With high elevation from the western Massif Central, east and south-facing slopes, these wines get ripe over a long growing season with good diurnals. The unique pink granite and weathered granite sand, along with mineral rich soils of the northern section of Beaujolais, aren’t something you’ll easily find elsewhere in the wine world. In addition, nowhere else in the world specializes in the Gamay grape.
This grape’s expression in the 10 Crus of Beaujolais – whether it be like iris and violets, tart cherry, blackberry, mineral or intense spice – is always surprising and refreshing due to the high acidity of the wines. The quality for price can’t be beat and as producers embrace traditional vinification rather than carbonic maceration (used in Beaujolais nouveau, which is declining) the wines continue to improve and show what Gamay and the Beaujolais region are capable of. We give you all the details you need to seek out these splendid, undervalued gems.
There are 12 Appellations in Beaujolais: 10 Cru and 2 regional appellations
Beaujolais/Beaujolais Superiéur are regional appellations. These wines are mainly (99%) red of Gamay. They are required to have a minimum of 10% alcohol (not very ripe!) and are generally made via semi-carbonic maceration. These wines can be red or rosé. The reds taste like red grapes, cranberry, cherry, banana, candied pear, and are light in color, light in tannin and high in acidity. 1% of Beaujolais AOC wines are simple whites of Chardonnay.
Beaujolais Villages are from 38 specific
villages that are deemed
extremely high quality and can also be red or rosé although they are mainly red. These reds are darker in color and less grapey than basic Beaujolais. They have red and black berry, mineral, and spice notes, with more tannin and strong acidity. Some of these wines are made without carbonic maceration and are more serious wines with complexity, although Villages can be sold as Nouveau as well.
Beaujolais Villages Blanc are 100% Chardonnay and are concentrated in flavor, similar to the wines of Mâconnais.
Crus: The 10 best of Beaujolais
All wine is 100% Gamay. The pruning methods, vine density and yields are specified by commune. All grapes for the Crus are hand-harvested, most of it is hand-sorted. The best of these wines are transitioning from carbonic maceration to traditional red wine fermentation. The minimum required minimum alcohol is 10%. Although “Cru de Beaujolais” must be somewhere on the label, it is generally in very small print, so you need to know the names of the Crus to find them!
The Crus also have special vineyard sites, or climats, which you will see on the bottle and should seek out. Because so few people are familiar with these wines, they are incredibly affordable, with great examples costing less than US$30!
From north to south, as we discuss in the show, the Crus are: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-á-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régníe, Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly
In groups by style, here are the descriptions of each…
Light -Medium Bodied: Chiroubles
These wines are floral, with iris, violet, and peony notes. They also have red berry and baking spice aromas and flavors with a light body and the famed “Glisser en bouche” – glides down the throat – quality. These wines ages 2 to 5 years.
Saint -Amour is made in two styles.
Fleurie is elegant and silky with iris, violet,
rose, red fruit, and peach aromas and flavors. Fleurie wines can be
soft or more substantial with dark fruit notes. They can age up to
Brouilly is fruit-driven with plum, red berry, cherry notes and sometimes mineral notes. They are have softer tannins and can age 3 to 5 years.
Medium- to full-bodied:
Cote de Brouilly is sourced from the high-altitude areas within Brouilly. The wines are more robust in body with blackberry, plum, fresh grape, iris flower, and black pepper notes. They have strong acidity and mild tannin. They taste better after 4 to 6 years.
Juliénas is highly aromatic with sweet and tart red berry, violet/dark flower, cinnamon, peach notes, and a mineral earthiness. They have great acidity and can age 6 to 10 years.
Chenás is floral with peony and rose aromas. It has a special spicy, woodsy quality, regardless of whether it has been in a barrel. Chénas has some tannin and is ageworthy – it can age 8 to 10 years.
Moulin-a-Vent is the King of Beaujolais; the pinnacle of the region. When it’s young, it’s like violets, cherries, and plums with a mineral, earth note. With age (the wines improve over 10 or more years), these wines become more like Pinot Noir - Indian spice, sandalwood, and earth. They are balanced with good tannin and acidity.
Morgon is the longest lived of the Cru, with aging potential of 5 to 20 years. These wines are full-bodied and powerful with black cherry, peach, plum, and violet. Their tannin, flavor, and acidity allow them to evolve and with time, get earthier (like truffles) and spicy (like licorice or mellow spice), and the texture is velvety. “Morgonner”, or to “Morgon” is a local word that describes how these wines evolve.
Régníe is full-bodied but not as ageworthy as the others in this category. The wines taste like tart cherry, raspberry, red currant, plum, blackcurrant, blackberry aromas. Acidic, mineral, spice, some tannin
Food for heavier styles: Steak, mushroom-based dishes, eggplant-based dishes with herbs and pepper, strong cheeses, pizza with meat toppings, tuna, salmon, lentils, black bean burgers, and anything with garlic.
Food for medium to light styles: Brie, anything with garlic, salmon, cod with garlic based sauces, turkey burgers with savory notes, dishes with scallion/onion as a main flavor, Thanksgiving fare, bacon dishes, pork with fruit glazes (fruitier wines).
If you have not tried these splendid Cru, go out and get the one that sounds the best to you immediately. These are wines to discover. Once you do, you’ll drink them forever!
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