Beaujolais

Beaujolais

Beaujolais

North of the City of Lyon, in-between Burgundy and the Rhone Valley is the Province of Beaujolais, where Beaujolais wine is made. The large majority of wine here is red, and this region is symbolised by the Gamay grape. From an administrational point of view, Beaujolais is part of Burgundy, yet the differences in climate, grape types...

Beaujolais

Beaujolais

North of the City of Lyon, in-between Burgundy and the Rhone Valley is the Province of Beaujolais, where Beaujolais wine is made. The large majority of wine here is red, and this region is symbolised by the Gamay grape. From an administrational point of view, Beaujolais is part of Burgundy, yet the differences in climate, grape types, vinification and terroir, set this region well apart. Winemaking here is typically known for the long tradition of carbonic maceration, which when properly used, can intensify the fruitiness in wines, and add complexity.

During the 1980’s, Beaujolais reached the top end of the world wine market with Beaujolais nouveau. Increased carbonic maceration accelerates fermentation allowing the vintages’ wine to be sold before the end of the year. The third Thursday of November is officially when this wine can be retailed, offering economic advantages to wine growers.

As the wine became popular, more and more wine growers jumped on the bandwagon and converted to making Nouveau wine. Production of regular Beaujolais dropped more and more, eventually leading to a backlash in the late 1990s. Although easy-drinking, the wines do not age well and the Nouveau fad died off. Production still continued, creating large quantities of surplus wines that nobody wanted. The longer lasting effect was that consumers now only associated Beaujolais for its Nouveau wine.

The past 15 years have seen a slow improvement of reputation, with many wine growers concentrating on more complex full-bodied Gamays that differentiate from one another as terroir changes. This region has also some of Frances’ leading figures in Biodynamic Wine, as some of the first wineries to convert to this method are located here.

Classification of Beaujolais

The northern part of the region has the best terroir for Gamay, producing wines with more character and aging potential. The soils have a large concentration of granite, and the vines are also exposed to elements of the cooler continental climate. Here 10 villages make up what is known as the Cru Beaujolais AOC classification:

  • Saint-Amour: the wines here are often have spicy aromas with yellow stone-fruit flavours and can age for over 10 years.
  • Juliénas: also rich with spice smells, wines here are also known for their floral notes. The village is named after Julius Caesar, and it is claimed that it was here where the Romans first planted vines in this region, during the conquest of Gaul.
  • Chénas: the smallest of the Cru Beaujolais, wines here can age over 15 years and develop notes of wild roses.
  • Moulin-à-Vent: the soil around this village is rich in manganese, which is toxic to vines. The quantity is not enough to kill them, but it does greatly reduce yields. The result is the production of the most concentrated, powerful wines of the region, aging up to and beyond 20 years.
  • Fleurie: very silky wines, dominated by fruit and floral fragrances.
  • Chiroubles: with the highest altitude of the Cru Beaujolais, wines here are more delicate, and regularly have hints of violet.
  • Morgon: after a few years of bottle aging, wines from Morgon can Pinotte, a French word, meaning they resemble Pinot noirs from burgundy. Morgons are generally richer and deeper coloured.
  • Régnié: the last to become a Cru, yet it is disputed that the first vines planted by the Romans was in fact here, not Juliénas. Wines are lighter, and are dominated by smells of red berries.
  • Brouilly: the largest of the Crus, spread around Mount Brouilly. White grapes are also allowed here, but are very rare. Wines from Brouilly are characterised by notes of red and black fruits.
  • Côte de Brouilly: Found within Brouilly, on the highest slopes of Mount Brouilly, producing wines that have more finesse than Brouilly and are more concentrated.

Beaujolais-villages AOC is the intermediate classification spread out around 39 villages, also in the northern part of the region. The terroir of schist and granite hills dominate the landscape. The name of the village can be added to the end of the appellation if the grapes all come from one village, although, given the lack of international recognition, most wineries prefer not to do so. Usually, any white wine produced here is done so under the appellations of Mâconnais or Saint-Véran.

Most of the wine from the region is produced under the more generic appellation of AOC Beaujolais, which in some areas can produce wines that are quite concentrated, but most should be drunk within 2-4 years.

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