Up north , we have in recent years become very fond of lighter red wines, juicy and berry without any reminiscence tannins or roughness, which is why wines from the Beaujolais area are big favorites. Beaujolais is part of the Burgundy district, however, the wines differ significantly from the classics we are used to from that area.
The area produces almost only wines from the Gamay grape , and it MUST be just Gamay (and possibly a low percent Pinot Noir ) to be classified as a Beaujolais wine. Also, 98% percent of the grapes grown in the area is Gamay, so that’s that. There is a single one percent of Chardonnay production, but as I said, it is minimal. What also distinguishes the Beaujolais wines from other wine production in the area is the fermentation technique called carbonic maceration (or macération carbonique ). The grape bunches are placed whole in open tanks and the fermentation takes place with the help of the grapes’ natural yeast which is found on the skin of the grape. The natural carbon dioxide that is formed pushes the oxygen out of the fermentation vessel, hugs the grapes on top, which begins to ferment and eventually cracks. This particular technique contributes to the wines’ bright, red color, enhances the wine’s fruity aromas and flavors and makes it almost tannin-free. The fermentation lasts about 6-8 weeks, after which the wine is bottled and allowed to develop further on the bottle, if it is not Beaujolais Nouveau that is!
Is Beaujolais a natural wine?
At present, there is neither a label nor an exact categorization of what IS actually a natural wine. However, the majority of these wines are fermented with natural yeast and lack other additives, which according to some defines a natural wine. Others believe that it must also be unfiltered to be classified as natural wine and completely lack oak barrels. Perhaps it can be said that some Beaujolais wines are more inclined to nature and others not?
What is Beaujolais Nouveau?
On the third Thursday in November, Beaujolais Nouveau is celebrated, that’s when we drink the first bottles from this year’s harvest! This year, the day falls on November 18th. A wine event quite simply.
Different classifications, your guide in the Beaujolais jungle
Ok, sharks that the word classifications discourage but here is the key to finding the wine you are looking for.
There are 96 villages that have the right to use this label, you could say that it is the most basic wines that are often sold as Beaujolais AOC.
Beaujolais- Villages AOC
We level up to the next step in the quality steps! This label can be used by about 39 villages in the northern part of the area, here is the potential to produce wines of higher quality as the cultivation takes place higher up in slopes, unlike Beaujolais AOC which is allowed to cultivate shamefully on level ground .
Now we’m talking, this is the highest classification of wines in the area and only 10 villages fall under the name Beaujolais Cru .
The 10 Cru villages:
Brouilly – The largest cru area and includes the Côte de Brouilly sub-region . The wines are characterized by their aromas of blueberries, cherries, raspberries and currants. The only area allowed to grow other than Gamay : Chardonnay, Aligote and Melon de Bourgogne.
Chénas – Many of the vineyards here are now included under the Moulin à vent ripening , the wines are recognizable by their aroma of wild roses.
Chiroubles – Here you will find some of the highest vineyard locations in Beaujolais, the wines are fine-tuned with an aroma of violet.
Côte de Brouilly – Located on the higher slopes of the extinct volcano Mont Brouilly , concentrated wines.
Fleurie – the largest exporter to the USA in the area, the wines have a velvety structure and fruity bouquet. Good vintages here, Vin de garde, can be stored between 4-16 years.
Juliénas – The wines are known for their power, spiciness and an aroma that contains peonies.
Morning – Earthy wines of burgundy character, deep color with hints of apricots and peaches. The famous slope Côte du Py produces the area’s most powerful wines.
Moulin à vent – The wines here are reminiscent of those from Chénas , here some of the most sustainable wines in the region are produced. The wine is full-bodied and powerful, Vin de garde styles require at least 6 years of storage and can last up to 20 years.
Régnié – The latest village to be included in the cru classification (1988), the wines contain hints of red currants and raspberries.
Saint-Amour – The region is believed to have received its name from the Roman soldier St. Amateur , the wines are spicy with aromas of peaches. Wine de garde styles require at least 4 years of storage and can last up to 12 years.
You may recognize some of these as they tend to end up as the main focus on bottles from the area. You more often see bottles that are marked based on which area, or Cru it comes from, than which grape the wine actually contains. As we now know is Gamay , and a biiiiit of Pinot Noir. Classic french move.
Louis Claude Desvignes, Morgon
What best suits Beaujolais?
Think lighter dishes, think pizza can work fine, a little deliciously cold-cut, mushrooms, lighter meats such as poultry and some fish. If it’s lighter flavors that do not have as much strength and concentration, then Beaujolais is a taller, stronger dish and higher fat – maybe not.