Beaujolais All Day!
We’re heading toward the holidays, and that means it’s time to break out the Beaujolais. Beaujolais is a winemaking region just south of Burgundy, known for producing red wines from Gamay. Gamay tends to produce lighter-bodied, fruit-forward, medium/high acid, low tannin wines. Much Beaujolais is made using carbonic maceration, where fermentation starts with whole clusters of grapes in an oxygen-deprived environment, giving the resulting wines a lighter body, fruity aromatics, and an almost bouncy characteristic, sometimes with notes of banana or bubble gum. It is easy-drinking and very food-friendly, which is why it has been such a familiar presence at Thanksgiving and other holiday dinner tables. And, the majority of the world’s Gamay is made in Beaujolais.
For a long time, the wine world viewed Beaujolais and Gamay as lesser quality, especially compared to the Pinot Noirs from Burgundy, their neighbor to the North. Once primarily known for Beaujolais Nouveau (a Gamay wine that, for each vintage, is picked, fermented, bottled, and released each year on the third Thursday in November for immediate consumption), the region has revamped itself; now Beaujolais is full of winemakers who are focused on making quality wines that express the specificities of the areas from which they are grown. Beaujolais Nouveau is, of course, still around, but now we’ve got so many more options. We’ve got Beaujolais (wines made in the greater Beaujolais region of general quality), Beaujolais Villages (an intermediate classification for wines outside of higher quality surrounding the Crus), and the ten Crus of Beaujolais.
Cru Beaujolais is of the highest quality and has the most potential for aging. Though these can be serious wines, they are typically still somewhat affordable compared to other French wines. From North to South, the Crus are Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. Each Cru has its own characteristics, and although they are all from the Beaujolais region, the wines are labeled with their Cru names rather than Beaujolais. Some typical features of each Cru are as follows:
Saint-Amour tends to produce easier drinking, lighter-bodied wines, with notes of red fruits, and is best to drink young. *Will be back in stock ASAP.
Juliénas tends to produce darker fruited, more complex wines, with a bolder tannic structure. Some of the most age-worthy Beaujolais comes from Juliénas. *Will be back in stock ASAP.
Chénas is the smallest Cru in Beaujolais and produces a small amount of wine from granite and quartz soils that often have floral and spicy notes. *Will be back in stock ASAP.
Moulin-à-Vent tends to produce fuller-bodied expressions that are approachable as young wines but also have great aging potential. They become more like Burgundy as they age. They are often complex with notes of cherry and darker fruit but can have notes of forest floor and, at times, a meaty quality. Click here and here for some great examples.
Fleurie tends to produce elegant wines with a silky texture, floral notes, especially violets, and juicy red fruit flavors. These wines can be enjoyed young or with some age. Click here, here, and here for beautiful Fleurie examples currently in stock.
Chiroubles is high elevation and tends to produce more delicate, lighter-bodied wines with crunchy red fruit notes. They can be complex and floral and are meant to be enjoyed young and are a perfect start to an evening. Check this gorgeous wine out from Chiroubles here.
Morgon is known for its deep color and fuller-bodied wines and is home to many very high-quality producers. The wines can take on a Burgundian character with age. They tend to have meaty, earthy, iron, cherry, and wet stone characteristics. Hearty and age-worthy. Whew, we found a lot of great wines from Morgon. Check them out here, here, and here.
Regnié is the most recent to receive Cru status and tends to produce lighter, more fruit-forward wines. Think red raspberry and currant, hints of spice, and easy early-drinking wines. We don't have a ton in stock, but it's gorgeous. Click here.
Brouilly is the largest Cru in Beaujolais and tends to produce bistro wines that are light and easy drinking. Look for notes of cherry, raspberry, even blueberry and peach, and a slight earthiness. Fun and straightforward. And delish. For example, check this Brouilly out while you can here.
Côte de Brouilly, located within Brouilly on the hillier slopes of the extinct volcano, Mont Brouilly, the wines often show a wet stone character, riper fruits, and more concentration. Meatier, cellar-friendly wines, with bolder and darker fruit. *Will be back in stock ASAP.