Every time I hear or read the word Beaujolais, what comes to my mind, is the image of a dry, fruity wine with soft tannins, which can be drunk all year round, and in the summer even slightly chilled. Very often, people that I talk to, always add the word Nouveau after Beaujolais – literally translated “new” or “young” – believing it is the only Beaujolais that exits. The truth is that Nouveau stands for a hugely successful campaign that was once carried out to promote these wonderful wines but I think it only brings harm and underestimation to them.
So, ten things you should know about Beaujolais:
1. Beaujolais is not a wine brand but a region of France, where those wines are produced. It occupies an area of 22,000 hectares, between Macon and Lyon, stretching 70 km from north to south and produces more than 70 million litres of wine per year.
2. Beaujolais is not a grape variety! The variety used for its production is Gamay.
3. From the producer’s perspective, Beaujolais Nouveau is the guarantee of cashing immediately after harvest the effort made during the year. Due to their popularity these young, thin and often insipid wines have become synonymous with the region and have more marketing character than quality.
4. Beaujolais Nouveau traditionally starts to sell each year at the same time, namely the third Thursday of November. The event is accompanied by fireworks, music and festivals throughout France and marks the first wine of the new vintage. This tradition has spread almost worldwide in the last few decades.
5. Beaujolais Nouveau is made (vinified) to drink young – from November until the spring of next year, while in exceptional years (2000) it can be consumed until the next harvest. From experience I know however that if it is not sold by the end of December, the interest in it is greatly reduced and it is forgotten.
6. A total of four (4) categories define by law the quality in the region: Beaujolais, Beaujolais Supérieur, Beaujolais-Villages and 10 Beaujolais Crus or the best lots for growing Gamay. The difference in quality comes from the location of the vineyard (from flat to hilly terrain) and the maximum permitted quantity of grapes per hectare. For Beaujo- lais and Beaujolais Supérieur producers are allowed to collect up to the equivalent of 55 hl/ha, for Beaujolais-Villages up to 50 hl/ha and for Crus no more than 48 hl/ha.
7. Most Beaujolais wines, due to their fruity flavour and light body are made ready for consumption in the first year of production, but when it comes to Beaujolais-Villages and Beaujolais Cru categories, in recent years, producers make wines that benefit from aging up to several years, in Burgundian style.
8. The most famous crus are: St. Amour, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-a- Vent.
9. One of the famous producers in Beaujolais is Georges Duboeuf winery. Georges Duboeuf, born in 1933, is the head of the company, one of the leaders in wine production from this region. He is called the King of Beaujolais.
10. To be able to enjoy Beaujolais all year round is a matter of choice, but also of knowledge. If you discover for yourself Beaujolais wines, I mean those that stand behind the curtain of Beaujolais Nouveau, you will further enrich yourself as a winelover. They would bring variety to your daily routine of heavy red wines in winter and a pleasant surprise during the hot summer days, especially if served slightly chilled.
Dimitar Nikolov, WSET Advanced certified