Beaujolais is the name of a little area in France just south of Burgundy. It’s one of the few wine regions of France that doesn’t pretend to be fancy. In fact, much of the Gamay wine Beaujolais produces is sold before the harvest year is over. What’s confusing to new drinkers of Beaujolais is the disconnect between how Beaujolais is described and how it actually tastes.
What is Beaujolais?
Beaujolais is a light red wine made with Gamay Noir grapes.
- Primary Fruit flavors Raspberry, Tart Cherry, Cranberry
- Other flavors Mushroom, Forest Floor, Smoke, Violet, Baker’s Yeast, Banana, Bubblegum
- Acidity High
- Tannin Low
- Alcohol Level 10-13% ABV
- Serving Temperature Slightly chilled 54-58 °F (12-14 °C)
Gamay noir is now known to be a cross of Pinot noir and the ancient white variety Gouais, the latter a Central European variety that was probably introduced to northeastern France by the Romans. The grape brought relief to the village growers following the decline of the Black Death. In contrast to the Pinot noir variety, Gamay ripened two weeks earlier and was less difficult to cultivate. It also produced a strong, fruitier wine in a much larger abundance.
There are 3 Classifications of Beaujolais wine
This is the biggest appellation consisting of all 96 winemaking villages; a few in the northern half but most from the south.
Beaujolais AOC are said to be easy to drink because of lots of refreshing acidity and little tannin. You’ll find the flavors and aromas are fruity and even ‘grapey’ – raspberry, cherry, cranberry and, sometimes, a touch of fresh, tropical banana.
Beaujolais Villages AOC
Moving up the scale we come to the 38 official “Village” wines, 30 of which can put their name on the label.
These areas are a little more specialized and the wines a little deeper and darker in color and character. Although most of the wines are red with notes of strawberry and black currant, the white wines are also delicious with notes of pear, tropical fruits, and blanched almonds!
The crème de la crème of Beaujolais!
There are 10 Crus of Beaujolais, all in the north and producing only red wine. Usually, the labels will simply state the name of the Cru as they are that renowned!
But this is where the similarity ends.
Each has its own distinct personality, based on ‘terroir’– climate,soils, altitude, aspect and a host of other factors – that are duplicated nowhere else. These wines are much more complex and will develop beautifully over time, if you can keep your hands off!