The Wines of Beaujolais (beau juh lay)
The Province de Beaujolais, south of Burgundy and north of the Rhone and Provence regions, is home to predominantly one grape varietal, Gamay. Though some Chardonnay is grown in the region for whites, as is Aligote, the thin skinned, acidic Gamay rules here. Approximately 50 miles from the border of Switzerland, 98% of the region’s wine production is Gamay which produces a red fruit flavor, with hints of cranberry and red cherry. Higher end Cru Beaujolais has been compared to the flavor of red burgundy- old world style Pinot Noir with flavors of mushroom and forest floor. Most Beaujolais is meant to be consumed young while the fruit flavors are robust. Not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau which is extremely fruity and is made by a process called carbonic maceration. Unlike standard fermentation, where yeast is manually added to the grape juice and grape must to convert the sugars into alcohol. This process has the grapes in a sealed vat with carbon dioxide. The CO2 forces the grapes to release their own enzymes creating a kind of natural fermentation. Nouveau wines have very little skin contact so are lighter in color and tannin. Beaujolais Nouveau day is marked in France on the third Thursday in November, at 12:01 AM, just a few weeks after the grapes have been harvested and fermented via this process.
Wines from the Beaujolais region are classified as Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais Cru.
There are ten crus of Beaujolais from North to South as follows.
1. Saint Amour
4. Moulin a Vent
10.Cote de Brouilly
Only ranked “villages” will have these town names (appellations) on their label, as the French go by region and not grape varietal. Other Gamay from Beaujolais will simply say Beaujolais Villages.
Driving in on the A6 motorway or by high speed rail, spring is just awakening with bud break in the Beaujolais in April. Average daily temperatures can reach 60 degrees but on average stay in the 50’s, despite it being a borderline Mediterranean climate due to the proximity of the sea. Soils are rich in granite, schist, sandstone and clay, giving the wine a mineral quality.
Often times you will hear Beaujolais associated with the Burgundy region- it is only administrative to the government of France. The region is closer in climate to the Rhone and is producing some note-worthy wines that should not be confused with those of Burgundy. We hope you’ll stop by and give me a pat on the head and look for these in our French section.
Louis Latour Beaujolais Village is an age worthy Gamay from an iconic winery. Latour is located in Beaune in Burgundy, but these grapes are sourced from contracted growers in the heart of the Beaujolais. Pink schist and granite soils play a role in the flavor profile of this light red, with crisp acidity and tart cherry red fruit. I give it two bones.
Chateau Des Labourons Fleurie from Henry Fessy, whose 5th generation winemakers have been producing wine since the 18th century. The Chateau is located in the hills northwest of town where the soils are mineral rich. This wine shows some tannic structure with bright red plum and red cherry flavors. A touch of oak on the finish gives finesse and spice. I give it three bones.
The Gamay grape is also known as Gamay Noir -similar to Pinot Noir, its brother to the north, in body. Gamay is light bodied and light colored, due to the fact that there is often little skin contact, but high in acid and fruit. There are often floral notes, think violets, with essence of red plum on the nose. Often served with just a touch of a chill (45 to 55 degrees, so pop it in the refrigerator about ten minutes prior to opening the bottle). Gamay is a great wine to pair with all kinds of food, from cheeses to pork or steak. Remember the Cru Beaujolais will age for several years, while Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages are great everyday value wines that also pair well with food. Call or e mail us and we’ll pull some of our favorites for you to try. See you soon!