All Beaujolais are not the same. There are different tiers of quality of Beaujolais.
Beaujolais Nouveau: Harvested in September, released in November, this is juice that is barely fermented. Purple in color as young wines tend to be, this is as simple as it gets. What started as a local custom to announce the arrival of the wine (Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé ; The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived) has over the last few years gone on to be an international event every November. Brightly labelled bottles flood stores in Fall. These are very light wines, quite fruity, and some have a characteristic bubble-gum flavor! A lot of wine drinkers look down upon the Beaujolais Nouveau as it is not a serious wine and does not improve with age. I have had some really tasty Nouveau wine, but seriously you can get better Beaujolais for the same price. Try a Beaujolais Nouveau to get an idea, but lets look at better examples of Gamay
AOC Beaujolais: This is the basic wine of this area. Easy drinking. Fun. Fruity. Youthful. Some of the best Beaujolais come from the southern part of Beaujolais where the stones are golden in color and are referred to as pierres dorées or golden stones! I have posted an image below of the town of Liérgues as an example of these golden stones. Remember the wine at the Parisian bistro? More likely it was Beaujolais that was served. Although meant to be drunk young, some better Beaujolais can last for a good 2 years or so.
Beaujolais Villages: Now we are really moving up the quality level here. Grown over 18 square miles, the Beaujolais Village wines come from 38 distinct villages. The styles differ tremendously. From the south end you get fruitier wines. The central area makes wines with structure and the northern area produces full bodied wines.
The cool climate in Beaujoalis allows for a fine balance between acid and fruit in the grape. These are ideal food wines. They are also great bargains.
In October, we hope to get some excellent Beaujolais Villages style wines from the northern zone! Stay tuned.
Beaujolais Cru: This is as Frank Sinatra would say, the king of the hill, top of the heap, a number one!
There are 10 areas that have earned the title of Cru.
They are..repeat after me…Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour.
Many of these are named after the towns around which the grapes are grown and some like Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly are simply regions. You have never experienced a true Beaujolais until you have tried a Beaujolais Cru.
If you have never had a Beaujolais before, you owe it to yourself to try a Cru Beaujolais.
If you are new to red wines, then my choice would be a Chiroubles or a Fleurie. The crazy thing about this, is that although all these wines are made from the same grape (Gamay noir), each of the 10 Crus have very distinct differences and make interesting partners for different foods or on their own. Spending a few days in Beaujolais made me acutely aware that we don’t drink enough of this wine. To make matters more interesting there are younger winemakers who are not afraid try new things and sometimes these experiments make for really impressive wines. I will over the next few weeks chat a bit about all the 10 Crus (how exciting !!!).
If you have any questions/comments in the meantime, drop me a line. Sierra Nevada Imports plan to carry all Beaujolais Cru. We currently have in stock- Chiroubles, Régnié, Saint-Amour, Juliénas and Morgon.
Soon we will have Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly and Chénas. We are working with producers to get Moulin-à-Vent and Fleurie in the very near future as well.
I have a mission. Few weeks ago, I was told by a friend, “I don’t get Beaujolais” My mission therefore is to demystify Beaujolais. It is an easy mission actually. Lets start by going to Paris.
Take any bistro in Paris (or Lyon). If you ask for the house red wine, you won’t go wrong. No matter what you ordered for the meal, the wine matches it perfectly. Some might say it is the fact that you happen to be in Paris that makes the experience flawless. Or you could say it is the choice of wine. The odds are good that the wine in the carafe in front of you is Gamay Noir from Beaujolais. Not too many people here in the States are familiar with Beaujolais and its a shame because it is probably one of the most food friendly wine. Some who know about it, base their experience from Beaujolais Nouveau (The New Beaujolais) that is released every year in November. Not to knock Beaujolais Nouveau, it is probably not the best wine to get acquainted with this grape/wine. To understand Beaujolais a little more lets travel east from Paris to France’s second largest city, Lyon.
Go a little north of Lyon and it gets a little cooler than it would get in Rhone. This is Gamay Noir country. Any wine made from Gamay Noir is referred to as Beaujolais. By the way, Gamay Noir also grows well in California. Steve Edmunds makes a great expression of it called Bone-Jolly (Bone-Jolly, Beau-jo- lais..get it?). There is some really good Chardonnay grown here as well and is referred to as Beaujolais Blanc (white Beaujolais).
Most of the pictures in this post are my own and some are as indicated ,kindly loaned to me by Charles Rambaud of InterBeaujolais. I am indebted to him for the same.
…To be continued…