Wine Region Profile: Beaujolais

Is Beaujolais a wine? Or a region of France? Or a denomination of origin?

All are correct.

Where is the Beaujolais wine region located? 

Beaujolais in French comes from name of a district in the department of Lyonnais, France, which is named for the town of Beaujeu, from the French beau "beautiful" added to the Latin jugum "hill." This wine-growing region is located north of the city of Lyon and south of Burgundy, though it constitutes part of the Bourgogne wine region.

What Kind of Wines Come from Beaujolais? 

It almost entirely produces red wines from the Gamay grape, which is cultivated according to a method introduced by the Greeks and vinified according to the region's distinct methods, which are strictly controlled for quality. An example is what’s known as carbonic maceration. White wines from Chardonnay and rosé Gamay wines are also produced in small amounts. But most wine is 100% from Gamay grapes, which has a very thin skin featuring a very low amount of tannins. The Gamay variety is early maturing and high yielding.

Beaujolais is one of the most famous wines in the world today, and it is a superb wine for those who dislike tannins in red wines or like light Pinot Noir wines. This territory produces a red wine that is very easy to drink, without arrogance, and Beaujolais is a symbol of simplicity and conviviality. You may have heard of Beaujolais Nouveau, which is a distinct type of fresh wine. Every year the Beaujolais Nouveau festival is celebrated all over the world. Beaujolais Nouveau is a wine that is bottled and drunk just after the harvest and enjoys great international success.

We can divide this region into three types of AOC (controlled appellations of origin under French law):

  • The AOC Beaujolais, which covers the entire region and produces fruity wines. There are three major subcategories. AOC Beaujolais, AOC Beaujolais Blanc, and AOC Beaujolais Nouveau. The Nouveau uses carbonic maceration.
  • The AOC Beaujolais-Villages, reserved for 39 communes in the north of the region, which produces wines that are also fruity but a little more intense and with better aging potential.
  • The Crus, which are 10 AOCs that correspond to 10 different communes that produce the best wines in the region. They have a good aging capacity. They are vinified in a traditional way and not with carbonic maceration. The 10 crus and their soil types are as follows:

Saint-Amour (Clay-siliceous)

Juliénas (Shale, granite and clay)

Chénas (Granite sand and the most scarce and generous)

Fleurie (granitic sand)

Moulin-à-Vent (granite rich in magnesium)

Chiroubles (Granite and Porphyry at 400 meters)

Morgon (Decomposed Granites)

Régnié (Granite-sandy)

Côtes de Brouilly (Granite, slate and volcanic diorites at 500 meters)

Brouilly (Granitic and alluvial soils)

What is the History of Beaujolais (and Beaujolais Nouveau)? 

For centuries this lovely red wine was just a local affair, hardly drunk and respected elsewhere.

However, all this changed in 1951 with the help of some marketing wizards who saw the need to make the Beaujolais wine more profitable and the wine more recognizable. So they dropped the restrictions on when they could release the last vintages of Beaujolais wine in mid-November and called this wine the Beaujolais Nouveau. In addition, an annual race was held to see who could get their Beaujolais Nouveau to the Paris markets first.

Beaujolai nouveau is a French red wine, very fruity, fresh, slightly alcoholic, purple-pink in color, with a very marked fruit aroma, which includes banana or pear. By law, the harvest must be carried out by hand since a local variant of the carbonic maceration process called the Beaujolais method is used, in which the fermentation is carried out with the whole grape berry in an atmosphere of carbon dioxide. This gives fresher, more fruity wines with less extraction of tannins from the skin.

Nouveau wine should not be kept for more than a year. It is better to drink them very cold, as it is a light wine. These wines are more valued the younger they are. This “nouveau” wine has the commercial peculiarity of being launched on the market on the third Thursday of November, called "Beaujolais Nouveau day", a very important day for its producers, since it is when they compete to sell their first bottles in different markets.

The commercial success of Beaujolais Nouveau led to the development of other "primeur" (first) wines in other parts of France, such as the AOC Gaillac near Toulouse. These wines also typically go on sale on the third Thursday of November, like the Beaujolais nouveau. The practice has spread to other producing countries such as Italy ("vino novello") and Spain. In Chile for two centuries there has been a traditional wine known as pipeño wine, short-fermented in large wooden foudres (barrels), which is currently being promoted by Chileans and the French.

A Wine Region Worth Visiting to Know the Heartier Crus 

Currently there is the Beaujolais Route that runs through 12 appellations of origin. The Route stretches from the gates of the neighboring region of Burgundy to the gates of Lyon.

In the 140 km of the Beaujolais Wine Route, 36 towns are visited, allowing you to know 10 great Crus: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte-de-Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié , Saint-Amour. Here you can taste more complex Beaujolais specimens: the Cru or Gran Cru de Moulin-a-Vent and Fleurie, from the Domaine du Vissoux vineyard, the attractive and floral Côte de Brouilly or the powerful and structured Morgons, which all differ substantially from other lighter specimens. And yes, these not-so-light wines can be stored for longer. They  accompany roast meats, salads, pasta and go very well with cheese.

Five Beaujolais Wines Worth Trying 

Bottle Barn, your wine store USA, has a great Beaujolais selection, with some superb values. A red wine bottle from this celebrated French wine region can start at just $11.49!

We hope you enjoyed learning about Beaujolais wine! Please leave us a comment below and read our other wine articles!

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