It’s that time of year when Beaujolais Nouveau wines hit the shelves. All focus is on the colorful, new bottles that give people an excuse to party.
OK, it’s certainly fun but what about those crus? What’s being produced in the Beaujolais region today? Here is a brief history and what I found about Beaujolais today.
Gamay’s story began in the 1300’s (although perhaps even earlier) north of Lyon in Burgundy. The grape and Beaujolais region saw ups and downs throughout the years. The people of Lyon believed in this playful yet serious fruity wine with a fresh acidic blush and soft tannins- it charmed their budgets (reasonably priced!) and loved their foods. The “Nouveau style” enamored the Parisians in the 1950s when it was raced to Paris immediately after fermentation causing hooplas of excitement. “Le Beaujolais est arrivé!” In reality, producers realized they could capitalize on the immediacy to market creating needed cash flow.
Over the years, several producers realized with less production and increased quality and care, Gamay could be wildly successful. The ten crus were established- more structured, complex wines that display specific terroir, many rivaling Burgundian wines. In fact, if you like certain Pinot Noir, chances are you’ll love the crus.
According to the Inter Beaujolais organization “Cru status indicates that the wine is produced on a geographic restricted area, each cru in the Beaujolais region has to comply with particular specifications. These restricted areas are historically known for their wine reputation or more precisely for their wine quality given by the terroir (soil, climate, human factors…).”
The unfortunate side of Nouveau was modern marketing stepping in before the crus could make their mark. It positively presented the annual Beaujolais Nouveau campaign with clever cartoon ads but also caused other Beaujolais wines to take a back seat.
Not only the Crus but all wines of Beaujolais are challenging this paradigm!
Deeper Digging – Beaujolais Today
Recently catching up with Dominique Piron, current President of the Inter Beaujolais organization, he shared all Beaujolais wine is getting better and better each year, regardless of whether Beaujolais AOC, Beaujolais Villages, or cru.
“The final customer prefers wines for drinking not thinking. Gamay is coming back strongly on the market, it’s simple to understand and match with food, it’s easy to drink. You usually drink with friends, you need several glasses- it’s easier with more glasses!”
I love the range of wine Gamay Noir presents: from fruitier, gentler, and delightfully satisfying to richer, elegant, complex wines, some that can age beautifully (Beaujolais cru). There’s really a Beaujolais style for everyone in every price range, and all are reasonably priced: blanc, rosé, rouge, and nouveau. The best part- these are wines that work with foods from all over the world.
Progressive winemakers know the region offers the potential to make world-class wine, the reason notable players from Burgundy and the Rhone are buying land in Beaujolais.
Commitment to Quality and Heritage
The Beaujolais region is becoming an Unesco Geopark preserving it’s land, traditional practices, and showing the world it’s serious. The 2015 vintage was the best in 100 years!
A Closer Look With the French #Winophiles
This month the #Winophiles take you to Beaujolais with the help of four diverse Beaujolais region entities. We virtually meet Saturday, November 18th at 11am ET (17:00 in France) on Twitter to share observations, tasting and pairing details, and more. Scroll down to see all #Winophile author posts, but first, let’s take a look at these four and their highlighted wine. All are 100% Gamay.
*Disclosure: Wine received as samples; all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Vignerons de Bel Air
This group of about 250 growers from each AOC of Beaujolais are doing exciting things. According to Philippe Marx, Commercial Manager for the group, markets change thus they are constantly reinventing themselves while maintaining their core identity. One such item was the Belairissimes line showcasing seven of their premium wines that highlight specific terroir of the vineyards. The Belairissimes “Nature” I tasted comes from 50 to 60 year old Terra Vitis certified vineyards. In addition to these wines, they produce 10 Crus, Beaujolais Villages AOC, and Beaujolais AOC wines.
Beaujolais Villages Nature Terra Vitis 2016 (abv 12.5%, $12)
Color: Clean, ruby-purple, ruby rim
Aromas: Clean; Medium intensity cherry, raspberry and black currants; After 10 minutes, rustic cedar and pine
Palate: A medium acidic lift of deeper cherry and black currant, floral (rose, violet); The wine has a bright, round, and fleshy feel on the palate that quickly smooths showing fruit and rustically smooth medium tannins. It ends with a mineral quality and medium length.
Conclusion: A nice quality to price ratio, Mark and I felt this wine had several sides to offer. Delightful on it’s own and food friendly (try a roasted vegetable and cheese tart, or a beef and mushroom burger).
Dominique Piron is the 14th generation in his family to become a winemaker specializing in Morgon, one of the ten Beaujolais crus. Annual wine production is about 450,000 bottles with 35% exported. We are fortunate to taste this particular cru from the hill of Py, a hill where volcanic soils rule, causing vine roots to dig deep. Côte du Py is called the benchmark for Morgon Beaujolais. These days it’s frequently called the “Hermitage” of Beaujolais, producing some of the best wine in the area.
They maintain a practice of planting grass, flowers, shrubs and bushes in and around their vineyards to help balance the natural eco system. The Domaine feels the answer to many problems lies simply in the balance of nature and in wise vine-growing techniques.
Morgon Côte du Py 2015 (abv 13.5%, $25)
Aromas: Medium intensity red and black fruit (tart cherry, boysen-and-black berry) and a touch of earthy savoriness.
Palate: Fruit follows through with damp earth and humus underneath a Kirshy herbal spice. It has structure, a round mouthfeel and medium rustic chewy tannins that smooth.
Conclusion: A beguiling, seriously elegant wine that lingered and begged another sip. It paired easily with classic French- slices of pan seared duck breast over puy lentils, but also with this savory caramelized leek, pear and fig vegetarian tart.
Domaine de Briante
Located in Saint-Lager, a small town in Brouilly AOC, the wife-husband team have roots from Burgundy with emphasis on understanding the land to reflect its terroir. With their Beaune based partner, they purchased the Domaine in 2011, renovating and implementing their style of longer grape maceration prior to fermentation, manually punching down, and French oak barrel aging. They are members of Vignerons Independent.
Brouilly Tradition 2015 (abv 13.5%, $15)
Aromas: Soft raspberry, blackberry and spice
Palate: Fruit follows through with stewed red and black fruits and a slight gamey quailty; medium acids and forceful medium tannins that mellowed as the wine sat.
Conclusion: This wine had a mouth watering quality I didn’t expect. Tannins were present but integrated and balanced. A gem indeed!
Domaine Baron de L’Ecluse
L’Ecluse is located in a small village next to the town Odenas in the Côte de Brouilly AOC. Most of their southeast facing vineyards, averaging 60 years of age, are on steep slopes. They plant grasses between them to encourage beneficial insects. Hormonal emitters are used in vineyards to cause the Eudemis butterfly sexual confusion so it does not lay eggs that hatch and cause havoc to the vines.
Côte de Brouilly Les Garances 2015 (abv 13%, $29/€15)
Ruby-purple in color with a ruby rim, this wine strutted it’s aromas with wild berries, mulberry, and cherry, along with more herbal fresh forest and bay leaf notes; a hint of potpourri finished it off.
The attack was rich and structured with a rush of acid that quickly smoothed and opened to black cherry, bay-cedar and cocoa notes. Overall it had both medium acid and body with rustically smooth tannins. A wine that says “hello” on the palate then finishes with a linger of crushed velvet.
At the end of dinner, we tasted this wine with a 75% dark roasted chocolate. No other dessert needed, a delightful pairing!
November is a month for all Beaujolais- go out and buy yourself a bottle!
The French #Winophiles bring you the following Beaujolais:
- Our host for the month, Jeff from Food Wine Click! shares “Tasting the Beaujolais Pyramid over Dinner”
- Jill from L’Occasion shares “No Sleep ’til Beaujolais: The French Wine That’s Keeping Us Up All Night“
- Martin from Enofylz writes “Ready To Elevate Your Beaujolais Game? Go Beyond Nouveau!”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Savoring and Sipping Bottles and Bottles of Beaujolais”
- Rob from Odd Bacchus shares “Beaujolais Reassessed“
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm writes “Say Yay for Beaujolais“
- Jane from Always Ravenous shares “Beaujolais Wine: A Foodie’s Dream”
- Nicole from Somms Table writes “Cooking to the Wine: Stephane Aviron Cru Beaujolais with Pork Tenderloin While Jumping Life Hurdles“
- Lauren from The Swirling Dervish shares “Thanksgiving for Two: Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Loin Paired with Beaujolais Cru”
- Michelle from Rockin Red Blog writes ” Exploring Cru Beaujolais with #Winophiles”
- David from Cooking Chat shares “Food-Friendly Red Wine from Beaujolais”
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator writes “Do you know the way to Beaujolais?”
- Liz from What’s in that Bottle writes “Discover Real Beaujolais”
These four bottles were provided as samples. All opinions are my own.
A special thank you to Michèle Piron of Vinconnexion.
Vignerons de Belaire-
- New York City: Apollo wines / NY State: Cuvée Imports
- TN: Bonusbev
- Ohio: Wines LLC (Eastlake)
- CO: European Wines (Ancona)
- All other states: Matinicus LLC (Steven Berardi)
- NY, NJ– Baron Francois
- CA- Beaune Imports (Michael Sullivan)
- MA- Orleans Wine/Cape Code Wine Cellars
Domain de Briante-
- Winebow Group
Domain Baron de L’Ecluse-
- Kirkcrest Imports, Alamo, CA
- Export Contact : Jean-François Pegaz, Domain Baron de L’Ecluse
Gamay grapes photo courtesy of discoverbeaujolais.com .