In another week, our shores will be invaded with case upon case of the latest vintage of
Beaujolais Nouveau. The 2008 vintage is slated to be released no sooner than midnight,
Thursday the 20th and will hit the shelves of your local wine purveyor soon after that. For a
description of Beaujolais Nouveau, see my article from November 2006: http://www.
gochisogourmet.com/Nov_Wine_2006.html. Beaujolais Nouveau usually comprises about 30%
of the wine produced in the Beaujolais region – at its peak; it hit 50% of Beaujolais production.
What I want to discuss today is that other Beaujolais or the “real” Beaujolais. These are the wines
of Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages and the ten Cru Beaujolais that you can drink upon release or
even age, in some cases up to 10 years that aren’t just grapey, banana flavored wines but reflect
the granite and schist soils of the region with raspberry and red berry flavors that complement a
wide variety of foods.
Where is the Beaujolais Region?
Technically, Beaujolais is part of the Burgundy wine region which is in the central eastern part of
France. The Beaujolais region sits just south of the Macon region where the popular Chardonnay
based wine, Pouilly Fuisse is produced. However, since Burgundy is mainly known for its Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay based wines and Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape, Beaujolais is
usually considered a wine region unto itself. That and the edict by Philippe the Bold who in the
late 1300s forbade that Gamay be grown in the vineyards of Burgundy proper.
The Wines of Beaujolais
Wines labeled as Beaujolais may originate from any of the 60 villages of the Beaujolais region.
Most of these wines originate from the southern regions of Beaujolais where due to sandstone
and clay soils, the grapes develop fruitier flavors that carryover to the finished wine. Most of the
Beaujolais Nouveau sold originates from this southern region of Beaujolais.
One step above plain Beaujolais is Beaujolais-Villages which includes 39 villages in the northern
region of Beaujolais. In the northern region, the soil consists of granite and schist which imparts
a subtle mineral, wet stone quality to the finished wine. A small percentage is sold as Beaujolais
Nouveau though the bulk of the wine is sold simply as Beaujolais-Villages. These wines can last
a couple of years though most are meant to be consumed within 2 to 3 years.
The top tier of Beaujolais are the Cru Beaujolais. These ten villages produce the top wines of
Beaujolais and are labeled according village name. You will never see any Beaujolais Nouveau
produced here as it is not allowed. In fact most of these wines don’t even have Beaujolais listed
on their labels and simply go by their respective village names. Cru Beaujolais wines can be
consumed upon bottling or aged – in great vintages aged up to 10 years.
Even within these 10 villages, the body and complexity varies. According to Wine Spectator, the
lightest and simplest Cru Beaujolais up to the most complex go in this order:
Côte de Brouilly
My personal favorites are Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. They both combine the aromas of
raspberry and dried red fruit along wet stone and mineral. The acidity helps clean your palate
between bites of food and the finish never clashes with food.
What to Eat With Beaujolais?
Almost anything. Literally. Noted wine writer and educator, Karen McNeil described Beaujolais
as a white wine that just happens to be red. Because of its low tannin levels and light to medium
body, Beaujolais can pair equally well with salads, cheeses, seafood, poultry, pork and beef. If
you can cook it, Beaujolais can pair with it. I’ve tried Beaujolais with ahi poke, chili, curries,
barbecue, salad and even Cheetos. No dish offended the wine or vice versa.
In fact, one of my new favorite pairings is Indian cuisine and Beaujolais. The light red fruit
qualities pair with the fruit chutneys accompanying most curries while the minerality of
Beaujolais balances the earthy spices used in Indian cuisine. Of course, since Thanksgiving
presents us with dishes ranging from mac-n-cheese to cauliflower gratin to sausage and herb
dressings to roasted birds and everything in between, Beaujolais is the one red wine that can
satisfy everyone’s palate.
Therefore you can still purchase that bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau for Thanksgiving but I also
encourage you to seek out the “real” Beaujolais – either a bottle of Beaujolais-Villages or one of
the Cru Beaujolais wines for this year’s holiday meals or the next. You just might find your new
favorite wine to go with that bacon cheese burger and chili fries.
The Real Beaujolais