For many lovers, Beaujolais wine conjures up the excitement of Beaujolais nouveau. Over the years, top restaurants in London competed to be the first to offer the new season Beaujolais nouveau, giving rise to an extraordinary race to get the first bottle of the new wine from the vineyard to the restaurant table. While the focus on Beaujolais nouveau was fun and exciting, it probably overshadowed the more serious Beaujolais wines, to the detriment of the region. Now, however, there if a new interest in the recently neglected region of Beaujolais and more wine lovers are beginning once again to enjoy great wines from Beaujolais.
Understanding Beaujolais wine
Beaujolais wine is made from the Gamay grape, which is a cross between Pinot Noir and the white grape, Gouais. It is thought that this latter variety was introduced from Central Europe by the Romans. Beaujolais wines tend to be light and fruity and almost all of the production from the region is red wine. The light and fruity character of the wine has led some wine lovers to actually drink the red wine slightly chilled. While this may be sacrilege to some red wine drinkers, it does sometimes suit the character of the wine.
Classification of Beaujolais wines
Beaujolais wine comes in three quality classifications. The first of these is Beaujolais AOC, which encompasses 96 villages and all the basic Beaujolais wines. Much of this wine is sold as Beaujolais nouveau. The next classification is Beaujolais-Villages AOC and is the intermediate level in terms of quality. Most of these wines come from the northern Haut Beaujolais region. These wines tend to be drunk young, within a few years of harvesting. The final Beaujolais appellation is that of Cru Beaujolais, which contains the regions finest wines.
Beaujolais wines by Cru
The largest Beaujolais Cru is that of Brouilly. These wines are famous for their familiar aroma of berries, cherries and currants. This is also the only Beaujolais Cru that allows its wines to be made from grapes other than Gamay and these wines may contain Chardonnay, Aligote and Melon de Bourogne grapes also. Regnie is the newest Cru and Chiroubles has the region's loftiest vineyards. Perhaps the best known Beaujolais Cru is that of Fleurie. These wines are famous for their velvet character and a distinct floral bouquet. It is the most popular Beaujolais wine in the US and is one of the best Beaujolais wines for ageing, lasting well up to 16 years.