Our Guide to Beaujolais Wine
There is so much to enjoy about Beaujolais. Regarded as one of the most food-friendly and refreshing reds available, even the most highly allocated bottles are still rather affordable compared to their French neighbors.
While many American drinkers had their introduction to Beaujolais through the festive and fruity Nouveau wines, when the category is viewed prismatically, it becomes obvious that there is so much beyond these celebratory releases. Here at Verve Wine, we are always excited to share Beaujolais. It’s a is a staff favorite that we all serve to our friends and family, especially during the fall season, with herbal, rich, and satisfying stews and roasted meats.
Beaujolais is made in 12 appellations — two regional and ten crus. Nearly all of the production here is red wine that relies on one grape, Gamay (officially: Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc). And yet the region is synonymous with diversity. Gamay shines on granite soils that inherently control yields with unforgiving nutrient deprivation, a terroir emblematic to certain parts of Beaujolais. However, multi-year soil characterization studies have revealed that there are more than 300 variants in a geological array that earned the vineyards of Beaujolais a UNESCO Global Geopark label.
Steep hills, predominantly hand harvest, and a growing commitment to environmentally friendly practices meanwhile build the case for a world-class wine region that deserves to be on your table and in your cellar.
Beaujolais wines are thus regarded as widely expressive of this pocket of France, a vantage point viewed through Gamay in all its forms, delivered in the glass. There is a tiny smattering of Chardonnay cultivated here and it’s interesting to note that for a white wine to be labeled Beaujolais Blanc, it must be crafted from Chardonnay. If you happen to stumble upon a white wine made from Gamay, that would be labeled Vin de France. You can also find Beaujolais rosé, which has expressed ever-growing potential.
Generally speaking, these are aromatic, red-fruit forward, refreshing wines from both the regional and cru appellations. As you move into the villages and cru wines, expect more complexity, structure, and terroir-driven character.
Sommeliers have a penchant for Beaujolais because it generally goes with nearly any food. From Korean BBQ to steak frites to carnitas, to the Thanksgiving feast, the refreshing character is highly satisfying. While it’s not hard to find a chillable glou-glou version, it’s equally possible to land Beaujolais with structure, elegance, or body. Here at Verve Wine we recommend it for people planning for a crowd — it’s a satisfying match to almost anything on the table.
Sourcing great Beaujolais is a pleasure. The ten crus each boast their own terroir, so tasting around to find your favorite is the best way to learn. And with many options well under $100, even under $50, it's possible to obtain a mixed case of quality bottles that are also affordable. While some cru Beaujolais can age for up to a decade (check out Moulin-à-Vent in particular) most of it is generally consumed within a few years after bottling.
Wine grape cultivation in Beaujolais dates back to antiquity (there’s even a village and cru said to be named after Julius Caesar —Juliénas) the growers of recent generations are innovative in their own ways. A group known as the Gang of Four is regarded as the guiding light for today’s natural wine movement, and many of the “kids” at work today are energetic and vibrant, after taking the reins from their grandparents or parents.
If you are looking for wines to please a crowd — think dinner party, festive gathering, fall meals — there’s hardly a better option than Beaujolais. It’s a bistro favorite that conveys conviviality, and with a pedigree decorated with French history there’s no better time than now to discover or rediscover Beaujolais.