Stretching along the western side of the Saone River north of Lyon; the secrets behind the charming wines of the Beaujolais region of France start with the success of the illustrious grape varietal Gamay Noir. Known for its fragrant aromas and smooth fruity flavors, this special red grape is grown in a mixture of sandstone, limestone, volcanic soils and golden rocks (“pierres dorees”) spread throughout the region.
Until recently, most of the red wines made in the villages of the area were consumed in France. That changed in the 1980s, when “Beaujolais Nouveau,” a young, fruity style of wine used to celebrate the bounty of grapes at harvest, became a fashionable style of wine released on the third Thursday each November. As it happens, the date coincides with Thanksgiving in America, which it a very popular wine to buy during the holidays. Even today, the production of Beaujolais Nouveau represents over 50% of the wines made in Beaujolais.
At the higher-end tier, there is a wide range of medium to full-bodied red wines produced in the ten cru appellations in the borders of the region: Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Régnié, St-Amour, and Nouveau. Most of these wines are much more developed with deep fruity flavors, smooth tannins, and give wines made with Pinot Noir grapes a good run for the money.
Grape Expectations: Beaujolais
Whites: Chardonnay and a tiny amount of Aligoté.
Reds: Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc, which represents over 95% of the vines planted in Beaujolais.
Taste Sensations: Beaujolais
Red Wines: The younger wines are known for ripe fruity aromas, flavors of ripe berries, cherries, fresh grapes, and vibrant acidity. Most are made using the carbonic maceration technique to preserve the freshness of the fruit. Most of these wines are best consumed within the first year. In contrast, the more developed wines from the crus have deeper flavors of raspberry, cherry, plum, red currant, cranberry, and spice. Much like Pinot Noir, the wines are balanced in structure and deeper layers of acidity. For these reasons, the wines can be aged for 3-10 years depending on where the grapes are grown and the style of the producer.
Pink Wines: The rosés tend to be more delicate with lovely floral aromas and flavors of ripe berries, citrus, and mineral.
White Wines: Although the percentage of Chardonnay produced in the region is rather small, the style is admirable with fresh flavors of peach, apricot, apple, lemon, mineral, and tangy acidity.
Food Pairings: Beaujolais
Try these wines with oysters, fresh prawns, sushi, grilled fish, fancy cheese sandwiches, wild rice salad, lentils, charcuterie plates, BLTs, roasted chicken, turkey breast, barbecued pork, and beef brisket.