‘Tis the season for Beaujolais! Not just the recognized Beaujolais Nouveau that appears on store shelves the third week of November and is gone from said shelves (or should be) three months later. Though this fresh and fruity version of Beaujolais has its place in the wine world, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and it does not represent the majority of Beaujolais.
The region of Beaujolais is situated in the southern part of the Burgundy appellation in France. Surprising, since Beaujolais differs from Burgundy in many ways, including soil type, climate and grape variety.
The primary grape of Beaujolais is Gamay Noir, a very light-skinned grape that produces wines of light body, fresh fruit, great acidity and low tannins. The grape grows on granite and schist soils of the area and the climate is classified as semi-continental – more similar to their southern neighbor, the Rhone Valley, than the rest of Burgundy to the north.
Most (over half) the wine of Beaujolais is sold under the basic Beaujolais appellation. This style of wine is quaffable, juicy stuff with low alcohol and pretty much zero tannin. The next level of wine is Beaujolais-Villages, made with grapes from higher quality vineyards. Finally, you have the Beaujolais Crus, the 10 regions of the area that make the top-notch Beaujolais. There is white wine made here, though the percentage is small and it can be hard to find, but worth a try if you do.
Beaujolais Cru is why I love Beaujolais. Wine from these 10 communes contain that juicy fruit I love about Gamay, but with some extra depth – the palate has great acidity and low tannins typical of Beaujolais, but with a slight richness that distinguish Beaujolais Crus from other Beaujolais. Best part, these wines come in under the $20 mark (most of the time). The 10 crus are: Morgon, St-Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Mounlin-A-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly and Regnie.
So give Beaujolais Crus a try – it’s known as a classic for the Thanksgiving table, and I have tasted it recently with a spicy pasta dish that was a fantastic match. It’s also great with a burger or pizza. However, we did discover that it tastes metallic when paired with carrot cake, so do avoid that pairing!