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The Beauty of Beaujolais Cru

As we prepare to sit down with Yann Bourigault, export director at Duboeuf Wines, I felt it reasonable to share some fun facts on Beaujolais and in particular, Beaujolais Cru. For those of you interested, Wine.com will be hosting a virtual tasting with Mr. Bourigault tomorrow (4/3) at 5pmPST/8pmEST as we taste through a delicious line up of Duboeuf Beaujolais Cru from the outstanding 2010 vintage.

Beaujolais run-down:

Where is it? Beaujolais lies at the southernmost point of Burgundy where about 50,000 acres of vines are planted. About 30 miles long and 8 miles wine, Beaujolais can be compared to Napa Valley in size.

What grape? The primary grape variety here is Gamay, a very light bodied grape that does will with the soils and climate of the region. Gamay is actually a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc, a white varietal. Perhaps that’s why it’s often called a white wine that happens to be red. 98% of Beaujolais is planted with Gamay.

What are the soils and climate like? The region can be split into two parts – north and south. In the south, the soils are clay-based and the land is flat, while in the north, there are rolling hillsides and the soil is a base of granite and schist.

How is Beaujolais classified?  There are three main classifications for Beaujolais. In order of complexity and quality (low to high): AOC Beaujolais, AOC Beaujolais-Villages, AOC Beaujolais Cru

What is Beaujolais Cru? There are 10 Crus in Beaujolais. These “Cru” are basically villages or sub-regions within Beaujolais that produce some of the best and most distinctive wine of the region. The Cru villages are primarily located in the northern part of Beaujolais, with the rolling hillsides and granite-based soils. Cru Beaujolais creates wines with more structure, more complexity and more aromatics than the more widely produced AOC Beaujolais and AOC Beaujolais-Villages from the south of the region. The 10 Cru include: Brouilly, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, Julienas, Cote de Brouilly, Saint-Amour, Regnie, Chiroubles and Chenas.

What is Beaujolais Nouveau? Beaujolais Nouveau has  a very short fermentation process using carbonic maceration, so it is released in the November after harvest (just a few months after the grapes are picked). It is light, fresh, fruity and fun. Perfect for Thanksgiving and meant to be consumed immediately!

What is Carbonic Maceration?  To put an involved chemical process very simply, it’s where the fermentation happens anerobically rather than arobically – basically, inside the grape without oxygen. The grapes are not pressed as most grapes are to begin fermentation. Instead, whole grape bunches are put into a large tank. The grapes on the bottom are pressed by the weight of those grapes on top and once opened, begin the normal fermentation process, which releases carbon minoxide. In the enclosed tank, the CO2 wafts up to those whole berries, seeping into the skin and causing the grapes to undergo fermentation inside the berry. The result is very juicy wine with very little tannins. This process works with very few wines, but with Gamay, it’s a winner. Some of the higher end wines (like Cru Beaujolais) use less or no carbonic maceration.

Drink Beaujolais with a juicy burger, a gourmet pizza or roasted poultry. They are great food wines due to the acid and fruit structure, and completely underrated. We hope you’ll join us tomorrow to learn more! Cheers!