It’s strange to think that even ten years ago, few would dare suggest drinking Beaujolais outside of either the region itself or the Nouveau festival in November. Wine, like all other consumer goods is subject to swings and trends, and fortunately the shift toward both lighter bodied reds as well as more sustainable production has cast the spotlight on this wonderful region and it’s myriad of growers.
The Beaujolais region sits immediately to the south of the Mâconnais and stretches down almost to the outskirts of Lyon, with a large proportion of the region lying within the Rhône département. A series of rolling, granite based hills make up the key area for quality production in Beaujolais, home to the ten Cru villages of Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Morgon, Regnié, Côte de Brouilly and Brouilly, each with their own subtle style distinctions owing to aspect, soil makeup and altitude.
Gamay is the key player in Beaujolais, producing brightly coloured if pale reds, sometimes with a blue tinge. Historically much of the wine entering export markets was simply fruity, with light tannins and not much intensity. In more recent times however there has been a shift toward more traditional fermentation methods as practiced to the north in Burgundy and the resulting wines are subsequently more Burgundian in quality.
Beaujolais has also been one of the hot-bed regions for French natural and minimal intervention winemaking. Producers such as Foillard and Lapalu have led the way, and elevated the overall quality of the region. They harness the pure fruited nature of Gamay, combined with the structure generated by low yields and Burgundian method winemaking, to produce amazing, long-lived reds. These are both serious and full of joie de vivre.