Beaujolais is a red wine made from the gamay grape. It is produced in the Beaujolais region of Burgundy in France and is known for it’s light body, low tannin content, and a very fruit forward flavors. It is meant to be drunk young, especially Beaujolais Nouveau. When talking about beaujolais there are two types:
Beaujolais: Typically meant to be drunk up to 1-2 years after bottling, this is the standard form in the region accounting for 2/3 of production.
Beaujolais Nouveau: Beaujolais that is harvested and only aged for 6-8 weeks before being bottled. It is meant to be drunk immediately and has almost no tannin content while being dominated by fruit flavor. They are released worldwide on the third Thursday of every November. It’s commonly referred to as a “quaffing” or table wine. It is also meant to be served slightly cooler than most reds, around 55 degrees. Some critics say it’s too immature and is hardly a wine but I think you need to be the judge for yourself!
There are also 3 appellations in the region:
Beaujolais: This is the most generic AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) and covers all basic Beaujolais wines. Many wines produced in this AOC are sold as Beaujolais Nouveau.
Beaujolais- Villages: This is the intermediate classification. Wines with this label typically will be of higher quality than Beaujolais AOC. If the grapes used are from a single village you may see the village name on the label as well.
Cru Beaujolais: The highest classification of Beaujolais, there are only 10 villages allowed to produce under this AOC. We will talk about the word “Cru” further when talking about Burgundy wine classifications however in this case it simply refers to a specific area in the Beaujolais region. Villages in this AOC are not allowed to produce Beaujolais Nouveau. When looking at Cru labels you often won’t see the the word “Beaujolais” but instead the name of the village…they do this so they don’t blend in with the millions of bottles of standard or Nouveau wines. Unlike other Beaujolais, Cru wine is meant to be aged 1-10 years depending on the village.
Lastly there is one more interesting fact about Beaujolais: 90% of the wine is produced by negociants. A negociant is wine merchant who buys grapes from different villages, assembles the wines, and sells them under their own name. The most common producer I’ve seen in MA is Louis Jadot as seen in the photo in this post. Moby and I will be reviewing a Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages we drank over the holiday in an upcoming post.
So now that you have all this knowledge about Beaujolais, is it actually good? It depends on who you talk to. Some people despise it for it’s immaturity and many love it. My Aunt and Uncle (who I would consider wine experts) describe it as a “pizza wine” and I tend to agree after experiencing a few bottles. It’s a wine you would drink if you’re having a simple meal but feel like wine…or maybe something that calls for white but you feel like red. It may also be a good gateway wine for inexperienced palates not ready for big tannins and complex structure. The good news is that it is very inexpensive. A bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais, or Beaujolais-Villages should not cost you more than $15 and at that price there’s no excuse for not grabbing a bottle on your next trip to the store and giving it a try!