Beaujolais is a region extending from the north of the Rhône département (capital: Lyon) to the south of the Saône-et-Loire département (capital: Mâcon). Beaujolais is located to the South of another wine region, Burgundy.The name Beaujolais comes from Beaujeu, which was once the capital of the region.
The soils of Beaujolais, a delightful countryside of low hills, consist in granite and schist with a thin cover of fertile sedimentary terrain.
The climate is sunny, semi-continental, protected by the Massif Central mount to its West, and sweetened by the Mediterranean sea influence. The relative proximity of the sea allows the grapes to ripe fully, giving fruity wines.
Beaujolais is also a wine anyone knows. It is often said that it is the third of Lyon rivers, after the Rhône and the Saône, because it is a part of the lyonnaise gastronomy and savoir-vivre.
Most of Beaujolais are red wines. The Beaujolais production is based on Gamay grapes: usually not considered a quality grape, this type of grains gives here its best, improved by hundred years of experience from winegrowers; Romans indeed made wine there 2000 years ago.
Beaujolais is classified in three different appellations:
Beaujolais AOC are the most simple Beaujolais wines.
Beaujolais-Villages AOC, the intermediate category, refers to some wines from villages in the North of Beaujolais.
Beaujolais cru refers to the best and most restricted category in the Beaujolais classification. The word cru designates an area in Beaujolais, with many wineyards, and not the production of a single winegrower.
Beaujolais wines have 10 different crus:
Chiroubles, Brouilly, Régnié are light, fruity and crunchy, with red berry and spices.
Juliénas, Fleurie, Côte de Brouilly, St-Amour have a solid tannin structure with floral aromas of violet, iris and peony.
Chénas (a spray of flowers in a velvet basket), Moulin-à-Vent, and Morgon are appreciated crus; rich, intense, mineral,with cherry and plum notes, they can be kept longer than other Beaujolais (5 to 10 years) and become better with time.
Apart from these red wines, the Beaujolais area also produces a small amount of Beaujolais rosé and Beaujolais blanc, from Chardonnay grapes.
The most popular wine is Beaujolais Nouveau. A third of the production is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau, and millions of bottles are being sold worldwide. The wine is shipped a few days earlier, and on the 3rd Thursday of November at 12 AM exactly, it is allowed to be opened and tasted.
The story of Beaujolais Nouveau begins in the 19th century, when Beaujolais winegrowers and traders used to sell a very simple wine as early as possible. It is told that Beaujolais finished its fermentation during its transportation to the nearest town, Lyon. The bistros announced its arrival with a notice "Le Beaujolais est arrivé. It is only in the 60s, when its quality improved and its trade became organized, that it became increasingly popular in the whole world.
Nowadays, the grapes are harvested in late August or September, and in November, Beaujolais Nouveau (or Beaujolais Primeur) is ready to be drunk. The fermentation is short, and the wine is quickly bottled. It"s an easy, light, fruity wine, with a taste of red berry or banana. It cannot be kept long (one year maximum).
The harvests, and the release, sets Beaujolais villages in a party mood: there are banquets, balls, parades, and other merry meetings around food and wine, during many days, before the cold and winter take possession of the countryside.