Beaujolais for Summer Sipping

Burgundy gets a lot of love for their delicious white and red wines, yet the wine region just south is overlooked. Beaujolais wines in the states are often associated with the Nouveau style, which is an inexpensive, young, light and fruity wine celebrated the third Thursday of November. It’s great for easy sipping.

Yet, there are more complex styles from this region like wines labeled Beaujolais-Villages. Additionally, there are ten Beaujolais Crus, which are all their own region and will be labeled as such (see below). These wines are said to be more Burgundian in style but won’t break the bank.

Beaujolais-Villages and the Crus border Burgundy as they’re located in the most northern part of Beaujolais. Here vines are planted on slopes to maximize exposure to the sun which enables the grapes to achieve greater ripeness. Additionally, the winemakers here are committed to producing quality of wine to show off the Gamay grape. Gamay is the only red grape in Beaujolais, and really, 99% of wine made in Beaujolais is red wine. There is only a tiny amount of Chardonnay, which we’re unlikely to find in the United States.

The Gamay grape typically produces light body wines with low amounts of tannin (what makes your mouth feel dry after you sip it) and noticeable notes of cherry, raspberry and plum. Many of the Beaujolais Nouveau wines are not aged in oak and go through a winemaking process that creates notes of banana and kirsch. This is not typical for the Beaujolais Cru wines. They are often aged in oak barrels and are made via the more traditional winemaking process. These wines will also have a little more body and riper fruit notes that are balanced by the oak characteristics from barrel-aging. Additionally, many of these wines are able to age for several years in the bottle.

There are 10 cru names to look for on a bottle that will signify it is a higher quality Beaujolais (see example of label below). Three that are common to find here in the United States are Brouilly, Morgon and Fleurie. The other seven are: