Sometimes the phrase “easy to drink” acts more as a backhanded compliment than as a description of a wine, and rarely a style or region earns the praise of both the hardcore oenophiles and those wine drinkers that just want a cheerful bottle to sip without getting too philosophical. Beaujolais produces many a proof that a wine can be “easy to drink” while having hidden depths to please the over-thinker without putting off the cheerful hedonist. Who wants a wine that’s hard to drink anyways?
Twelve Appellations, Ten Crus
The funniest example of wine geeks celebrating the beauty in Beaujolais I’ve witnessed, occurred last year at the wino’s oasis that is London’s Noble Rot wine Bar. There I was, treating myself to a glass of Bojo, when a man in a table next to me started to talk about Beaujolais with the waiter. Somehow the conversation turned into a game of trying to remember the region’s ten cru appellations (besides plain Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages, there are ten subregions with cru status).
They quickly counted the most popular ones… Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin-a-Vent, Juliénas… The mood was playful and they were speaking loudly enough so I waived at them and added “Cote de Brouilly” and “Brouilly” to the list. Another table helped with the spontaneous brainstorm and in no time they’ve listed also Saint-Amour, Chiroubles and Régnié… They were missing one and by then, several guests were low-key paying attention.
Chenas! Someone exclaimed and the crowd applauded.
Thanks to the region’s diversity of soils, landscapes and style variations, even tough all crus share common traits like working mostly with the local champion grape Gamay (though there are examples of white and rosé beaujolais), each also has each own distinctiveness. In a nutshell, this is what you can expect from the different Beaujolais appellations (the Crus are listed north to South)…
Beaujolais – The widest appellation, in existence since 1937 and a go-to for good value youthful and smooth fruity wines.
Beaujolais Villages – Privileged slopes and soils contribute to more expressive wines. It’s a higher tier compared to plain Beaujolais and you can expect more intensity and finesse.
Saint-Amour – Named after Julius Caesar, who occupied the region in 100BC. It’s a versatile appellation with wines that range from the delicate and gentle to the unexpectedly tanninc and well structured.
Juliénas – Granite-rich soils, moderate altitude and steep slopes contribute to make of this an appellation for vigorous Beaujolais.
Chénas – Legend goes, there used to be an oak forest before the region was planted with vines. This is one of the appellations that tends to have the longest ageing potential.
Moulin-a-Vent – Elegant and with character, these tend to be some of the most robust Beaujolais in town. It also has comparatively long ageing potential.
Fleurie – Contrasting with its northern neighbour, Fleurie wines are some of the more subtle and gentle, often with a very pleasant floral character.
Chiroubles – A small and sunny appellation for gloriously fruity wines of a mellow nature.
Morgon – One of the most sought after wines from Beaujolais, Morgon can achieve notable intensity and complexity and it tends to be one of the appellations with the most ageing potential (over a decade, which is formidable by Bojo standards).
Régnié – Recognised as recently as 1988, this promising appellation houses vibrant and fruity wines that are incredibly food friendly, even when very young.
Brouilly – Recognised as an AOC since 1938, its unique soil combination with granite, marlstone and limestone contribute to wines of great expressiveness and structure.
Cote de Brouilly – Located within the Brouilly appellation, this smaller area includes the slopes of Mont Brouilly where a higher altitude, more steep terrain and volcanic soils help the wines achieve intensity and finesse.
What to Eat with Beaujolais?
Lighter Beaujolais will go nicely with mild cheeses, grilled chicken, turkey (it’s in fact a frequent sight on Thanksgiving Day) and certain fish dishes. More robust bottles will pair well with pork chops, stronger cheeses, duck and game. One traditional and highly recommendable match is with saucisson, a local type of dry, cured sausage that is similar to an Italian Salami or Spanish salchichón.
Unapologetically easy to drink, Beaujolais wines can be complex without being complicated. They are the ultimate summer red but are worth loving once the leaves have fallen, they range from smooth and mellow to earthy and generous, and despite sometimes living a bit under the shadow of Burgundy (the region is literally south of it on the map), they have their own personality and offer wine lovers the joy of authenticity, the thrill of discovery and the relief of great value.
Vincent Juliénas La Conseillere
€20.95 – Available at O’Briens Wine
A gentle use of oak in this wine confers it with a delicate spicy character that provides a pleasant contrast to the liveliness of its abundance of ripe and juicy red fruit. It also hints towards the wine’s above-average ageing potential.
It has moderate tannins, a lean body and a fruity finish.
A fine match for duck or a cheese and charcuterie board.
Louis Jadot Fleurie Poncereau
€22.95 – Available at O’Briens Wine, Martin’s Off Licence, JJ O’Driscoll, Sweeney’s Wine Merchant
One of Burgundy’s most prestigious producers signs this beauty. Made with semi-carbonic maceration (a very common technique in the area which tends to produce fruity reds) and aged for up to ten months in oak, this wine is fresh as wild strawberries and smooth as a silk scarf.
With soft tannins and a moderate acidity, it’s a gateway red for white wine drinkers and one that you might even chill slightly to enjoy on a sunny day.
Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2016
€30.75 – Available at Mitchell & Son, Green Man Wines
The late winemaker Marcel Lapierre was instrumental in bringing new life into the Beaujolais region. He advocated a return to old times winemaking and this organic, low sulphur, natural beauty is a fine example of his delicious legacy.
This wine shows great intensity of flavours, structure and an enviable liveliness. Aromas of ripe cherries and violets are complemented by a subtle earthy note. It also has a mineral edge that adds to its complexity. With medium tannins and la long finish, its a robust Beaujolais that speaks loudly but with a lovely voice.
Marechal Beaujolais Villages
€9.99 – Available at Lidl
This wine offers an exuberant cornucopia of strawberries, cherries and banana with a herbaceous note playing in the background. It is part of Lidl’s upcoming French Wine Sale, which starts on the 11th of June and it offers excellent value for a villages level Bojo.
Enjoy it with a meaty pizza, with roasted chicken or with mild cheeses.
Domaine Des Nugues Beaujolais Villages Blanc
€19.95 – Available at Green Man Wines, Martin’s Off Licence
Less common than its ruby counterpart, white Beaujolais is also worth seeking. Made with Chardonnay, you can see the resemblance to its south of Burgundy cousins at a more modest price tag.
Unoaked and made in a fresh style, it is crisp and fruit-forward with aromas of ripe lemons and green apples delivered with a moderate acidity. It will shine as an aperitif or along seafood or lightly seasoned poultry.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.