Wine for Normal People Audio Blog 11: Beaujolais Cru

beaujolais-nouveauEvery year on the third Thursday in November at midnight, Beaujolais Nouveau hits store shelves, cafés, and restaurants around the world and (a declining number) of people rush out to get this invention of marketing genius.

 

The celebration of this hastily made wine, for which grapes are picked and then processed in a scant few weeks before you drink it (as opposed to quality wine which is made over several months, if not years) is the creation of producer/negociant Georges Duboeuf. This guy took the Old World idea of festivals that celebrated new/young wine —  wine made from grapes fresh off the vines — and put a marketing machine behind it to get the world to support Beaujolais Nouveau.

 

The problem: young wine is best when it’s fresh and sipped at the winery. When it travels overseas and is stored for a month the wine is terrible. But even then, I bet if we tasted it fresh, Beaujolais Nouveau tastes like bananas, bubble gum, and pear candy, with little acid or tannin. Apart from color, it has more in common with a white than a red. It’s fun, but it doesn’t taste that great and as we’ve become more sophisticated in our wine drinking, Beaujolais Nouveau has become less exciting to most people. 

 

Sadly this increasing sophistication has had terrible repercussions in the region of Beaujolais — forcing some growers out of business and creating tensions among those who depended on this product for their livelihoods. So the question for Beaujolais is: Now that Beaujolais Nouveau is on the rocks, what else is there?

 

side_gameyEnter higher quality Beaujolais. This is the stuff wine people go nuts over but that few others know about: the 10 Beaujolais Crus that make distinctive, floral, fresh wine from the Gamay grape. Just south of Burgundy and north of Rhône, on a swath of granite, which is Gamay’s preferred soil, are scattered areas that make outstanding wine. From north to south these are: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Côte de Brouilly, and Brouilly.

 

The wines produced in these Cru run the gamut — from floral and fruity to rich, earthy, and complex. Here’s a quick grouping of each type: 

 

  • Lighter bodied, more floral, less age worthy: Chiroubles cru-map
  • Medium bodied, fruity with mineral notes: Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Régnié, Saint-Amour
  • Fuller bodied, spicy, earthy: Chénas, Juliénas
  • Even fuller and more age-worthy, spicy, and like a cross between Pinot Noir and more floral Gamay: Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent

 

Most of these wines are incredibly well priced for what they are — around US $20 or less — and they taste like nothing else you’ve ever tried. I don’t know of other wines that can boast flavors of iris flowers, violets, or lily of the valley and also have raspberry, earth, and spice notes. The combination of freshness and structure — most Cru have excellent acidity but also a round, soft texture — make these wines like nothing else you’ve ever had. 

 

So clearly, I love the stuff. Go get yourself one from an area I just mentioned that sounds best to you and report below and we’ll compare notes.

  • Rob Michaels

    I was digging in the back of my wine refrigerator earlier this year and found a 2009 Morgon. Not knowing anything about Cru Beaujolais, I figured I had a Beaujolais that was 7 years old, and clearly past it’s prime. But I thought I’d taste it before pouring it down the drain. It was amazing. Deep, complex, more like a Burgundy. I started reading about Cru Beaujolais, and have been enjoying getting to know them over this year. A perfect wine for the hot climate we experience 9 mo out of the year in Florida.

  • Elizabeth Schneider

    I’m so glad you took the chance! There is so much to Beaujolais. It’s like this hidden gem that has been eclipsed by a lesser version of itself! That Morgon is in its prime so I bet it was outstanding. Have you seen the Beaujolais web site? They do an excellent job of discussing the region: http://www.discoverbeaujolais.com

    I hope you’ll explore more than just that Morgon! Fleurie, St-Amour, Chenas — and all the rest are so unique and perfect with a slight chill. Agreed — perfect for Florida! And it’s on my list of Thanksgiving wines too! Great stuff.

    Thanks for writing and listening!
    Elizabeth

  • ASHLEY

    A little late, but just wanted to thank you for shining the light on Beaujolais Cru! Tried two Morgon from different producers and loved both. What a delicious wine! I could have it everyday..We actually served one on Thanksgiving and it was great. Thanks!

  • William Colburn

    Tomorrow evening (8.24.2017) I am hosting a Gamay wine tasting. We’ll be presenting wines from the 3 different regions. Your podcasts on Beaujolais have been very helpful. I’ve listened to each of your nearly 200 podcasts and am reading through your blog. I love your weekly wine tasting selections and have just received my first two orders. I am trying to introduce my friends to wine, but need your help. Do you have a ‘starter kit’ of wines that would include a bottle of each of classic red and white wines so that newbies can form a baseline from which they can evaluate other offerings?