Beaujolais: More than Nouveau
For many wine enthusiasts, France, in its whole, is considered a wine country. The land is home to several regions that produce world-class grapes and wine. Other than the big names regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Rhone Valley and the like, there are smaller areas and appellations that are making a name for themselves.
Tucked away at the tail end of Burgundy lies a hidden gem, where a grape other than pinot noir is taking over. There, in the Beaujolais zone, the gamay noir à jus blanc grape is the preferred varietal. And based on recent trends, the grape and the region is rising steadily.
A Soaring Appellation
Cru Beaujolais is one of the twelve main appellations of the Beaujolais wines; these wines cover more than 96 % of the total wine production of the villages in the Beaujolais region.
Beaujolais takes its name after a historical wine making region – Province of Beaujolais in France. The region is internationally known for its long history and tradition in winemaking and its incorporation of carbonic maceration in its winemaking processes.
Cru Beaujolais, among other known Beaujolais wine classifications, is considered the highest category. Approximately one third of the vineyards in the area are dedicated to the production of this great vino.
Cru wines are said to age longer, a bit more alcoholic, and more delicate than other wines. Cru Beaujolais’s exquisite taste and quality may be attributed to their land, which covers a diversity of soils from pink granite and volcanic rock, to limestone-flecked clay.
Beaujolais’s vineyards, like most of the world’s oldest winemaking regions, still hold onto traditional European practice of mixing wine plantings. About 15 % of cru wine are a mix of Chardonnay, Aligoté, and Melon de Bourgogne grapes mixed with Gamay.
Gamay, the main grape type used in Cru wines, is a cross between Pinot Noir, a grape commonly used in Burgundian red wines, and Gouais. The latter is a white grape variety that is now seldom grown.
Gamay, with an official name of Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc, is a variety of grape that is mainly used for red wines. These ripen earlier than any of its counterparts and are much easier to cultivate, resulting in a stronger and fruitier produce.
Cru wines rarely mentions ‘Beaujolais’ on their labels so as to not confuse them with other Beaujolais wines. Cru winemakers argue that they promote their region and terroirs by omitting ‘Beaujolais’ from the bottle labels; by doing so, winemakers also remind people that Beaujolais are not just Nouveau.
When buying a Cru wine, look for the ten Cru wine names: Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chiroubles, Chénas, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié, and Saint-Amour. Each wine has its own style that accommodates the varying preferences of wine consumers. At retail, Cru bottles typically sell for an average of $30 each.
While it’s not as popular as its neighbour Bordeaux, Beaujolais certainly has grapes and wines that is up to par. It wouldn’t be a surprised if this small AOC will soon enjoy its spot in the limelight–er, grapelight.