Beaujolais has something for everyone. From light-hearted nouveau to somm-favorite cru, the French wine region produces a range of styles. Made from acidic and fruity Gamay, Beaujolais is lighter-bodied and lower-alcohol than most reds, and offers a (relatively) inexpensive alternative to similar styles from nearby Burgundy.
From why it occasionally smells like bubblegum, to how much you need to spend to pick up a good bottle, here are nine questions you might have about Beaujolais, answered.
Is Beaujolais a grape or a region?
Beaujolais is a wine region in eastern France, located north of Lyon and roughly 50 miles from the border with Switzerland. Regional wines are named after the local Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), and are primarily made using the Gamay variety.
Are Beaujolais wines always red?
The thin-skinned red Gamay Noir grape makes up over 98 percent of the region’s production. A very small percentage of Beaujolais white wines are also available, though, made using Chardonnay and Aligoté.
What is the best Beaujolais?
There are several classifications of Beaujolais wines. The most basic are labeled under regional appellation, Beaujolais AOC, and must contain a minimum 10 percent ABV, with yields no higher than 60 hectoliters per hectare (hl/ha).
Grapes for Beaujolais Supérieur are harvested at riper levels and are vinified to a minimum of 10.5 percent ABV. Decreased vineyard yields (maximum 58 hl/ha) help improve concentration of flavor, ensuring the wines are “superior” to AOCs.
The next classification is Beaujolais-Villages, which covers 38 communes. Each can use its village name on wine labels, but most producers tend to stick with the Beaujolais-Villages designation. Though higher quality than AOC and Supérieur, Beaujolais-Villages wines are produced to be consumed within two years of production.
Cru Beaujolais is the highest and most-esteemed classification in the region. There are 10 crus within the classification, each referring to a winemaking region, rather than an individual vineyard, as in nearby Burgundy. Crus range in style, from lighter-bodied and younger-drinking to fuller, age-worthy wines. The names of the 10 Beaujolais crus are: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié, and Saint-Amour.
What’s the deal with Beaujolais Nouveau?
Beaujolais Nouveau is a separate category of Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages wines that are released shortly after harvest. The light, fruity style became popular in the 1970s and is designed to be consumed shortly after bottling. Beaujolais Nouveau Day marks the wine’s release and takes place annually on the third Thursday of November.
What does Beaujolais taste like?
Beaujolais is a light-bodied red wine, with high acidity and low tannins. The wine has red berry flavors, including raspberry, red cherry, red currant, and cranberries. High-quality cru Beaujolais is occasionally compared to Old World Pinot Noir, with mushroom, forest floor, and smoky notes.
Why does my Beaujolais smell like bubblegum?
Beaujolais Nouveau has extremely fruity, sometimes artificial-smelling aromas of banana and bubblegum. The vibrant scents come from a winemaking technique called carbonic maceration, in which winemakers ferment grapes in a carbon-dioxide-rich, anaerobic environment.
Do you have to drink Beaujolais while it’s young?
Given that Beaujolais is light and fruit-driven, most wines are best consumed within the first year or two of bottling (apart from Beaujolais Nouveau, which should be consumed as soon as possible). The best cru Beaujolais, however, is capable of aging for up to 10 years.
How much do I need to pay for good Beaujolais?
The price of Beaujolais varies with style and quality. Most Beaujolais Nouveau retails at a little over $10 per bottle, but you can expect to pay around $20 for a good bottle of Beaujolais-Villages. The best cru Beaujolais can reach up to $70 a bottle, though there’s incredible value to be found around the $30 to $35 mark.
Can I pair Beaujolais with food?
Because of its high acidity, Beaujolais pairs with a range of foods. Similar to other light-bodied reds, it’s a great match for roasted white meats like chicken, turkey, and pork, as well as light salads. Earthy cru Beaujolais pairs well with mushroom dishes, and its high acidity is a great match for creamy risottos.