Beaujolais, the French wine region just south of Burgundy, is all about the Gamay grape. While Beaujolais has long lived in the shadow of Burgundy and its famed Pinot Noirs, it has become better known in recent years for serious wines that offer a more affordable alternative to Burgundy (though not quite the bargains they used to be).
Among the most familiar wines are Beaujolais-Villages and, of course, Beaujolais Nouveau, the fresh and grapey version released soon after harvest each fall. But for Beaujolais wines with greater dimension, it’s worth exploring the so-called Beaujolais “crus,” the 10 smaller areas in the north of Beaujolais whose wines take their names and reflect their terroirs more specifically than wines labeled Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages.
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The smallest of the crus and perhaps the least-known is Chénas, and the 2020 Chénas from Domaine des Bruyeres is a stunning, $21 example of the appellation and its depth. If you think of Beaujolais wines as little more than light, fruity, and “easy to drink,” this one goes well beyond that — and is a great value to boot.
The wine is defined by its minerality, with aromas of wet stone that leave a powerful first impression. It makes sense when you consider that the vineyards in Chénas (and the other Beaujolais crus) are largely planted in granite soils, and it’s especially pronounced in this wine. On the palate, that stony quality melds with tastes of black cherry, blueberry, cranberry, and raspberry — all of it punctuated by crisp acidity and firm tannins.
It’s a textbook example of why cru Beaujolais is often capable of aging. While the wine is enjoyable now, time will bring all those elements together more seamlessly in the bottle. It will be a different wine a year — or a decade — from now, which is part of what makes cru Beaujolais so intriguing.