Why isn’t there more buzz about Beaujolais, the Gamay-based wine from the region of the same name just south of Burgundy?
Well, for one thing, the prices of higher-end Beaujolais, the so-called “cru” wines named after the specific areas of Beaujolais in which the grapes are grown (Morgon, Fleurie, etc.) have gotten a lot more expensive in the last few years. Some now approach $40 or more — a turnoff for those who seek good, relatively inexpensive wines for everyday drinking.
Fortunately, you can still find excellent Beaujolais for under $20 if you look for wines simply labeled “Beaujolais” or “Beaujolais-Villages.” Although they’re from broader areas in the region, some of them can rival the cru wines in terms of complexity and interest.
A great example is the 2020 Beaujolais “Griottes” from Pierre-Marie Chermette, a $17 bargain that will complement a wide range of dishes, including seared shell steaks, pork chops, roast chicken, and all kinds of vegetable dishes.
It’s typical of better Beaujolais: relatively fruity with high acidity and stony minerality, all of which make it the versatile wine it is. With alcohol at 13.5 percent, it’s also medium-bodied and gently tannic, which makes it exceedingly easy to drink.
The word “griottes” refers to sour cherries, and in fact, the wine has that taste, along with black cherry and overripe strawberry framed by ample acidity and a wet stone note. Domaines Chermette notes on its website that, just below the topsoil, the vines encounter a “block of granite through which the rootlets have to find their way,” adding that “it is a poor soil which forces the vines to draw deeply through the rocks to feed themselves, hence a clear notion of terroir…”
Indeed, this is most definitely a “terroir” wine, showing a distinct sense of place. Chermette, which produces a range of wines, including several cru Beaujolais, practices organic farming and relies on native yeasts for fermentation — part of what produces wines of distinction, as the 2020 Beaujolais “Griottes” amply demonstrates.