France produces billions of bottles of wine every year, and there are thousands of different varieties that come from all over the country. One of the most popular wines unique to France is the Beaujolais wine.
Beaujolais wine is a sweet red wine made in the Beaujolais region of France from the Gamay grape. The wines vary in quality and recognition, ranging from the most basic and sweetest Beaujolais Nouveau to the more highly regarded varieties that come from ten specific Crus in the region.
First, I’ll go over the three types of Beaujolais wine, how to pronounce them, and how they differ.
Then, I’ll explain more about the grape variety that produces this wine and how to pair and serve a Beaujolais.
Finally, I’ll take you through the different characteristics of Beaujolais wine, complete with additional literature to help you learn as much as you can about this highly coveted beverage.
The simplest of Beaujolais wine is made in sixty of the over one hundred vineyards in the region.
They are concentrated in the southern part of the region, and they produce about half of Beaujolais wine every year. The wine made in this region and considered basic includes Beaujolais Nouveau, which we will discuss later in the article.
The second kind of Beaujolais wine is made from Beaujolais villages. There are almost forty Beaujolais Villages. That produced what is referred to as better wine than the basic villages. These vineyards grow their grapes in better soil, giving the wine a more sophisticated fruity flavor.
Finally, ten vineyards in the Beaujolais region are called the Beaujolais Crus. These Crus make the most highly rated Beaujolais wines.
Here are the ten Beaujolais Cru vineyards:
- Brouilly: The largest Cru which also produces Beaujolais Blanc.
- Regnie: The newest Cru whose wine has strong raspberry flavors.
- Chiroubles: The highest altitude Cru with strong violet flavors.
- Côte de Brouilly: located on the side of an extinct volcano.
- Fleurie: The most popular Beaujolais wine in the United States with strong fruity and floral flavors.
- Saint-Amour: The wine produced here has spicy, peachy aromas and flavors.
- Chenas: This is the smallest Cru, and the wines here have rose aromas.
- Julienas: This Cru was named after Julius Caesar, and their wines are rich and spicy.
- Morgon: These wines are the deepest red color of all the Beaujolais wines, and they have apricot and peach aromas.
- Moulin-a-Vent: The wines here last the longest up to ten to twenty years.
These Crus are listed in order from lightest bodied to fullest bodied wine they produce. So Brouilly produces light-bodied wines, and Moulin-a-Vent produces full-bodied wines.
Related Article: Top 8 Beaujolais Wines You Can Buy
Unless you know French, you are probably unfamiliar with how to pronounce Beaujolais. You cannot sound out Beaujolais if you want to pronounce it properly. The correct pronunciation has three syllables, pronounced boh-jhoe-lay.
If you want to hear the name out loud and practice pronouncing it, check out this video from Julien Miguel on Youtube:
Now that you know how to pronounce Beaujolais, let’s look at how to pronounce the names of the ten Beaujolais crus in this video from Dedalus Wine on Youtube:
Beaujolais Nouveau is sweet. It is the most simple of the Beaujolais wines and is not recognized as highly as the other varieties. However, for those not fond of dry wines, it can be an excellent choice.
Beaujolais Nouveau is the sweetest of the Beaujolais wines. Beaujolais Nouveau wine is the quickest to make since the grapes do not need a lot of time to ferment.
The fermentation time is less than twelve months, and it is released in November every year, using the same grapes that were harvested that same year.
Because of this quick turnaround, Beaujolais is quite sweet. But, it also loses its sweetness and flavor quickly if it is not drunk right away.
Beaujolais is located north of Lyon and has more than thirty miles of rolling hills where the grapes are grown, and the wine is produced. It’s a region in eastern France specializing in wine, specifically Beaujolais wine.
Beaujolais wine is similar to Champagne in that vintners must make it in its named region; otherwise, it cannot technically be Beaujolais wine. If Champagne is not made in Champagne, France, it is not Champagne, and if Beaujolais wine is not made in the Beaujolais region of France, it is not Beaujolais wine.
More than twelve hundred wineries in the Beaujolais region cover fifty-five thousand acres. Every year, the wineries produce thirteen million cases of Beaujolais wine.
You can learn more about the region, its history, and the soil that make Beaujolais wine in this Youtube video from Elicité:
Beaujolais wine is made from the Gamay grape. The red Gamay grape has thin skin and is the only grape grown in the Beaujolais region. Once the Gamay grape is harvested, they go through a process called carbonic maceration, which is how Beaujolais wine gets its fruity flavor.
The grapes are left whole (not crushed) and in bunches when fermented using carbon dioxide. After enough carbon dioxide has entered a grape, it will pop open, and the yeast on the grapes finish the fermentation.
This process is what gives Beaujolais wine its low tannin content, in addition to the Gamay grape having low tannins, to begin with. But, the more intense the carbonic maceration, the fewer tannins there are.
Beaujolais Nouveau goes through a full carbonic maceration, giving it the lowest amount of tannins of all the Beaujolais wines. The Beaujolais wines made in Crus go through a partial carbonic maceration process, so they have more tannins and are less fruity.
Because all Beaujolais wine is made with the Gamay grape, all Beaujolais wine has a similar flavor, although it does vary slightly. In general, Beaujolais wine is a sweet wine with many fruity flavors. The specific fruity flavors in the wine will vary, but here are some of the most common fruit flavors found in Beaujolais wine:
The Beaujolais wine also has other flavors to compliment the fruity flavors to keep it from being too sweet. These other flavors include violet, cinnamon, and other earthy flavors.
Very rarely, vineyards in the Beaujolais region will produce white wine. The white wine, or Beaujolais Blanc, is made from either Chardonnay or aligote grapes.
Beaujolais Nouveau day is always the third Thursday of November. Winemakers release the wine on the same day every year, on the day referred to as Beaujolais Nouveau day.
A short fermentation time makes for a sweeter wine, so Beaujolais Nouveau is a sweeter wine. But, if it sits for too long without being drunk, it will lose its sweetness. Since people want to drink it fresh when it still has all of its flavors, many people will drink Beaujolais Nouveau during the holiday season, so it is quite fresh.
This Youtube video from Sommvivant gives a good overview of what Beaujolais Nouveau is, why Beaujolais Nouveau day is important, and how it differs from the other types of Beaujolais wine:
Beaujolais is not a Burgundy wine. The Beaujolais region is just south of the Burgundy region of France. The grapes used to make the variety nowadays are 100% local.
The Gamay grape, which Beaujolais wine is made of, used to be grown in the Burgundy region until the end of the 14th century. The residents then pushed down the grapes to the Beaujolais region to make for room to produce Pinot Noir.
When the Gamay grape started being grown in the Beaujolais region, it thrived, and that is how Beaujolais wine started and got so popular.
So, the grapes used for Beaujolais wine used to be grown in the Burgundy region, but the grapes have been grown, and the wine has been produced in the Beaujolais region for more than seven hundred years now.
Beaujolais wine is generally light-bodied. The more basic the Beaujolais is, like the Beaujolais Nouveau, the lighter-bodied it is. But, as we discussed in the first section, some of the Beaujolais Crus produce relatively full-bodied wines.
Although Beaujolais wine is red, typically served at room temperature, Beaujolais wine should be served chilled, no matter what you pair it with.
A surprising way to serve and pair Beaujolais wine is with fish. Usually, white wine goes best with fish, but Beaujolais wine pairs well with wine since it has low tannin, making it less textured.
Unsurprisingly, Beaujolais wine pairs well with meats like chicken or a salad with meat. Since Beaujolais Nouveau is popular during the holiday season, many people pair it with turkey or ham, which is great.
This section has listed some great resources that will help you learn even more about Beaujolais wine, the Beaujolais region, and French wine in general. These books and videos are perfect for any wine-lover or someone who is planning a trip to France to learn and try their amazing, unique wines:
- Essential French Wine: The Guide To Picking Your Next Bottle (available on Amazon): This is a general guide for French wine that explains the styles, regions, and varieties of French wine. You can use this as a reference for choosing a good French wine or deciding where to go on a wine-tasting adventure through France. There is a chart and map with the French wine varieties listed to help you become a French wine expert.
- Southern Burgundy, Beaujolais, and Jura (available on Amazon): This is the latest guide to the top wines and vineyards in three popular wine regions in France including the Beaujolais region. You will learn about the geography, the grapes, and the styles of wines grown in each region. There are pictures and maps to give you a deeper understanding of each region.
Beaujolais wine is a specific type of wine made in the Beaujolais region of France from Gamay grapes. There are a variety of qualities of Beaujolais wine. The most basic Beaujolais Nouveau is the fastest Beaujolais wine to make, as it takes less than a year and is popular during the holidays.
The best Beaujolais wine is made in ten crus, with the best grapes. These wines can last up to ten years before they start to lose their flavor.