For years, the region of Beaujolais has gotten a bad rap thanks to the light and very chuggable Beaujolais Nouveau wines. Whether you like them or not, there is no denying that that isn’t all Beaujolais has to offer – whites, roses, and even cellar worthy reds.
Where Is Beaujolais?
Just south of the Macon region in Burgundy, and north of the foodie heaven city of Lyon is Beaujolais. Due to the climate and culture, Beaujolais (and in turn the nearest big city Lyon) has a very interesting twist to it. This is the crossing over point from Northern France to Southern France, and the area seems to have the best of both worlds.
Rich, creamy butter based dishes of the north mix with olive oil spiked and cured meats of the south. Bright and aromatic wines alongside richer and riper ones, with everything in between.
Just south of Beaujolais is where the Rhone Valley starts, up in the north where Syrah and Viognier dominate. While the Beaujolais area has different grapes (Gamay for reds, Chardonnay for whites) the soils of these two areas cross over and share many similarities.
What Styles of Beaujolais Are There?
Beaujolais Nouveau: This is the most well known stuff. At one time it was incredibly popular, and now (sadly) not so much. These wines are the years harvest, picked and fermented all within the span of a couple of weeks. Released on the third Thursday of November, Beaujolais Nouveau wines were made to celebrate the years harvest, and to quickly get rid of a ton of new stock. These are great wines, but light and acidic, and are best drank before Christmas.
Beaujolais (Villages): These wines are made in the style of Beaujolais Nouveau, but are just a touch fuller. Villages wines will be slightly higher in alcohol, but the style is the same: bright, crisp, fresh fruit and great when chilled for a bit before drinking.
Beaujolais Cru: These are the top of the pops here, and one of the best value wines in France. The previous two Beaujolais styles are made in a way (carbonic maceration) that bright out these fresh fruit flavours, and are very light. The ten Crus of Beaujolais are much more similar to Burgundy Pinot Noir, with longer skin contact and barrel ageing – in short, you get a wine that tastes very close to Pinot Noir from France for a fraction of the price. The following is a list of the ten “Crus” of Beaujolais:
- Moulin a Vent
- Cote de Brouilly
There are some slight differences between these areas, but remember that these wines are the fuller and richer wines of Beaujolais.
As for whites and rose, they are made from Chardonnay and Gamay. Since the whites are rarely ever seen, don’t worry too much about it – it will be similar to Macon region Chardonnays of Burgundy.
As for the rose, very little is made as well, but you can expect something similar to dry Loire Valley roses.
What Does Beaujolais Taste Like?
For Beaujolais Nouveau and Beaujolais, you can look for notes like:
- Cotton Candy
For any of the ten Crus of Beaujolais:
- Cherry Candy
The value and quality of these wines can’t be overstated – if you haven’t tried one yet, pick up a few bottles and see for yourself!
Beaujolais Food Pairing
The great thing about Beaujolais wines and the Gamay grape is how food friendly it is – bright fresh fruit, high acidity, low tannins and a lighter body all point to a versatile wine at the dinner table. Try out a few of these handy food pairings for Beaujolais wines.
Seared Chicken Breast
Fitting in nicely where a white wine leaves off, Beaujolais is great with simple dishes like seared chicken breast. The high acidity and low tannins are great for lean white meats like this, and only serve to bring out the already fresh fruit flavours.
Casual enough for a snack, the peppery elements of a good Beaujolais play off the fattiness and spice of cured meats. Especially good with the nearby Lyon meats, Beaujolais shines with its high acid and easy drinking qualities.
With Thanksgiving coming up for any fellow Canadians, Beaujolais is something to keep in mind when stocking up for the holiday. Equally good with a Cru Beaujolais or even lighter Villages, it has the savoury elements to stand up to stuffing and even the tart cranberry sauce, without overpowering a light and lean bird like turkey.
This classic salad, garnished with some savoury bacon is a great match to Beaujolais. Light enough to have a glass chilled by your side, the pepper and smoky elements come up when matched with a little bit of bacon. Throw in some bitter greens and an egg, and you’ve got a great bistro meal.
Even a richer snack like pate is great with Beaujolais. Spread over toasted slices of baguette, the high acid of Beaujolais cuts right through that fat which brings out the freshness of the wine’s fruit even more. No need for Sauternes here, grab a bottle of Nouveau and don’t look back.
Hopefully that should get you started on some simple and delicious food pairings for the classic (yet sometimes overlooked) wine region of Beaujolais. Even if your Thanksgiving is in late November, make sure you remember to pick up a bottle or two of this great wine and see it work its magic at the turkey table this year.