Wine Region: Beaujolais
The region lying south of Macon along the west bank of the River Saone just to the north of Villefranche, in France, which produces red wine specially celebrated for its quaffability. ‘Empty the casks!’ is the motto of the Beaujolais wine fraternity. Most of the wine is red and is from the Gamay grape, although nowadays a little white is made. It has a beautiful bright red colour, with a fresh bouquet and fruity flavour. It is seldom a wine to benefit by age, ilthough there are occasional exceptional years when it can be kept if from an outstanding region or vineyard; 10 years is certainly a long life for a Beaujolais, and most of it should be drunk young. But by ‘young’ several different things can be meant: 2 or 3 years is acceptable for good Beaujolais, certainly for an ordinary district wine, as compared to a ‘growth’ or commune Beaujolais or one from a single estate.
The fact that the season’s new wine can be delicious drunk straight from the cask has resulted in a vogue for this very thing and, to cater for the restaurant taste in first Lyons, then Paris (where the arrival of the new wine would be announced by posters), and nowadays Britain, some of the wine is made specifically to be drunk very young indeed – the vinification is special. Beaujolais, Beaujolais Superieur and Beaujolais-Villages may be sold as Nouveau, usually from 15 November. The wines of the specific growths or crus may not be sold until 15 December. In recent years much publicity has been given to the ‘race’ of shippers to get their wine to the various outlets in time, but in fact this activity is quite unnecessary – the wine can be moved in the normal way, it is only that it cannot be sold prior to the agreed date (which is sometimes altered). My own view is that, on its home ground, very young Beaujolais can be delicious, but by Christmas it may be tired and without charm – and even fizzing or bitter in the New Year! In many years when really good Beaujolais can be made, shippers may prefer to keep their wines for this ‘real thing’. In indifferent years, the Nouveau wines appear in abundance and are at least drinkable for a few months.
Made in the normal way, an ordinary young Beaujolais is delicious when a year old and it and a Beaujolais del’annie, a wine offered for drinking within a year of its vintage, may be served chilled; this imitates the temperature at which it would be if brought straight from the cellar and polishes up the freshness of the wine.
Categories of beaujolais:
In ascending order of quality they are: Beaujolais, Beaujolais Sup6rieur, Beaujolais-Villages (the wines from.30 communes, which may join their names with that of Beaujolais), and the ‘growths’ or ‘eras’: St Amour, Julianas, Chenas (final’s’ pronounced in both these names), Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Brouilly, and Cote de Brouilly. Each of these has characteristics of its own, but it is worth remembering that the wines of Morgon are usually the toughest and can last longer than most Beaujolais; those of Julienas are very fruity; those of Fleurie both flowery and fruity; those of Moulin-a-Vent are full but possess a certain elegance; those of Brouilly and Cote de Brouilly have a full but slightly ‘steely’ style; those of Chiroubles have great fruit and lightness.
Beaujolais is always worth a separate categorisation on the wine list. It is very much an enjoyable everyday wine and can be a fine wine, but the real thing cannot be cheap – certainly not nowadays. True Beaujolais has the fruity smell of the Gamay and the refreshing flavour of this grape and no stickiness, heaviness or coarse fat flavour belongs in this excellent wine.
A small quantity of white wine is made in the Beaujolais, from the Chardonnay grape. It enjoys much popularity, doubtless because of its scarcity, but I admit to finding it a dull drink, never more than adequate in quality.