The rise of Beaujolais

(Image: Toni Paterson MW) (Photo: )

It is exciting to see Australian wine drinkers embracing the red wines of Beaujolais.

A natural progression I guess. We have been educating our palates on the delights of lighter-bodied reds for a few years now.

But with our red wine foundations solidly built on cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, Australians were a little slow to embrace lighter styles of red. Pinot noir’s dramatic rise in popularity changed all of that, illustrating that intense flavours were not the exclusive preserve of full-bodied wines.

The French region of Beaujolais is nestled between Mâcon in Burgundy and Lyon in the Rhône and is most well-known for its vibrant, perfumed red wines produced from gamay noir à jus blanc, or gamay for short.

But why the recent in interest in the region? It is now common to see Beaujolais featured prominently in retailers, as well as being served by the glass, and bottle, in restaurants.

Australian wine drinkers are certainly getting more sophisticated, particularly when it comes to international wines. Imports into Australia have been on the increase over recent years, and it was only a matter of time before importers, sommeliers and wine lovers discovered Beaujolais’ alluring cherry, strawberry, dark berry and floral tones.

The accessible price certainly makes it an attractive proposition, especially considering the complexity of the local terroir. Where Burgundy is now largely out of reach for all but the wealthiest of wine lovers, Beaujolais offers a similar sense of discovery, at more affordable prices.

Within the large region of Beaujolais are twelve AOCs. Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or AOC, is, of course, the French system for protecting quality. However, you will now also see the use of the equivalent European Union term of AOP, standing for Appellation d’origine protégée.

AOC Beaujolais can be made from any of the 91 communes of the region. AOC Beaujolais-Villages, a notch up in quality, is sourced from within a smaller set of 38 communes, mostly from the undulating central and northern parts. Red, white and nouveau styles can be produced from these two AOCs.

And then there are the ten AOC crus of Beaujolais: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte De Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-À-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour, which produce distinctively different wines based on the different soil types and topography.

In a recent Beaujolais tasting, I was impressed with the quality and diversity of style of wines being imported, from light, pretty styles to more structured and complex wines. What was revealing was that many of the wines only showed their true colours after decanting, and some took many hours to do so.

With many of the wines, only tiny volumes are imported. So, if you find a label that you like, snap it up as it won’t be in the market for long.

Wines that were impressive from a quality and value viewpoint included the ’14 Georges Duboeuf Moulin-à-Vent, ‘15 Chateau Cambon Beaujolais and ‘15 Pierre-Marie Chermette Les Griottes Beaujolais. In must be mentioned that the Georges Duboeuf range was impressive across the board, with the wines showing aromatic clarity and harmony. They are a great starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about Beaujolais.

Tasting notes are also available on the website, for the following recommended wines, diverse in price, quality and style: ’15 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages, ’14 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie, ’15 Georges Duboeuf Chiroubles, ’11 Clos de Mez Fleurie La Dot, ’15 Jean-Marc Burgaud Les Vignes de Thulon Beaujolais-Villages, ’14 Pierre Naigeon Beaujolais, ’11 Domaine de Champ de Cour Moulin-à-Vent and ’15 Domaine des Tours De Montmelas Beaujolais-Villages.

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