A history that goes back to 957
If you’ve already had the opportunity to visit the Beaujolais-Villages appellation area, you’ve no doubt noticed the magnificent château above the vineyards. This wonderful estate in the Pierres Dorées area is hard to miss. People call it Sleeping Beauty’s castle but its real name is Château de Montmelas. It was restored in neo-Gothic style in the 19th century but its history goes way back to 957.
Back then, it was the residence of the Lords of Beaujeu who gave their name to the Beaujolais region, as you may well have guessed! It was also at this time that the monks at Cluny contributed to the development of the vineyards over numerous slopes that would later form part of the appellation.
The first “Village” appellation in history
Of course, the Château de Montmelas estate isn’t the only place where the Beaujolais-Villages appellation is produced. Smaller than the Beaujolais appellation area, the Beaujolais-Villages vineyards encircle the area where the 10 crus are produced.
Although these days quite a few wines use the name “village”, Beaujolais was the first to officially use it to refer to a specific AOC wine.
Beaujolais-Villages wines are mostly reds but there are a few whites and rosés. These are very rare and often collected by connoisseurs looking for an aromatic wine with a certain complexity and structure.
The Beaujolais-Villages appellation also has a “Nouveau” version that is launched on the 3rd Thursday in November.
A heroic wine
The Beaujolais-Villages appellation is created on the best hillsides in the Beaujolais wine-growing area at between 190 and 550 meters above sea level.
When people talk about the Beaujolais-Villages vineyards, you’ll often hear them described as “heroic”. This is because the vines are planted on especially steep slopes! And while the vines deserve such an epithet, so too do the growers. Imagine the stamina and energy required to tend the vines on these slopes on a daily basis.
The next time you raise a glass of Beaujolais-Villages, spare a thought for the men and women who put their heart and soul into cultivating the vines day in day out. It’s mostly due to the steepness of the slopes that harvesting the grapes is done manually. This adds to the grower’s workload but also improves the quality of the wine. The harvest is the perfect opportunity to pick only the best grapes to ensure that each vintage has an intense but soft bouquet. When you taste it, try to identify the different, intermingled red fruit aromas that make these wines so expressive.
Wines from the Beaujolais-Villages appellation can be drunk all year round. In summer, serve a bottle with quiche provençale, in autumn with stuffed mushrooms, in winter with gratin dauphinois and in the spring with vegetable risotto.