Beaujolais, a diversity of terroirs that produce a unique appellation
The vineyards where AOC Beaujolais is produced stretch right across the Rhône and Saône-et-Loire departments, from the Pierres Dorées in the south to the Saône River in the north. It covers the largest area of the 12 appellations in the Beaujolais region and is an appellation in its own right. It isn't, as people often think, a Burgundy wine.
What is the main grape variety grown here?
The iconic grape variety used for red wines in the Beaujolais appellation is the Gamay noir à jus blanc. A cross between the Pinot Noir and Gouais varieties, this flagship variety used for all the region’s appellations produces soft, fruity wines.
It is an extremely fertile, early-budding variety and is able to adapt to all soil types. Just as well, because the vast Beaujolais appellation growing area contains a wide diversity of soils! This variety, helped by the knowledge and skills of the growers, manages to give of its best on the clayey-limestone, sandstone and granite soils found in the vineyards of the Beaujolais appellation.
The Beaujolais appellation, just one colour?
The Beaujolais appellation exists in three colours: red of course, but also white and rosé.
On average, 92% of the Beaujolais appellation produced is red wines, which are the most well-known and include the world famous Beaujolais Nouveau, 8% is white and rosé wines, in equal proportions.
The red wines are easy drinking, fruity and lively wines with a lovely carmine red robe, an intense floral, fruity bouquet and a powerful aroma.
Beaujolais white wines, produced from the Chardonnay variety, tend to be less well-known. The small, rounded grape berries grow particularly well in relatively infertile marl and limestone soils. These Beaujolais whites with their wonderful golden colour end up with a bouquet full of white flowers as well as white-fleshed and citrus fruits. They are becoming increasingly popular among connoisseurs who are surprised by their character and fullness on the palate.
Beaujolais rosés are made from the Gamay à jus blanc variety like the reds but are processed in a different way. The grapes are pressed after a very short maturation period. This specific vinification process explains the colour. It's a pleasurable drinking wine with a stunning robe. The process gives rise to subtle red fruit and citrus aromas, producing a wine that is fresh, refreshing and pleasant to drink at any time of year. These somewhat rare wines stand out for their unparalleled freshness on the palate and their great finesse.
How long can Beaujolais be kept?
The answer to that is, it depends. You'll often hear it said that a Beaujolais has to be drunk very quickly. That's not entirely true. If you decide to buy a bottle or a friend gives you one, there's nothing to say that you have to drink it quickly. If it's kept away from heat and light, your Beaujolais will continue to gently improve.
Forget all the stereotypes and preconceived ideas! The Beaujolais appellation produces some excellent wines which are equally good as aperitif wines and to accompany a festive meal. With their fruity aromas and intense bouquet, they suit all palates from novices to the most sophisticated and can be paired with most food.