Despite many associating the region exclusively with its annually-celebrated “Beaujolais-Nouveau” wine, the appellation actually produces a variety of styles.
Beaujolais AOC is technically part of Burgundy, but its weather patterns, soils and principal grape variety are all very different.
The area has a moderate, semi-continental climate with cold winters and warm summers allowing its predominant black grape, Gamay, to flourish. Similar to Pinot Noir, Gamay is thin skinned and produces red wines with high acidity and red fruit characters, however, depending on where it is grown and how it is handled in the winery will impact greatly on the resulting style.
Wines from the larger region of Beaujolais are produced from grapes grown on flatter ground, creating soft, fruit-driven wines that are low in tannin, designed to be enjoyed in their youthful state. The more reputable vineyard sites, such as Beaujolais-Villages, occupy hillier areas that allow for better sun exposure and retention of acidity. These wines have more texture and weight, with concentrated fruit flavours and earthy complexity.
The very best parcels in Beaujolais are known as Crus, and are a total of 10 communes that exist at the highest, south-facing elevations, around 350m above sea level. Grapes harvested from these areas are more terroir-driven, with structured tannins and spicy flavours reflecting the powerful granitic and schist soils of the region. Cru such as Morgon are richer and bolder whilst Moulin-à-Vent and Fleurie tend to be lighter and floral in style. If you’re a fan of wines from Burgundy and the Northern Rhone, Beaujolais could be just the wine for you.