Beaujolais has been largely misunderstood for many years, and that’s not without good reason. After all, it is hard to escape all the Beaujolais flimsy and whimsy that makes its way onto the shelves of countless American grocery stores, liquor marts and wine shops. Most of it is either Beaujolais Nouveau, or mass-produced Beaujolais that might as well be thought of as Beaujolais Nouveau that is made year round. Basically, the single driving force behind much of the Beaujolais that reaches the majority of American lips is M-O-N-E-Y. The goal, of course, being that behind the wine we drink is L-O-V-E.
So the goal of this blog post, dear readers, is to equip you with all the tools you need to go out and find yourself a delicious Beaujolais—one that not only reflects the best soils and traditions of the region, but one that is made with love. Here are your guidelines:
1. Say no to Nouveau
Beaujolais Nouveau is a marketing scheme pioneered by Geoges Duboeuf. It is a way to clear lots of ordinary wine at a good profit within weeks of harvest.
2. Say yes to Cru.
In the Northern section of Beaujolais, south of Mâcon, lie the 10 designated Crus of Beaujolais: St-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-`a-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Régnié, Morgon, Cote de Brouilly and Brouilly. These vineyards reflect specific terroir qualities and character; ranging from fragrant wines meant to be drunk young to brooding wines that are extremely age-worthy.
3. Beaujolais-Villages is your friend.
It is almost always worth paying a little more for a Beaujolais-Villages wine to get more refinement and concentration. Note: only individual growers who bottle tend to use the names of the Beaujolais-Village communes. Hence, if you see a label indicating a commune, then it is probably a good wine to gamble on.
4. Stay out of the grocery store.
The chances of being able to find nice drinking Beaujolais at Safeway or Alberstson’s are slim. Most of the big, corporate chains are going to have stacks of mass-produced, cheap brands that are not focused on quality. When shopping for Beaujolais, I suggest sticking to wine shops and specialty groceries.
Sticking to these guidelines won’t necessarily guarantee you an immediate, fantastic Beaujolais experience, but it should help you move in that direction. Good luck.