Rediscovering Beaujolais

H ere's a question… when is the last time you reached for a bottle of Beaujolais when you were perusing red wines? For me, it’s been a while – although I have to admit I have a soft spot for this fragrant fruit-loaded red. The problem is, I tend to associate it with summer, and as such, at the moment I find myself drawn to sultry Grenache-based reds, rather than my guilty pleasure. Nevertheless, I was pleased to see Andrew Jefford giving some well-deserved attention to Beaujolais in his Jefford on Monday column for Decanter. A rather excellent 2015 vintage has re-ignited interest, and the timing couldn’t have been better for this troubled region.

So often dismissed as ‘Burgundy’s poorer cousin’, and lumped alongside the region’s famous novelty wine Beaujolais Nouveau, Cru-level Beaujolais deserves more attention than it inevitably gets. Its 10 Crus yield wines that are subtly different from one another, and more complex than one might suspect if they have not encountered them before. Many of us will have seen the names of the more prolific Crus on wine lists – Julienas, Morgon, Fleurie for example. All Beaujolais red is made with the humble Gamay grape, with a small output of white wine made from Chardonnay, which is usually a pleasant surprise and a good value alternative to white Burgundy.

I have always enjoyed championing the cause of quality wines that deserve to have a better reputation, and it’s great to learn that a superb vintage is likely to ensure that Beaujolais will have the chance to thrive as a region, in spite of recent challenges, like the uprooting of 6,000 ha of vines in the last 15 years. The problem for Beaujolais has been its lack of recognition as a fine wine producing region – but in fact its best wines are very fine indeed; good value compared to their Burgundian neighbours, and capable of developing in bottle. It’s the usual story, the more you spend, the better the wines will be, but you might be pleasantly surprised at how little you need to spend to secure an exceptional bottle of wine. Sure, these are not investment grade wines – but when it comes to selecting something for drinking when I just want to be impressed, they are pretty phenomenal.

So thanks for the reminder, Mr Jefford! You can read his original column, with recommendations from the 2015 vintage, here.