Beaujolais is part of Burgundy. In this region, rich in attractive landscapes, the Gamay grape is the trump card: it produces particularly fruity, quaffable and refreshing red wines – and occasional whites.
The region owes its name to the Lords of Beaujeu, its rulers from 950 to 1400, who controlled the trade routes over the Beaujolais mountains. They founded the town of Villefranche, still the capital of Beaujolais today. Winegrowing was introduced by the ancient Romans, but it did not become particularly important until the Briare Canal, which connected the Loire and Seine rivers, was completed in 1642. From then on barrels could be easily shipped to Paris, the capital. One by one the good hillside vineyards were planted, which still produce the best wines today.
Starting 30 kilometres north of Lyon, the growing region is bordered by the Saône valley to the east, the Beaujolais mountains to the west and the Mâcon wine region to the north. Vines grow at an average altitude of 300 metres.
Beaujolais is more or less exactly on the border between north and south, even though it is commonly classed as one of France's northern growing regions. It benefits from a temperate continental climate in the windbreak of the Beaujolais mountains.
Beaujolais red is a basic, refreshing, fruity red wine, sometimes marketed as Beaujolais nouveau, a cheerful young wine bottled shortly after harvest for quick consumption. 38 communes are allowed to declare their harvest as Beaujolais Villages. These are somewhat stronger wines with a more complex bouquet and a shelf life of two to three years. The ten crus – Brouilly, Côtes-de-Brouilly, Juliénas, Régnié, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Chénas – produce the most characterful wines. They develop the expression of their respective sites, and they can be laid down for longer than other Beaujolais wines. White Beaujolais is a rare speciality.
Gamay is used almost exclusively in Beaujolais, which is home to more than two thirds of the world's Gamay vineyard area. The white wines are pressed from Chardonnay. Other varieties are only grown in very small quantities.
Vineyard area and production volume
AOC/AOP Beaujolais: 22,500 hectaresof which Beaujolais Villages: 6,000 hectaresten crus combined: 6,400 hectares, 300,000-350,000 hectolitres per year.