The Beaujolais is a French AOC wine generally made of the Gamay grape which has a thin skin and few tannins. Like most AOC wines they are not labelled varietally. Whites from the region, which make up only 1% of its production, are made with Chardonnay grapes. Beaujolais tends to be a very light-bodied red wine, with relatively high amounts of acidity.
The Beaujolais Region is located south of Burgundy and its climate is warmer. Because of the difference in region, the Pinot Noir grape normally grown in Burgundy would not do well here.
Beaujolais wines are often produced by the carbonic maceration process. The whole grape cluster is put in a tank while carbon dioxide from the fermentation breaks down the skin of the grape. This results in a fruity wine without much tannin.
Generally speaking, a Beaujolais should be consumed within the first three years of its life in order to ensure quality; only the wine produced by the best vintners improve with age for up to ten years.
There are four classifications of Beaujolais Wines:
- Beaujolais Nouveau wines are the first wines from the new vintage, released on the 3rd Thursday of November after harvest. They have become so immensely popular that people commonly assume that all wines from the region are produced in this style.
- Beaujolais superior wines are slightly more ripe and contain more alcohol than the nouveau wines.
- Beaujolais villages are wines that are made from a mixture of different villages. Beaujolais Villages makes up 25% of the region's production.
- Cru Beaujolais come from better vineyard sites in and around the ten "crus" in the north part of the region. Wine from these individual crus, which make up for the rest of the percentage, can be more full-bodied, darker in color, and significantly longer-lived. These wines do not usually show the word "Beaujolais" on the label, leaving one with little recourse but to memorize the list. The ten crus are the following: Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Saint-Amour, Chiroubles, Chénas, Fleurie, Juliénas, and most recently, Régnié.
The largest production comes from the négoçiant Georges Duboeuf, who makes the well-known "flower labels".