What to drink…
Master of Wine Richard Hemming examines the wines of Beaujolais
After years in the doldrums, Beaujolais is resurgent – and producing some of the best-value red wines in France. For years, the fashion for big, hefty reds meant that the natural qualities of Beaujolais – the quintessential light red – went unappreciated. Then came the 2009 vintage, which was one of the best in decades. People started to take notice, and Beaujolais has been bouncing back ever since.
It is made from a single grape variety, Gamay, which is rarely found outside the region. Most Beaujolais is bright purple in colour, light in body and low in tannin, with a crunchy, refreshing, acidic twang. Anything labelled Beaujolais-Villages or Beaujolais Nouveau is likely to be made in this style. The ‘Nouveau’ label is traditionally the first release of the new vintage in France, but it has fallen out of favour with UK drinkers over the last 10 years.
That is only part of the story, however. Within the Beaujolais region there are 10 villages that qualify to use their name on the label, the most famous of which is probably Fleurie. These days, the wine trade is getting very excited about the potential of these wines, which manage to combine a lightness of touch with compelling complexity of flavour at a fraction of the price of Burgundy or Bordeaux.
For most wine drinkers, Beaujolais is still off the radar. Rediscovering the wines of this region is an exercise in pure pleasure – so here are three to get you started.
“Beaujolais is made from a single grape variety, Gamay, which is rarely found outside the region”