I guess that I am still in a Thanksgiving mind-set and I did not try any Beaujolais Nouveau wines this year. I will talk about some of the wines from this district. It is probably one of the most recognized names for wines from France and in general may very well out-sell all other wines by district here in the states. The wines are made from the Gamay grape, which while not a popular varietal in other districts, has blossomed and flourished in the Beaujolais area. The name is from an ancient village of Beaujeu, which has not endured as a center of commerce, but has still lent its name to the area; actually the center of the wine trade for Beaujolais is in the village of Villefranche which is more or less the geographic center for this district.
There are designations for Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais Superieur, Beaujolais-Villages and the nine individual Grand Crus. I discussed Beaujolais Nouveau earlier. The only difference between Beaujolais and Beaujolais Superieur is that the Superieur has a higher alcohol rating, and if the label states that designation they are taxed at a higher rate. In reality all of the Beaujolais that is seen here is of that quality without stating it, as the higher alcohol makes the wine travel better.
The basic Beaujolais is the majority of the wine produced, as there are many areas that do not have a better designation and they are sold to blenders to maintain a certain taste year after year. There are about twenty major cooperative cellars and this is the bulk of production. Since most of the producers are not a “name” chateau or domaine, the generic labels is the norm, instead of an individual estate. The vatting of the wines is normally limited to three days, so that a minimum of tannin is imparted to the wine, because the wine is expected to be drunk soon and not for extensive cellaring.
There are about thirty-five villages that are known for better crops and these are the wines that are blended for the Beaujolais-Villages designation. This group accounts for about twenty-five percent of the production of all of Beaujolais. Consider all of these wines as a tacit Beaujolais Superieur designation. These villages are not normally listed individually on the label, where as the Grand Crus of Beaujolais are and that will be another discussion.