Over the past couple of years I've enjoyed teaching myself about the wines of Beaujolais. Apart from the delightful wines themselves, there are a couple of other reasons for this.
To fully understand and be educated in the world of wine is a massive undertaking but geography, politics, history and climate have given aspiring wine buffs a neat way of dividing it up into digestible chunks (or wine regions). Here in the UK our wine output is minuscule compared to that of our European neighbours and the New World. This has meant that, in contrast to more prodigious wine producers, the UK has a very wide range of wine on our shops' shelves. In recent years this has meant that lovers of Beaujolais have been well catered for especially by specialist wine sellers like Beaujolais and Beyond.
Some of the French regions are large, complicated and divided further into many mini regions, communes, appellations, villages and crus. They can have a myriad of grape varieties in their wines and most won’t say which on the bottle. All these details can be learnt but it isn't straightforward.
In contrast, the wines of Beaujolais are easy to explore and I love this fact. It is a small region divided quite neatly into easily understood areas and pretty much the only grape grown here is the intriguing Gamay. Gamay can make thin and acidic wine outside (and sometimes inside) of Beaujolais but it’s in the crus where the quality and variety of wines made with this grape show. Crus are designated areas where the best grapes in the region are grown. The ten crus in Beaujolais are situated towards the North of the area and they each have distinctive characters. From lightest to beefiest they are Chiroubles, St Amour, Régnié, Fleurie, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. The lighter examples are full of summer berries and flowers but the deeper end of this spectrum gives wines which are deep, rich and velvety.
There really are Beaujolais wines for all seasons, the best of which will age well and develop serious complexity. My favourites are the wines of Morgon, Chénas and Moulin-a-vent mostly because they show more of the deep character that I like in the colder months.
This brings me on to another reason that I love exploring this region - the price is so reasonable. The wines range from the cheapest Beaujolais AOC at £5, through Beaujolais Villages at £10, up to the Crus which usually come in at less than £15. You can taste examples from the whole region in one mixed case of wine easily for less than £150.
This is exactly what this mixed case from Beaujolais and Beyond gives you. We first ran into this family business of importers, we now know as B&B, at a Three Wine Men event at Lords cricket ground. That day we walked away with a 2009 Chénas Cuvée Prestige from Domaine Des Brureaux and it wasn't long before we placed an order for the aforementioned mixed case. We've slowly worked our way through the region's offerings and are sadly reaching the end.
The other reason I enjoy Beaujolais so much is because of my Dad. He loves Beaujolais wines and started me off on this road with a bottle of Fleurie and so every time I open a bottle I think of him.
It took us until now to open that 2009 Chénas and it was superb. It has a beautiful aroma of fruit and spice and the flavour is rich and deeper than we expected, with a lot of cherry and a surprising amount of blackcurrant. It’s aged in old oak and this seems to give it hints of toast and vanilla but it’s the power and fruit that rule in this wine. A wonderful wine that we could have kept for longer but as with all of the Beaujolais we have drunk every bottle furthers our understanding of this most pleasurable of wine regions.
I think it's time to replenish our Beaujolais stocks!