Basically, Beaujolais is a place in France, south of Burgundy. The predominant grape grown in the limestone dense soils is often characterised by its bright jewel tones, light palette, and youthful drinking brackets. While DNA results have indicated that Gamay is a member of the vast Burgundian grape family, it was eschewed in its indegionous Burgundy in favour of the more elite (and thus more expensive) pinot noir. And, if we’re going to be specific (we are) “true gamay” is technically called Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc, as many Gamay clones are teinturier grapes – which are grapes that have red instead of the more common translucent flesh – but that’s a deep dive for another day.
Image: Domaine Saint-Cyr – Larkin Imports
Because the French love rules (and subsequently breaking them) Beaujolais Nouveau wines are released at 00.01 on the third Thursday in November. This is celebrated across France with fireworks, music and general festivities (drinking).
Similar to other French wine regions, Beaujolais is broken up into ‘crus’ or regions. Here, we have ten, all located in the north of the region. In no particular order they are – Chiroubles, St-Amour, Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent. Each region produces a unique style of gamay, dependent on soil, weather, altitude and aspect, and the winemaker’s personal flair.
So why is it so popular ? Gamay yields more generously than grapes like pinot. In fact, in some vintages, Beaujolais produces more wine than Burgundy (which is significantly larger in size). It grows easily, buds and ripens early and is a relatively hardy grape in cooler climates. However, when it’s over produced, or not made well, the wines can be too thin, wishy washy and overly acidic. When they’re good, however, they’re stunning. Take the wines of Foillard, for example. In the upper echelon of price, they are not your average Gamay Nouveau. In fact, this style of Gamay will happily cellar for up to five years.
Maybe your dad also thinks Gamay is ‘just young grape juice’. In reality, it’s a versatile, crowd pleasing wine that pairs well with most things. Get into the spirit of things and drink it lightly chilled, in good company, and with gusto.
Shop all Gamay here!
Image: Domaine Charnay from Brix Fine Wines