Beaujolais is an actual AOC appellation of France but has always been widely associated with Burgundy. It is the southernmost part of Burgundy and just north of the Rhone appellation. Although it does share characteristics of both Burgundy and the Rhone; Beaujolais is very much its own. One thing that sets Beaujolais apart is the use of the red grape “Gamay.” This is the most widely planted varietal in Beaujolais, 98% of the plantings to be exact. Beaujolais Nouveau has basically become what Beaujolais is known for in the U.S. This is a wine that occupies 1/3 of all the winemaking done in Beaujolais every year. It is simply harvested, pressed, fermented (10 days max!) bottled and released on the 3rd Thursday of November. It is said to be an indicator of the vintage and is just for the purpose of consuming as fresh as possible. It is a simple fruity wine that really has a drastically different flavor profile than Cru Beaujolais. The region of Beaujolais is split into 3 different levels of wine; listed lowest to highest) Beaujolais AOC, Beaujolais Village and Cru Beaujolais. There are 10 distinct sub-appellations of Cru Beaujolais: Brouilly, Regnie, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Saint-Amour, Chenas, Julienas, Morgon and Moulin a Vent. Most of the Cru Beaujolais sites sit in the Northern Half of Beaujolais is hilly and the soils are comprised of Granite, Schist and some limestone. The southern half is flatter and has sandstone and clay soil compositions. Both impart drastically different flavor profiles to the individual wines. The weather is closer to the Mediterranean although it is still considered a continental climate. It has very similar weather to Burgundy. The wines are generally known to have a fruity character, without much tannin. This is in part to carbonic maceration which is a method of fermentation. Grapes are put whole cluster it to a carbon dioxide rich environment (Ridding the tank of o2 as much as possible) and natural yeasts on the skins start fermentation while the grape is still whole. Some grapes at the bottom of the tank are crushed but the majority is fermented while the juice is still inside the grape.
Beaujolais; Cru to Nouveau, is a largely forgotten region that produces some really unique and cool wines. Served lightly chilled, they offer a great red option for the warmer months and just a lighter/less tannic red in general.