All Beaujolais are not the same. There are different tiers of quality of Beaujolais including Nouveau, Villages and Cru.
Beaujolais Nouveau: Harvested in September, released in November, this is juice that is barely fermented. Purple in color as young wines tend to be, this is as simple as it gets. What started as a local custom to announce the arrival of the wine (Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé ; The Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived) has over the last few years gone on to be an international event every November. Brightly labelled bottles flood stores in Fall. These are very light wines, quite fruity, and some have a characteristic bubble-gum flavor! A lot of wine drinkers look down upon the Beaujolais Nouveau as it is not a serious wine and does not improve with age. I have had some really tasty Nouveau wine, but seriously you can get better Beaujolais for the same price. Try a Beaujolais Nouveau to get an idea, but lets look at better examples of Gamay
AOC Beaujolais: This is the basic wine of this area. Easy drinking. Fun. Fruity. Youthful. Some of the best Beaujolais come from the southern part of Beaujolais where the stones are golden in color and are referred to as pierres dorées or golden stones! I have posted an image below of the town of Liérgues as an example of these golden stones. Remember the wine at the Parisian bistro? More likely it was Beaujolais that was served. Although meant to be drunk young, some better Beaujolais can last for a good 2 years or so.
Beaujolais Villages: Now we are really moving up the quality level here. Grown over 18 square miles, the Beaujolais Village wines come from 38 distinct villages. The styles differ tremendously. From the south end you get fruitier wines. The central area makes wines with structure and the northern area produces full bodied wines.
The cool climate in Beaujoalis allows for a fine balance between acid and fruit in the grape. These are ideal food wines. They are also great bargains.
In October, we hope to get some excellent Beaujolais Villages style wines from the northern zone! Stay tuned.
Beaujolais Cru: This is as Frank Sinatra would say, the king of the hill, top of the heap, a number one!
There are 10 areas that have earned the title of Cru.
They are..repeat after me…Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour.
Many of these are named after the towns around which the grapes are grown and some like Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly are simply regions. You have never experienced a true Beaujolais until you have tried a Beaujolais Cru.
If you have never had a Beaujolais before, you owe it to yourself to try a Cru Beaujolais.
If you are new to red wines, then my choice would be a Chiroubles or a Fleurie. The crazy thing about this, is that although all these wines are made from the same grape (Gamay noir), each of the 10 Crus have very distinct differences and make interesting partners for different foods or on their own. Spending a few days in Beaujolais made me acutely aware that we don’t drink enough of this wine. To make matters more interesting there are younger winemakers who are not afraid try new things and sometimes these experiments make for really impressive wines. I will over the next few weeks chat a bit about all the 10 Crus (how exciting !!!).
If you have any questions/comments in the meantime, drop me a line. Sierra Nevada Imports plan to carry all Beaujolais Cru. We currently have in stock- Chiroubles, Régnié, Saint-Amour, Juliénas and Morgon.
Soon we will have Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly and Chénas. We are working with producers to get Moulin-à-Vent and Fleurie in the very near future as well.