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Celebrate Beaujolais with these four top picks

Stephen Barrett Stephen Barrett
3 minute read

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Like vineyards throughout the northern hemisphere autumn brings the harvest of grapes to Beaujolais. Winemakers begin the elaboration of wines, and the grape vines start to "close down" until awaking from their slumber the following springtime.

Beaujolais Harvest

Many areas follow a tried and tested method suited to the time of harvesting and the tradition attached.

Beaujolais, just north of Lyons, is famed for its juicy, fruit-forward style and it has been a perennial favourite with wine sippers the world over. Celebrate this historical region with my top four picks.

A Little History

Delving deep into its history I find that the first young Beaujolais - made to celebrate the finished vintage - was sipped by the vignerons who then sold barrels to the bistros and cafes in Lyons and Paris. Known as Vin-de-Primeur it was eagerly awaited and served cool from litre pitchers with hearty local cuisine.

Fast forward to the late 20 th Century. In 1970, after imbibing plentiful amounts of wine over dinner, writers Clement Freud and Joseph Berkmann challenged one another to get Beaujolais Nouveau from France to London in the fastest time. The idea was grasped by Allan Hall, wine writer on The Sunday Times, a couple of years later when he threw down the gauntlet to 'bring back the Beaujolais'. 

This race quickly increased in populairty and created a massive hullabaloo over the next twenty or so years, with personal wacky-races to get the stuff back as quickly as possible after the release date.

Albeit this practice has wained a tad the expectation certainly hasn’t with breakfasts, lunches and dinners still being organised with charities enjoying the benefits.

Different Styles

But the region is about more than just nouveau. There are the 10 crus villages, plus the Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages appelations, which produce red, white and rosé wines. There are a host of styles, textures and tastes offered from the north to the south of the region. 

I have recently tasted a raft of these wines that, along with the soon to be released nouveau, are readily available and drinking perfectly for your first party of the autumn.

Clos du Vieux Bourg, Beaujolais Blanc 2020

Clos du Vieux Bourg, Beaujolais Blanc 2020

£18.50

For many years Beaujolais Blanc was hoarded by its winemakers, a secret not to be shared with the world. How glad we are to be...… read more

Racy Chardonnay that needs to be recognised as a quality terroir-driven white wine of note. Subtle, elegant restrained fruit with a distinct mineral/texture fuelled body. A superb under the radar style that is growing in popularity.

Domaine de Mont Joly "85.45" Beaujolais Villages 2019

Domaine de Mont Joly "85.45" Beaujolais Villages 2019

£29.99

This wine is made in very small quantities, using the best grapes, from the oldest vines (between 75 and 100 years old). 85.45 is a...… read more

Spectacular and dominant. Deep-coloured village wine from Blacé, showing a heady-scented body of ripe dark fruit. Slightly earthy with an oak integration allowing more aging to take place. Cellar this wine for five years to see how this evolves and improves.

Clos du Vieux Bourg "Au Bois Retour" Chénas 2020, Beaujolais

Clos du Vieux Bourg "Au Bois Retour" Chénas 2020, Beaujolais

£18.50

Chénas was the favourite wine of Louis XIII, king of France. It is the rarest of the ten Beaujolais Crus with just 240 hectares under...… read more

Chénas is the smallest surface area Cru at just 250 ha. The region produces wines of red/black-fruited elegance. Gloriously gluggable this is charming offering versatile sipping this autumn.

Domaine Bel Avenir Juliénas "Les Capitans" 2020, Beaujolais

Domaine Bel Avenir Juliénas "Les Capitans" 2020, Beaujolais

£17.50

The appellation of Juliénas was born on 11 March 1938, but it's history stretches back much further. It is named for Julius Ceasar who mentioned...… read more

At a bargain price this mineral scented Gamay from the terroir of Julienas hits the spot with a fruit 'n' spice balance. A more classic style it’s a wow with Charcuterie.

First published in the Western Morning News on 27 August 2022

Stephen Barrett is a wine writer and educator, learn more at stephenbarrett.com

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