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Beaujolais - The area and its Grands Crus

Wine Making Areas

Beaujolais is one of those recognisable wines. You can find it on plenty of restaurant lists, it's easy to drink, it has a fruity smell. In many ways it was the European prototype of later New World trends, when fresher, livelier wines began to made from classic varietals all around the world. It's a wine that's light in colour, but still often fairly alcoholic. It's not a wine that designed to age in the bottle, it's a wine that made to be drunk young and without a great deal of ceremony. You could call it the perfect party wine.

Beaujolais is one of those recognisable wines. You can find it on plenty of restaurant lists, it's easy to drink, it has a fruity smell. In many ways it was the European prototype of later New World trends, when fresher, livelier wines began to made from classic varietals all around the world. It's a wine that's light in colour, but still often fairly alcoholic. It's not a wine that designed to age in the bottle, it's a wine that made to be drunk young and without a great deal of ceremony. You could call it the perfect party wine.

The Beaujolais area is a large one, running for some 65 kilometers along the hills to the south of Macon. Most of these hills are granite, and the granitic soil is where the Gamay grape thrives. Beaujolais is made exclusively from this grape, which oddly enough is banned from the rest of the Cote d'Or, where the great red Burgundies are produced. Gamay vines, unlike other vines, aren't trained after reach ten years of age, but are allowed grow self-supportingly until they die at seventy or eighty years of age.

Although it's a wine that is intended to be drunk young, some of the Grand Crus can age and improve in the bottle rather like a red Burgundy, but this is a lesser known phenomenon to that of the 'New Beaujolais'. The freshness of the wine when it is young has always been one of its main selling points and that became the focus of a campaign to market it aggressively, the wine becoming younger and younger and fruitier until fruitier until the market tired of Beajolais Nouveau. You may remember the race to be the first to have the new year's vintage throughout the seventies and eighties. Each year the hype became more exaggerated, culminating in the absurd spectacle of wines being parachute dropped into the Thames for the awaiting throng. Pleasing as a new Beaujolais is, it really wasn't worth that kind of exposure.

The fact is that within this very large growing area there are plenty of different styles to explore, from the simple name 'Beaujolais' , to the marginally more alcoholic 'Superieur', to the better 'Beaujolais Villages', to the best of them - the ten Grands Crus, named after the villages of their origin. Of the thirty-five villages whose boundaries fall within the appellation, the best known in Ireland is probably Fleurie: while you can often come across Morgon, Moulin a Vent and Brouilly. In the Beaujolais much is made of the differences between these grands crus; the longevity of Moulin a Vent, the suppleness of Fleurie, the substance of Julienas and the grapiness of Brouilly; but the wines have more in common with one other than they have differences.

Suggested wine

Morgon, Chateau de Fuisse, 2001 'Les Charmes'.

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