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Beaujolais - The Old and the Nouveau

Wine Making Areas

The news that M. Deboeuf has just poured many thousands of litres of Beaujolais down the drain tells us a thing or two about market forces. I can still remember the first time my father drove me through the Beaujolais region I kept asking him 'so does all the Beaujolais in the world come from here?

The news that M. Deboeuf has just poured many thousands of litres of Beaujolais down the drain tells us a thing or two about market forces. I can still remember the first time my father drove me through the Beaujolais region I kept asking him 'so does all the Beaujolais in the world come from here?' It seemed so small a region for such an enormous production. Mind you, back in the sixties, it was probably true to say that not all the Beaujolais in the world came from this region. Firstly wine-makers in the New World were inclined to appropriate the name for their wines and secondly unscrupulous negociants in the Beaujolais imported must and wine from Algeria to turn into Beaujolais in their wineries. Still, this area just to the south of the Maconnais produces between 15 and 20 million gallons annually, most of it destined to be drunk within the year.

Beaujolais is a wine with a clearly defined character; it's light bodied, fruity, alcoholic and very easy to drink. The Gamay grape from which it is made, is almost outlawed in the Cote D'Or to the north, but in Beaujolais on its granitic soil, it thrives. It's a wine that is intended to drink young, although some of the Grand Crus can age very well. This freshness of youth has always been much admired, and it was this admiration that gave us the 'New Beaujolais' phenomenon. 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 aficionados. Pleasing as a new Beaujolais is, it really isn't worth that sort of expenditure and that particular trend has thankfully died.

There is much to discover and enjoy in the Beaujolais, from the simple name with that appellation, to the marginally more alcoholic 'superieur', to the better 'Beaujolais Villages', to the best of them - the ten Grand Crus, named after the villages of their origin. The best known here is probably Fleurie: with Morgon, Moulin a Vent and Brouilly often encountered. In the Beaujolais much is made of the differences between them; the longevity of Moulin a Vent, the lusciousness of Fleurie, the substance of Julienas and the grapiness of Brouilly, but in truth the wines share more in common than they differ.

Of them all, the best - in the sense of complexity and longevity - is Moulin a Vent. In good years it has a darker colour and tougher body than the others, as well as ageing well, a characteristic that isn't ordinarily associated with Beaujolais. After ten years, some can even rank with better red Burgundies.

Suggested wine

Moulin a Vent 2001, Joseph Drouhin.

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