The Ultimate Guide to Beaujolais

Welcome to our guide about Beaujolais. Located in France, Beaujolais is a region well-known for its distinctive wine, primarily made from the Gamay grape. The wine is appreciated worldwide for its unique, fruit-forward taste, coupled with a balanced acidity.
In this guide, we’ll delve into various aspects of Beaujolais. You’ll get to know about its history, how the wine is made, and the different types available. We’ll also discuss how to best serve Beaujolais and what food it pairs well with.
Whether you’re a seasoned wine enthusiast or someone simply curious about wines, there’s something for everyone in this guide. So let’s start our journey into the captivating world of Beaujolais wine.

History of Beaujolais

Wine has flowed through the veins of Beaujolais since ancient times. Nestled between Burgundy to the north and Rhône to the south, Beaujolais boasts a wine-making history that stretches back over two thousand years. The story of Beaujolais wine begins with the Romans. Known for their expertise in viticulture, they were the first to plant vineyards in Beaujolais, appreciating the region’s favourable growing conditions.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the Beaujolais vineyards expanded under the nurturing care of the Benedictine monks. They meticulously tended to the vines, setting the stage for the quality of Beaujolais wine that we know today. The wines of Beaujolais began to build a solid reputation, known for their fruit-forward, approachable character.
In the 14th century, the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe the Bold, issued an edict expelling the Gamay grape from Burgundy, leaving Pinot Noir as the region’s primary grape. Gamay found a new home in the granite soils of Beaujolais, a terroir where it thrived and became the main grape variety for Beaujolais wines.
The 20th century brought an explosion of popularity for Beaujolais, especially with the marketing phenomenon of Beaujolais Nouveau in the 1980s. This young, vibrant wine, released just a few weeks after harvest, put Beaujolais on the global wine map. The annual celebration of Beaujolais Nouveau Day on the third Thursday of November continues to attract wine lovers worldwide.
However, the success of Beaujolais Nouveau was a double-edged sword. While it brought fame to the region, it also led to a perception of Beaujolais as a producer of only simple, fruity wines. But the region had more to offer. The Crus of Beaujolais – ten designated areas known for producing the highest quality wines in the region – showed that Beaujolais could make wines with depth, complexity, and ageing potential.
Today, Beaujolais has reclaimed its reputation as a diverse wine-producing region. Wine enthusiasts can find a broad range of wines here, from the easy-drinking Beaujolais Nouveau to the complex and sophisticated Cru Beaujolais. The history of Beaujolais has been a journey of transformation, reflecting the resilience and adaptability of this stunning wine region.

Beaujolais Grapes

When you think of Beaujolais, one grape variety immediately springs to mind: Gamay. While you can find a small amount of white Beaujolais made from Chardonnay, Gamay is the true heart and soul of this wine region.
Gamay is a purple-coloured grape variety that thrives in the granitic soils of Beaujolais. These grapes are known for their thin skins and low levels of tannins, which make for wines that are light-bodied and packed with bright, juicy fruit flavours. But don’t be fooled – though Gamay wines are often light and easy-drinking, they can also show great depth and complexity, especially those from the Crus of Beaujolais.
The reason for Gamay’s dominance in Beaujolais can be traced back to the 14th century. It was then that the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe the Bold, declared Gamay to be an inferior grape and banished it from the vineyards of Burgundy. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Beaujolais, where the rejected Gamay grape found its true home. In the granitic soils of Beaujolais, Gamay could fully express its character, creating wines that were refreshing, flavourful and distinct.
Gamay’s fruit-forward profile makes Beaujolais wines very approachable and versatile for food pairing, which we’ll delve into in a later section. Over the years, Beaujolais has shown the world that Gamay is anything but inferior – it’s a grape variety that can create truly enchanting wines, full of vibrancy and charm.
The magic of Beaujolais wine is indeed inextricable from Gamay, but to fully appreciate it, one must also understand how it is made. We will explore this in the next section, where we uncover the unique wine-making process that is a key part of Beaujolais’s identity.

Understanding Beaujolais Wine

While the Gamay grape is crucial, there’s more to the character of Beaujolais wine than just the variety of grape used. A significant part of what gives Beaujolais its unique taste is the winemaking process, specifically a technique called semi-carbonic maceration.
Carbonic maceration is a winemaking technique where fermentation begins within the grape, enhancing the fruit flavours in the resulting wine. In semi-carbonic maceration, the process is slightly different: a portion of the grapes is crushed at the bottom of the fermentation vessel, allowing a traditional yeast fermentation to start. The rest of the whole, uncrushed grapes are placed on top, beginning the process of carbonic maceration. The fermentation process from the crushed grapes at the bottom produces carbon dioxide, creating an anaerobic environment for the whole grapes.
This dual fermentation process allows Beaujolais wines to have the best of both worlds. On one hand, the wines have the bright, fresh fruit flavours from carbonic maceration. On the other hand, the traditional fermentation of the crushed grapes provides structure and complexity.
This method is used extensively in Beaujolais, and particularly in the production of Beaujolais Nouveau. The result is wine with vibrant, fruity flavours, often with notes of banana, pear, red berries, and a touch of bubblegum.
Beaujolais wine isn’t just about fruity simplicity, though. As you move up the quality ladder to Beaujolais Villages and Cru Beaujolais, you’ll find wines that offer more depth and complexity while maintaining their characteristic freshness.
In the next section, we’ll delve into these different categories of Beaujolais wine and learn about what sets them apart. So, stay tuned to learn more about the diverse world of Beaujolais.

Types of Beaujolais Wine

When it comes to categorising Beaujolais wines, there are three main classifications to understand: Beaujolais AOC, Beaujolais-Villages AOC, and Beaujolais Crus. Each of these classifications reflects a different level of quality and character in the wines.
Beaujolais AOC: This is the most basic level of Beaujolais wine. The grapes for these wines can come from anywhere within the Beaujolais region. Wines labelled simply as “Beaujolais” are often light, fruity, and meant to be enjoyed young. The most famous of these is the Beaujolais Nouveau, a wine released just weeks after harvest each year. It’s celebrated with a festival on the third Thursday of November, a day known worldwide as Beaujolais Nouveau Day.
Beaujolais-Villages AOC: The next step up is the Beaujolais-Villages AOC. The grapes for these wines come from 38 designated villages within Beaujolais, known for their superior vineyards. These wines generally offer a step up in quality, with a bit more structure and complexity than Beaujolais AOC. Beaujolais-Villages wines are still very approachable and can be enjoyed young, but they also have the capacity to age for a few years.
Beaujolais Crus: At the top of the quality pyramid are the Beaujolais Crus. These are ten areas within Beaujolais known for producing the best wines of the region. The ten Crus are: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié, and Saint-Amour. Each Cru has its own unique character, but all are capable of producing wines with great depth and complexity. Some Cru Beaujolais wines can age beautifully for 10 years or more.
Understanding these classifications can help you navigate the world of Beaujolais and find a wine that suits your taste. Whether you prefer the youthful exuberance of Beaujolais Nouveau or the sophisticated complexity of a Cru Beaujolais, there’s a Beaujolais wine out there for everyone.
In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into the phenomenon of Beaujolais Nouveau – the wine that brought global recognition to Beaujolais. So, keep reading to learn more about this unique tradition.

The Beaujolais Nouveau Phenomenon

Beaujolais Nouveau is not just a wine; it’s an event. Released on the third Thursday of November, just weeks after the grapes have been harvested, Beaujolais Nouveau Day is a global celebration that marks the arrival of the new vintage.
The tradition began in the local bars and cafés of Beaujolais and Lyon, where the arrival of the new wine was celebrated with parties and festivities. The practice of racing to get the first bottles of the new vintage to different markets around the world started in the 1970s and turned Beaujolais Nouveau into an international event.
Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape using the process of semi-carbonic maceration, which we discussed earlier. This process gives Beaujolais Nouveau its signature fruit-forward, easy-drinking style. The wine is light, fresh, and often displays flavours of red fruits, banana, and sometimes a distinctive note of bubblegum. Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be enjoyed young, usually within six months of its release.
While Beaujolais Nouveau is not a complex wine, its charm lies in its freshness and the celebration that accompanies its release. It’s a wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s the perfect excuse to get together with friends and celebrate the arrival of the new vintage.
However, as we’ll discuss in the next section, Beaujolais is not just about Nouveau. The region produces a range of wines, with some Crus offering depth and complexity that can rival some of the best wines in the world. So, keep reading to discover the other faces of Beaujolais.

The Crus of Beaujolais

The Crus of Beaujolais represent the pinnacle of quality in the region. The term “Cru” refers to designated areas that have been recognised for their favourable conditions for grape growing. In Beaujolais, there are ten such areas, each producing wines with unique characteristics. Let’s take a brief tour of these ten Crus:


As the largest and most southerly of the Crus, Brouilly produces wines that are fruity and approachable, with a lively acidity.
  • Henry Fessy | Gamay | Brouilly | France

    Six villages have the privilege of sharing this subtle and enchanting cru. It is the most southerly of all the Beaujolais Crus and typically has good colour, backbone and is full-bodied revealing aromas of plums and peaches. Henry Fessy’s domaine contains 7.5 hectares of Brouilly vineyards. This wine is very […]


Known for its robust, full-bodied wines, Chénas is the smallest Cru and the only one that isn’t named after a town or village.


The highest altitude Cru, Chiroubles is known for its delicate, floral wines with a silky texture.

Côte de Brouilly:

Located on the slopes of the extinct volcano Mont Brouilly, this Cru produces structured wines with a distinctive mineral character.


As the name suggests, Fleurie produces elegant, aromatic wines with a distinct floral character.


One of the most northerly Crus, Juliénas is known for its rich, spicy wines with dark fruit flavours.


Morgon produces full-bodied, complex wines that can age beautifully. Its wines often have earthy and stone fruit notes.


Known for its windmill landmark, Moulin-à-Vent produces some of the most structured and age-worthy wines in Beaujolais.


The newest Cru, established in 1988, Régnié is known for its fresh, light-bodied wines with red fruit flavours.


The most northerly Cru, Saint-Amour is known for its light, aromatic wines, often with a hint of spice.
These Crus each offer a different expression of the Gamay grape, showing the range and complexity that Beaujolais is capable of. Whether you’re a fan of light, fruity wines or prefer something with more depth and structure, you’re sure to find a Cru Beaujolais that suits your taste.
In the next section, we’ll discuss how to serve and enjoy Beaujolais wine, including some suggestions for food pairings. So, keep reading to make the most of your Beaujolais experience.

How to Serve and Enjoy Beaujolais

Beaujolais wines are incredibly versatile when it comes to serving and pairing with food. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your Beaujolais experience:

Serving Temperature:

Beaujolais is best enjoyed slightly chilled. For Beaujolais Nouveau and other light Beaujolais wines, aim for a serving temperature of around 13°C (55°F). For fuller-bodied Beaujolais-Villages and Cru wines, a slightly warmer temperature of around 15°C (59°F) is ideal.


While Beaujolais Nouveau and most Beaujolais AOC wines can be enjoyed straight from the bottle, some of the more structured Beaujolais-Villages and Cru wines can benefit from a bit of aeration. Decanting these wines for about an hour before serving can help to open up the flavours and soften the tannins.


While you can certainly enjoy Beaujolais from any wine glass, using a glass with a large bowl can help to release the aromas, enhancing your experience of the wine.

Food Pairing:

Beaujolais is one of the most food-friendly wines out there. Its light body and bright acidity make it a great match for a wide range of foods. Beaujolais Nouveau and other light Beaujolais wines are perfect for pairing with charcuterie, salads, and light appetisers. Beaujolais-Villages and Cru wines, with their greater depth and structure, can stand up to heartier dishes like roast chicken, grilled meats, and even some fish dishes.
Whether you’re enjoying a casual glass of Beaujolais Nouveau or savouring a complex Cru Beaujolais, these tips will help you to make the most of your Beaujolais experience.


Beaujolais is a region full of surprises. From the easy-drinking, fun-loving Beaujolais Nouveau to the sophisticated and complex wines of the ten Crus, there is a Beaujolais wine to suit every palate. It’s a region that has something to offer to both the wine novice and the experienced connoisseur.
Through its unique combination of the Gamay grape and the process of semi-carbonic maceration, Beaujolais has created a distinctive style of wine that is fresh, fruity, and incredibly food-friendly. Whether you’re enjoying a chilled glass on a warm summer’s day or pairing it with a hearty winter meal, Beaujolais wine has a place at every table.
While Beaujolais Nouveau has brought global recognition to the region, there’s so much more to discover in Beaujolais. From the rolling vineyards and charming villages to the vibrant wine festivals and rich history, Beaujolais is a region that invites exploration.
So, whether you’re new to Beaujolais or a long-time fan, we hope this guide has given you a deeper appreciation for this unique wine region and its wines. As you delve into the world of Beaujolais, remember to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. After all, the joy of wine is in the discovery. Cheers to Beaujolais!

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