March 21st, 2019/ BY Evan Saviolidis

9 reasons why you should look to Beaujolais

Six years ago, my first trip to Beaujolais was a cold, damp and wet experience. The dreary weather also echoed the state of vinous affairs of that period. Why? Well, after many years of negative reviews, mostly due to over-cropped, lacklustre Nouveau wines and subsequent poor sales, a vine-pullout scheme had been initiated in the early 2000s. This decreased vineyards from 21,000 hectares to 17,000. Granted, the 4,000 ha that was grubbed up comprised the inferior flatlands where much Nouveau had been made. But, as we have seen, it takes one bad apple to ruin it for others. Premium Beaujolais, Crus, et al., also experienced consumer backlash, as they were lumped together perception-wise.

Since then, things have taken a 180-degree turn, and the sunshine has broken through. Here are nine reasons why you should take a serious look at what is happening within this charming part of French paysage.

The Young Guns

Even though 18 percent of the producers in Bojo are under the age of 40, when you add in the 40- to 50-year-old demographic, you include 45 percent of all producers. This share will continue to increase. With la Jeunesse comes an openness to new ideas and techniques, many learned from abroad, and not based on how their father or their father’s father did it. This is a good thing!

The Investment from Elsewhere

When I say elsewhere, I am primarily referencing the well-to-do producers from Northern Burgundy. In recent years, they have looked to the south in search of cheaper land. With them, they brought the financial means to modernize vineyards and vinification techniques, thus helping to elevate quality.

Domaine Bottling

With little-to-no profitability from selling grapes to larger companies, smaller producers are now opting to produce and bottle their own top juice and sell it to markets that can afford to pay a higher premium. Markets here usually means Paris, Lyon or international markets.

Shrinkage, White Beaujolais and Bubbles

Since my previous visit, the red Beaujolais terrain had shrunk by another 2,000 hectares and now hovers at around 15,000 ha. Lands that were unprofitable for red production were grubbed up and converted to Chardonnay, which is easier to grow and can afford a higher yield without sacrificing quality. From this fruit comes both dry and sparkling renditions, which are labelled as Beaujolais Blanc and Crémant de Bourgogne, respectively, helping to round out the Beaujolais portfolio.




Inter Beaujolais, the governing body of the region, has concentrated on six main markets. These countries have all shown they appreciate a great Bojo and are willing to pay a little extra for something that’s top notch. The markets are the United States, Canada, England, China, Japan and Belgium.

The Next Generation and Beaujonomie

Last year, Inter Beaujolais instituted a new marketing offensive to help consumers better understand what they are purchasing via the creation of a three-tiered categorization system.

Beaujolais de Fête: This category includes the famous wines that are released every third Thursday in November. Essentially, drink-up wines.

Beaujolais de Charactère: This workhorse category accounts for the most significant production and offers the best value. These are the wines we see primarily in shops, restaurants and wine bars. The leaders of the pack here are the Crus.

Beaujolais d’Exception: Simply put, the best of the best. Terroir and small-lot wines, which match up against the best France has to offer. It is also a category that will only increase as producers gravitate upwards.

Food and wine have always been part of Beaujolais culture and shared with family and friends. Beaujonomie is a project that seeks to revisit and promote the concept of regional/classic food-and-wine pairing amongst groups. The project, which was launched in the homeland last year, is slated for an international rollout in 2019.

Beaujolais barrel

“With la Jeunesse comes an openness to new ideas & techniques, many learned from abroad.”



A Quality Quartet

While in the region, I had the chance to taste wines from the 2015 to 2018 vintages, which we will see in the Canadian market. All are great, but with a marked difference. Here are my impressions.

2015: A hot year, which produced opulent and ripe wines with lower acids. This is a vintage that will please everyone. Ready to drink.

2016: Lower yields due to hail. Some of the vineyards in Fleurie, Morgon and Chiroubles were decimated completely. Stylistically, the wines are ripe, but not overtly so like 2015. A year with classic structure and balance. Drink or hold.

2017: Extreme hail, even worse than 2016. Microscopic yields all over meant little wine was produced. Look towards the Crus as they are top. Concentrated and crunchy is the best way to describe these perfect food wines. Hold.

2018: What mother nature took away in the previous two vintages, she gave back in 2018. No hail and a warm, near-perfect growing season. Tank samples show dark colours, soaring aromas, ripeness and balance. Should be top-notch juice when released.

Terroir Charted

Between 2009 and 2018, Inter Beaujolais undertook an ambitious project to analyze and better understand the diversity of soils. To this end, 18,000 hectares were examined via 15,000 bored holes and close to 1,000 trenches — from the flatlands to the Crus — with the goal of increasing quality. More than 70 different soil types were confirmed.

It is accepted that the finest wines come from the Northern Crus, which possess pink granite and/or blue stones. That said, the study debunked certain myths, like the southern flatlands not having the same quality punch because there were no pink or blue stones, which turned out to be false. It also proved that the Cru of St-Amour could indeed produce punchy wines, depending on location. It’s also worth mentioning that a famed producer helped perpetuate this myth with its mass-produced, soft style of St-Amour, which became very popular on Valentine’s Day.

The 11th Cru?

Lantignié is a village of 360 hectares of vines just to the west of Morgon. Ninety percent of the soils are either pink granite or blue stones. The ambitious growers of the area have already filed an ambitious plan with the powers that be to become the 11th Cru of Beaujolais. If all goes well, certification will arrive in 2023. Until then, look for Beaujolais-Lantignié on the labels as your indicator of quality.



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