Located in eastern France, just north of Lyon lies Beaujolais. Nestled ever so perfectly between Burgundy and Rhône, this lesser-known wine growing region is slowly but surely gaining more popularity. Beaujolais is geographically divided into two sections by the Nizerand River and you’ll find different soils on each side. This is important to note because the soil types are the key to Beaujolais’ flavor. There’s mostly granite and schist (decomposed rock) to the North and clay-based soils (marl) to the South. Known for their production of the Gamay grape, Beaujolais turns out some of the best, no nonsense juice that money can buy.
Now some of you may be thinking to yourselves- “What the heck is Gamay?! I’ve never heard of that wine varietal in my life!” Well, let us sum it up for you. Think: the red-headed step child to Pinot Noir. Which is SO NOT TRUE. As Sommeliers, we loooove Beaujolais. It’s light bodied, with bright acid and ripe red fruit and the occasional hint of banana or bubble gum. For the most part, we know we can pull the cork, pour ourselves a glass and enjoy it immediately. You don’t have to think about it too much, it’s just easy drinkin’.
There are three different styles of Beaujolais. Noveau, Villages and Cru. Every year, on the third Thursday of November, Beaujolais Noveau is released to the world. These wines are meant to be consumed right away and have no aging potential. Prominent wine critic Karen MacNeil wrote that “drinking it gives you the same kind of silly pleasure as eating cookie dough”.
Moving up the ladder we come to the 38 official “Village” wines. These areas are a little more specialized and the wines a little deeper and darker in color and character. Many of these villages are located on granite or schist soils, so they have a more “mineral” character but are often times still considered simple or even one dimensional.
And then. Then there is Beaujolais Cru. You have a Beaujolais from one of the ten Crus, and well, everything we previously mentioned goes out the door. Now we’re talking wines that are more reminiscent of red Burgundy, for a fraction of the price. These wines are more complex and known to age well. Fleurie, Morgon, Chénas, Juliénas, Moulin a Vent, Régnié, Saint Amour, Chiroubles, Brouilly and Cote de Brouilly, the ten Cru vineyards, are all located on the North side of the river. Each Beaujolais cru has its own distinct personality – climate, soils, altitude, aspect, and a host of other factors – that are duplicated nowhere else. The crème de la crème of Beaujolais!
Now, why is Beaujolais so great for Thanksgiving? Well, for starters, it’s incredibly flexible and surprisingly powerful. With Thanksgiving dinner, that flexibility is crucial since the range of flavors and sweetness of traditional dishes pushes the boundaries of conventional wine pairing. Unlike big, bold wines that demand the spotlight, Beaujolais goes with the flow. It’s light in body and low in tannin, key factors that make it pair well with everything from roasted Brussels sprouts to cranberry sauce. The light body also means this red defies the white wine with white meat rule, yet it’s still strong enough to accompany a heart stuffing, and won’t be washed away by buttery vegetables. In short, it’s an all-around champion and a must have on turkey day.
Moral of this story- drink more Beaujolais. And drink it often. It’s the consummate crowd-pleaser!
***It’s not too late to get your hands on our November wine club! Included is a fantastic bottle of Cru Beaujolais, amongst several other yummy treats!