Beaujolais is rapidly emerging as a very trendy wine. Passionate growers making authentic wines in low numbers are putting the area back on the map for a younger generation of wine consumers who are finding it easy to buy into the good old fashioned winemaking that so many Beaujolais wines are made with.
Enthusiasts of this slightly estranged member of the Burgundy family, will tell you that nothing has really changed, small family growers have always been responsible for making these vintage variable rustic wines, it's only that the rest of the world is finally waking up to what's going on here.
Beaujolais seemed to go out of fashion for two reasons. Beaujolais Nouveau, the simple wine fermented quickly to celebrate the harvest (and raced back to London) started to feel gimmicky. On top of this, there were too many complaints of uninspiring examples of clogging up the bistros of Paris, Lyon and London. The fine line between cheap wine and bad wine was crossed.
Although there is a very small amount of white wine produced, Beaujolais is red, produced from the local Gamay grape. Without the proper love and care Gamay can easily give bitter, acidic wines with little to speak of. Done properly however, and the variety can offer quirky wines with attractive red fruit.
Gamay has long been the preferred grape here. It became popular due to its higher yields, its ability to resist to disease and its ability to produce fruity wines markedly more approachable in youth that Pinot Noir.
Much of the wine produced in Beaujolais AOC is light, fruity wine produced using the carbonic maceration technique. The grapes are pressed using a blanket of CO2 gas which splits the berries causing an abundance of colour and flavour but very little tannin. As the juice runs free the fermentation continues normally. Beaujolais made in this way is often easy to recognise with its characteristic aromas of bubblegum.
At this level the soils rarely impart a noticeable effect on the final wines, but as one travels north ten villages have been deemed worthy of cru status.