Known as the ‘Third River’ of Lyon, Beaujolais is the Lyonnais’ favorite wine. This red wine is juicy, fruity, and vibrant. It’s made from the Gamay grape which means it has bright red fruit flavors and isn’t very tannic, so it’s extremely drinkable.
Beaujolais has a few distinct quality levels but remains always affordable. Despite a lingering reputation from some bad Beaujolais Nouveau going on 20 years ago, Beaujolais is on the up and is an essential wine to understand if you’re in Lyon.
We’re going to cover the 12 appellations in Beaujolais here. These include Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages, and then the 10 Crus of Beaujolais.
Most importantly, remember that the appellations are like a Russian nesting doll. So Beaujolais is the biggest, then we have Beaujolais-Villages within that, and then the Crus within Beaujolais-Villages.
Beaujolais AOC refers to wine made throughout the whole region of Beaujolais but will predominately come from the Southern half of the region.
These will be the least expensive, but by no means are poor quality. There’s plenty of great wine to be found at this level, especially with younger winemakers who are buying up this land, which is inexpensive compared to vines in the Crus.
Beaujolais-Villages AOC is one size smaller than Beaujolais AOC. This wine comes from the Northern half of Beaujolais and should be a step up in quality from Beaujolais. This may be a blend of different Crus, or come from vines outside of the Cru designation.
The 10 Crus of Beaujolais from North to South
Saint Amour has the coolest climate of the Crus as it is the furthest North, and actually overlaps with Burgundy. It also has a variety of different soil types. What this means is that for the most part, the wines are pretty light and soft, but because of terroir variation you can find some more serious Saint Amours.
Named after Julius Caesar, this is an area with over two millennia of winemaking history. These wines are known for being robust and powerful for Beaujolais. The soil here is granitic and these wines can be ageable, although tread lightly here. While Juliénas does have good producers, it’s a mixed bag, so do your research.
This is the smallest and rarest Cru in Beaujolais. It tends to be made in a more traditional way, like its northern neighbor Burgundy and can be minerally and more austere. These are wines that can age well if you can find them!
This is known as the “King” of Beaujolais and produces powerful wines that age well. These are wines of complexity, they also have more tannins than your average Beaujolais. Moulin-á-Vent sits on top of Fleurie granite, and the soil has traces of manganese, which perhaps contribute to its intensity. It is named after an actual windmill which is very nice to go and visit.
The “Queen” of Beaujolais, Fleurie sits on the pretty pink granite of the same name and makes fresh, feminine wines. These tend to be very fruity, with floral aromas as well. Fleurie is widely known and there are plenty of good producers in this appellation.
This is the highest altitude Cru and has a light style, even though it runs from 250 to 500 meters of altitude, this cru is nestled in an amphitheater-style valley which has perfect southeastern exposure, and is also protected from the wind. Again this is that beautiful pink Fleurie granite.
This is the second biggest Cru and is known for intense wines that can have more powerful tannins. Just a bit less robust than Moulin-á-Vent, these big wines have the capacity to age well. It has mixed terroir, including plenty of Fleurie granite. Morgon is on the eastern side of the Beaujolais mountains so it has great sun exposure for optimum ripeness.
Régnié was only created in 1988 (the others are from the 30s) and so it’s the newest Cru of Beaujolais. It covers a bit of granite outcropping on the northside of Mont Brouilly and has a variety of soils. These high altitude vines are south facing so you can expect bright, fruity wines with some nice structure.
Côte de Brouilly
These are sought after wines made on the slopes of Mont Brouilly, an ancient volcano. The soil here is black schist, a flaky, puff-pastry type of rock. The drainage here good, giving the vines plenty to work for. This results in a concentrated, high-end Beaujolais of depth and complexity.
The largest of the Crus, account for almost 20% of all Cru Beaujolais. This is an easy go-to for your Cru Beaujolais needs. It’s good value, lively, fruity, and juicy. It has a variety of soils and extends around Côte de Brouilly.
Beaujolais Nouveau day is celebrated on the third Thursday November with festivities in Lyon.
Appellation, Terroir, Grand Cru, Oh My! Our wine expert Caroline Conner helps you to read French wine labels.
An international fun race with wine, food, fancy dress and castles.
Many secret gardens are sprinkled through Lyon for any kind of circumstances. Well, do not look further than these two wine bars if you are looking for a peaceful time with friends.