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Description to Beaujolais AOC
In terms of wine law, the French wine-growing area is part of Burgundy and is located in the extreme south of this wine-growing region. Historically, however, Beaujolais has never belonged to it. The northern part of Beaujolais, which belongs to the department of Sâone-et-Loire and thus also administratively to Burgundy, is an exception. The major part, however, with the capital Villefranche-sur-Saône, administratively belongs to the département Rhône and thus belongs to the region Rhône-Alpes. The southernmost part of the Beaujolais is the appellation Coteaux du Lyonnais. This is an ancient wine-growing area, as the remains of Roman vineyards have been discovered at Mont Broully (one of the Cru communities). In the 7th century after Christ, Benedictine monks planted more vineyards. It is therefore a very old wine-growing area
The name derives from the Burgundian high nobility of the Beaujeu, who ruled here from 950 to 1400. At the foot of their castle fortress, the little town called Beaujeu was founded in the 10th century. Its independence from Burgundy was established by the edict of Philip II the Bold (1342-1404), Duke of Burgundy, which prohibited the cultivation of the Gamay vine in Burgundy proper. Until the middle of the 17th century, however, viticulture played only a minor role here. This was also due to the poor transport of the wine to the major places of consumption, so the wine was mainly consumed in the area itself. Only with the construction of the Briare Canal, which from 1642 onwards connected the two rivers Loire and Seine, did the market finally open up to Paris.
The area extends over 50 kilometres in length and 30 kilometres in width. To the east is the Sâone river valley, to the north is the Burgundian region of Mâconnais, with which Beaujolais overlaps to a small extent. There are two different geological areas. In the north, with the best quality wines, granite prevails, but limestone is predominant in the south. The temperate climate, which is ideal for wine growing, has continental, Atlantic and Mediterranean influences. The vineyards occupy about 22,000 hectares of vineyards at an altitude of between 200 and 450 metres above sea level in 96 municipalities. The market is dominated by large wine cooperatives. Around 2,500 winegrowers own only small vineyards with a few hectares.
Production of the Beaujolais
The red Beaujolais is mostly obtained from the classic Beaujolais grape Gamay, whose special feature is the white flesh (the full name is Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc). Nowhere else does this variety have any significance. It accounts for 99% of the vineyards. This extreme monoculture arose after the phylloxera catastrophe. The tiny remainder is occupied by Aligoté, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Melon de Bourgogne for the white wine, but they are also allowed up to a maximum of 15% for red wine androsé. Pinot Noir was allowed to be added to red wine up to 15% until 2015. Beaujolais Blanc and Rosé are almost unknown outside the area and play no role. The red Beaujolais must be dry aged and are generally soft or slightly tannic, fresh and aromatic.
For the wine known as Beaujolais Nouveau for export or, especially on the French market, as Beaujolais Primeur, the intact, whole grapes are fermented using the Macération carbonique method, which produces a lot of carbon dioxide. The fermentation lasts one to two weeks. This allows the aromatic potential of the gamay grape to fully develop. The bright ruby red to bluish wine has relatively high acidity and a fruity aroma. It may be marketed from the third Thursday in November and can be drunk young within a year. The new vintage is released with a big festival in Beaujeu on the Wednesday before the third Thursday in November. There is a torchlight procession, a feast and dance. At the "Mise en Perce" at midnight, the racking takes place. Every year 60 million bottles of the worldwide popular wine are produced, 50% of which are exported to 200 countries.
This rapidly produced wine has its connoisseurs, otherwise it would not be so successful. But its critics even deny the drink, also known as "Lollipop wine", the right to call itself "wine". Due to the special form of fermentation technique used by many winemakers, drop-like aromas of bananas, candy, chewing gum and, at worst, nail varnish(a solvent tone) come into their own. The British wine author and MoW Anthony Hanson mentions in the book "Burgundy" a well-known winemaker from the Beaujolais region, who disparagingly calls this fermentation technique "carbonic acid masturbation". So in Burgundy, too, despite the undisputed sales success, there is an aversion to this type of wine.
The more long-lasting and tannic wines are vinified with the classic maceration and mostly bottled after one year. Every year on the second Sunday in December there is an auction (sale) of wines with a charitable purpose. This "Hospices de Beaujeu" was first held in 1797. This was 62 years before the much more famous Hospices de Beaune. The price of a bottle has to be outbid until the flame of a candle is extinguished. The association owns 65 vineyards. A special feature of the Beaujolais is the traditional serving bottle Pot Lyonnais with an extremely thick glass base, which allows the previously chilled wine to be kept cool longer on the table.
The multi-level quality pyramid is based on the Burgundy classification for sites and wines, which is common throughout the region. However, instead of four there are only three levels, which means there are no Grands Crus:
The simple appellation is open to all winegrowers, but is mostly only used in the southern half on about 10,000 hectares of vineyard. This area is dominated by clayey limestone soil with sandstone. The wines pressed here are considerably lighter than in the north and do not come close to their quality. At least 10% vol. alcohol content is required. The main producers are large cooperatives such as Cave Beaujolaise du Bois-d'Oingt, Cave Coopérative Beaujolaise de St-Verand and Les Vignerons de la Cave Bully. The Appellation Beaujolais Supérieur applies to wines with 10.5% vol. alcohol.
The appellation covers about 5,000 hectares of vineyards in the north. The fictitious dividing line to the south is the commune of Villefranche-sur-Saône. The soils consist of granite, porphyry and slate with sand and clay (without lime). The weathering of the granite rock in the form of quartz sand forms a layer of ten centimetres to several metres thick at certain points. This is the soil on which the Gamay vine produces the best results. A total of 38 communes have the right to use the name after Beaujolais on the label, of which the ten below have cru status. If it is a blend from two or more communes, "Beaujolais Villages" must be used. Eight communes have the right to market the wines as Mâcon Villages and four also as Saint-Véran.
Ten municipalities in the northern area have cru status, but unlike the other appellations, this applies exclusively to red wines. Their vineyards cover about 7,000 hectares. It is above all these wines that have made the name Beaujolais famous. At first glance, many of them are not recognizable as Beaujolais at all, as often only the municipality appears on the label. Field names and locations can also be added. The municipalities are Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte-de-Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié and Saint-Amour. The wines of Crus Chénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent are considered the best. Nine Crus (except Régnié) are allowed to market wines from Gamay as Bourgogne. Everywhere else in Beaujolais this is only withheld from the (few) wines from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.
Among the most famous producers in Beaujolais are Château du Bluizard, Domaine Jean-Marc Burgaud, Domaine F&J. Calot, Château de La Chaize, Domaine Champagnon, Domaine Emile Cheysson, Michel Chignard, Louis-Claude Desvignes, Domaine Desperrier, Duboeuf, Jean Foillard, Domaine de la Fully, Domaine Gay-Coperet, Château des Jacques, Paul Janin, Bernard Jomain, Domaine Benoit Trichard, Hubert Lapierre, Jean Lathuilière, Domaine des Marrans, Domaine Laurent Martray, Alain Michaud, Domaine Gilbert Picolet, Domaine Dominique Piron, Jean-Charles Pivot, Michel Tête, Château Thivin, Dom. des Terres Dorées, Dom. Benoit Trichard and Domaine du Vissoux.