The Beaujolais region covers a 55 km long stretch of mainly granite hills running south from the Mâcon to Lyon. Here the Gamay grape, growing in sandy clay over granite gives uniquely fresh, vivid, light but fruity wines. Two thirds of all Burgundy comes from Beaujolais, with the standing joke being “There are 3 rivers flowing into Lyon – the Rhone, the Saone and Beaujolais”.
The vines are all free standing, pruned in the gobelet system, which necessitates hand picking. Vinification is by carbonic maceration (the whole bunches are fermented uncrushed under pressure), a method that gives intensely aromatic, fruity, wines low in tannins and ideal for early consumption. Every year, on the third Thursday in November, there is enormous fanfare at the release of the new Beaujolais vintage, aptly named Beaujolais-Nouveau.
However not all Beaujolais are frivolous quaffers. The serious quality wines come from the northern half of Beaujolais where the soil is far more granitic. There are 39 villages here, which carry the Beaujolais-Villages appellation, and 10 of these are entitled to carry their village name.
These are the Crus of Beaujolais –
St. Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Morgon, Regnié, Côte de Brouilly, Brouilly.
The wines from these villages range from crisply fragrant to rich and brooding and are well worth the effort of seeking out.
Bruno, Denis and Patrick Matray run this small domaine based in the village of Fleurie 50km to the north of Lyon. Long recognized for the quality of their wines in particular their estate Chateau du Bourg in the commune of Fleurie,. The 10ha estate is excellently situated on the Colline de Montgenas. They make elegant, fruity wines that are typical of the Fleurie appellation. On the heights above the village, the Matray family also works Domaine de la Côte d’Adule the vines of which back up onto the slopes of Adule valley.
Classic aromas of freshly crushed berries and violet leap from the glass in this wonderfully aromatic Beaujolais. Sensual, juicy with soft tannins and round mouth feel, benchmark for the appellation.