Quality Beaujolais Drinking Guide 2022

I believe that Beaujolais is capable of being one of the great wines of France. There is a lot of average commercial wine that is often a wine lover’s first experience. And a lot of people don’t get over that initial taste of cordial labelled as wine. However, I am here to say it is time to jump in and try it. With new eyes, if you’ve been burnt.


North of Lyon, West of Bourg en Bresse, South of Macon… actually, I might move there. It is part of the Burgundy region but is a distinct region in its own right.

Almost always red wines that are aromatic, light of body, high in acid and made from the Gamay variety. There is a Burgundian sensibility on Rhone soil types which makes for an interesting mix of styles. The quality wines are refreshingly tart with aromatic complexity and enough fruit weight to balance out the tartness. Due to their lightweight Beaujolais is underestimated for their ability to age at all; the great Beaujolais can improve over the mid to long term. Although the best wines are often found in 10 Crus of the region, some of the lesser appellations can impress.  Whites from Chardonnay are available but hard to find.


Grown in the French regions of Beaujolais and Loire Valley. It is early budding, high cropping, aromatic and high acid. It was outlawed from Burgundy by Duke Philippe the Bold for being disloyal but has no doubt made up for that with honourable service. The best wines from Gamay can be Burgundian in flavour and well worth seeking out. Often they are exceptionally good value too. Gamay is a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais (parent of Pinot and Chardonnay). It is earlier to ripen than Pinot and has less disease pressure in the growing season. Gamay can also deliver high volumes compared to a lot of quality wines and especially Pinot Noir.

How To Select Beaujolais

Producer is really the best way to know if a wine will be good. If you know and appreciate their style then you can stay with them. There aren’t enough single-site wines to really hang your hat on knowing them and while the Crus are all different, producer style trumps this character somewhat.

Some of the leaders are the Kermit Lynch coined “Gang of Four”: Guy Breton, Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, and Jean-Paul Thevenet. Quality leaders who pushed against the crappy wine that their peers were making. Chamonard missed out but should have been there to make them the Gang of 5. Other names to look for are Cambon, Metrat, Marrrans, De Fa, Pizay, and Clos de Mez.

How to serve Beaujolais

Cool, or chilled. In a Burgundy style glass. Decanting some of the richer styles; Moulin-a-Vent and Morgon for example can be helpful.

Beaujolais Quality Pyramid

Beaujolais AOC

1% is white wine (Chardonnay and Aligote but until 2024). Beaujolais can make more wine than Chablis, Cote d’Or, Cote Chalonnaise and Macon altogether. 18000ha 55km long 14km wide. Warmer than Burgundy. In the north soils are made up of schist granite (important for Cru BJ) and limestone. The North has more hills and hillside plantings while the south is flatter richer sandstone, clay with some limestone. Beaujolais AOC covers all 96 villages in the region. Beaujolais Nouveau or Vin de Merde if you followed the court case in 2001 is part of this appellation.

Beaujolais Village AOC

39 villages in the North. Makes up one-quarter of Beaujolais’ production. Single villages can affix their name to the wine. There is an overlap with Macon-Villages and Saint-Veran for white wine.

Crus of Beaujolais

There are ten Crus or specific sub-regions of Beaujolais. Each one has a typical flavour profile and texture. Having lined up most of them for a dinner I can attest to this. Below is a brief explanation of what to expect from each.

St. Amour

St. Amour is the most northerly Cru, bordering the Mâcon region of Burgundy. The soils are classic Granite, limestone, and clay. At its best, St. Amour is an intensely red-fruited wine, bearing a bit of a resemblance to its much more expensive cousin to the north; The “Les Amoureuses” vineyard in Chambolle Musigny.


Juliénas is a high-altitude, south-facing Cru. There is less granite and more schist and clay here. It is a Cru known to be a little sturdier than the others and so can be aged. The wine’s signature profile is deep red cherries, which transform with a few years of bottle age into nuanced flavours that veer towards cassis. Julienas is named after Julius Caesar and was potentially the first site planted by the Romans.


Chénas produces a tender wine that can age surprisingly well. The wine comes from distinct, quartzite soils.  But even young the wine has a mineral intensity (which, with age, becomes somewhat iodiny) which gives it a fine complexity. Chenas is quite small because a lot of the land from the Cru was moved over into the Moulin-a-Vent Cru when it was formed.


Featuring granite, and manganese (can be toxic to vines) which limits yields. This Cru is  South, Southeast facing for ripe,  concentrated, big tannin wines. This is considered the sturdiest, most tannic, longest-lived of the Crus Beaujolais. When you hear about folks opening up delicious bottles of 50-year old Beaujolais, it’s usually Moulin-a-Vent. But remember, we are still talking about Gamay. The wine is never that tannic, and most examples are still very approachable when they’re young unless the vintage is a particularly structured one.


Outside of Morgon, Fleurie appears to have the greatest concentration of good producers. And with particularly fine terroir, Fleurie is another great source of Cru Beaujolais. “Fleur,” of course, means “flower” in French, and indeed the wines of Fleurie are characterized by a distinct floral note – think violets. Pink granite is a feature of the soils here. The celebrate site of La Riolette was originally part of Moulin-a-Vent


The position of Chiroubles’ within the Crus is unique, as it is at the very highest altitudes of Beaujolais and the grapes take about a week longer to ripen than elsewhere. Chiroubles tend to have quite a bit of complexity, even as young wines, which makes the appellation a great source for Cru Beaujolais to drink young.  To me, this complexity derives from a lovely velvetiness that is absent in the other Crus, as well as a floral note that is reminiscent of Fleurie. The soils here are most uniform of all the Crus, their ‘gore’ or sandy granite being prominent.


This is the closest to Moulin-a-Vent in terms of weight and structure, and it can age nearly as well. It has a firm minerality, thanks chiefly to its granitic and schist soils, and a fruit profile that shades towards orange. Morgon is probably the most Burgundian of all the Crus. Cote du Py is an outstanding site in Morgon.


The newest Cru. It spreads a fair way west into Lantignie; a village pushing for Cru status on its own. Lots of Granite in the soils, Regnie sits higher than Brouilly and Morgon. It offers bright red fruits, with medium body and structure. Attractive young.

Côte de Brouilly

As the word “Côte” implies, the Côte de Brouilly lies on the side of a hill. Planted on the slopes of Mt Brouilly (an extinct volcano). Granite, clay, limestone, old volcanic Bluestone. Great depth and ability to make stunning wine. Growers can also make wine from Chardonnay, Aligote and Melon de Bourgogne (the grape of Muscadet).


The largest cru. It surrounds Cotes de Brouilly but is flatter with many distinctive hills of its own. Lighter, juicy, simple red fruits.

Cru Beaujolais - Map

Chateau Cambon Beaujolais 2020
Chateau Cambon Beaujolais 2020
Chateau de Pizay Beaujolais 2020
Chateau de Pizay Beaujolais 2020


Intense dry heat of July and the beginning of August: drought, sunburn and raisined grapes were in evidence in the sandiest, most freely draining parcels.  Where the vines could find moist subterranean clays, though, quality was outstanding. The best wines have retained freshness, and an almost hail-free year with little disease-pressure meant satisfactory quantities.


The 2019 vintage is qualitatively attractive in Beaujolais. Quantities were only half the size of the generous 2018 crop, and a quarter down on the five-year average.  Severe frosts in early April reduced the potential crop.  The second half of August brought rain and hail, with the southern half of the region being particularly badly affected.  The crus were largely spared the hail, though, and here the rains were helpful for maturation after the fierce heat of summer.


Summer was in general hot, dry and sunny (August 2018 was the hottest in Beaujolais since 1959), and harvest began in late August, though in many of the best cru sites growers had to wait until full phenolic ripeness came in September. The style of the wines was expected to be as flamboyantly ripe as 2015, but in the end they have proved to be fresher and more vivacious than that, with slightly lower alcohol levels.

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