We featured several Beaujolais wines a few weeks ago, and as I was preparing the newsletter, I realized there were several terms that might sound a little foreign. (Well, they are foreign.) So here’s a little Beaujolais primer to help you navigate the wines of this alluring region.

Beaujolais (bow-jo-lay)

A region just south of Burgundy, between Lyon and Mâcon. Known for clay and limestone soils, with pockets of gravel. Primary grapes grown are: Gamay (red) and Chardonnay, with a little bit of Pinot Noir and Burgogne Aligoté grown as well. This region is known for using a fermentation technique called carbonic maceration (see below) that creates light, fruity wines that are low in tannins.

Carbonic Maceration

A special kind of fermentation. Rather than pressing the grapes and adding yeast to ferment the grape sugars into ethanol (alcohol), wine makers place whole clusters of grapes in closed fermentation tanks that are infused with carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide penetrates the grapes and starts an intracellular fermentation within each single. Enzymes in the grape pulp convert the sugar into ethanol, thus fermenting the juice while it is still inside the grape skin. This process creates certain flavor compounds along with the alcohol, and as the juice has minimal contact with the grape skins, the resulting wine is lighter colored and lower in tannins.

Beaujolais Nouveau
Perhaps the most famous category of Beaujolais, this style emphasizes the flavors created by carbonic maceration and sometimes retains a small amount of dissolved CO2. The quick fermentation is followed by immediate bottling. The very light, fruity wines are released to the market on the third Thursday of November.

A wine from any one (or combination) of 33 villages recognized for their quality soil and climate.

Cru Beaujolais
A Cru Beaujolais is a wine that comes from one of the ten designated Cru Villages (Morgon, Fleurie, Julienas, Moulin-à-Vent, St. Amour, Chénas, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Chiroubles, and Régnié). These are considered the best vineyard locations, and often have plantings that are 50-100+ yearsThe name of the village will be listed on the label.