Beaujolais: the new wave

Sandia Chang introduces the artisanal winemakers who are spearheading a Beaujolais revival

Bagnols, Rhône, France. Image courtesy of Discover Beaujolais

All wine lovers know how Beaujolais should taste: light, simple, quaffable and suitable for a day of partying and drinking. It’s often associated with flavours of bubblegum and bananas, and with tasting not quite ready to drink; however, Gamay, the noble grape of Beaujolais, is in fact a fierce competitor to its cousin from Burgundy, Pinot Noir. When well taken care of in the vineyard, and made correctly by a talented winemaker, it can be a wonderfully complex and age-worthy red wine that gives red Burgundy a run for its money. Younger, artisanal winemakers are now reimagining the stereotype of Beaujolais wines using natural methods and with very low intervention. Try one of these as a starting point…

Morgon Classique Jean Foillard 2016

Jean Foillard, along with three other colleagues (Lapierre, Thevenet and Breton), was the first to start a movement in Beaujolais to return to the old practices of viticulture and vinification. They will always make their wines from old vines, never using synthetic herbicides or pesticides, harvesting late, rigorously sorting to remove all but the healthy grapes, adding minimal doses of sulphur or none at all, and refusing filtration. The village of Morgon is one of the ten top ‘crus’ of Beaujolais. Foillard’s meticulously made Morgon is a deep, structured, complex wine with a velvety black-cherry lushness; it’s young but also has the potential to age. Enjoy it with your Sunday roast or simply with a charcuterie board. £21, Buon Vino.

Domaine Chapel, Beaujolais-Villages, 2017

This wine is a result of a love story. When Michele Smith, a New York City-based sommelier, met David Chapel, the son of the infamous French chef Alain Chapel, on a winery visit in 2013, it was love at first sight – and the start of a shared passion for making wine. Thanks to Smith’s knowledge of fine wines and Chapel’s pedigree with great Beaujolais producers such as Marcel Lapierre, they are now unstoppable rising stars of Beaujolais. Their Beaujolais Village is a great introduction: bright, fresh, and elegant, with vibrant red cherry and spices, it can be drunk with anything or just by itself. About £13.66, Wines By Heart.

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