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Beaujolais ChateauWith its multitude of variations on the Gamay grape, the charms of Beaujolais’ wines are utterly unique. Here we survey some of the region’s delights. Covering roughly 55,000 geographically diverse hectares of southern France, the Beaujolais wine region is unified by its love affair with the Gamay grape, which accounts for some 98% of production. This results in characteristically light, juicy, fruity wines with crisp acidity, many of which can even be chilled slightly – making Beaujolais the perfect summer red.

Classification

There are broadly three categories for the region’s wines:

Beaujolais Beaujolais wines are light, bright and fruit-forward. They can come from anywhere in the region and are made for immediate enjoyment.

• Beaujolais-Villages wines come from the hillier northerly area. They still impart lovely bright, ripe fruit flavours, but have a firmer, more mineral backbone.

• At the top of the tree sit ten villages known as the Beaujolais Crus. With their superior concentration and quality, each of these has acquired separate standing in the AOC system.

A modern-day success story

Working in the Beaujolaid vineyardsBeaujolais has been producing wines since 1395, when the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe the Bold, elected to ban the Gamay grape from his region. Its migration south saw it thrive in Beaujolais’ climate and soils, and the region’s winemakers have been making the most of these perfect conditions ever since.

Over the years, the advent of improved winemaking practices and better selection at the vineyard has seen Beaujolais make a welcome return to France’s viticultural map. Today’s producers are focusing more on terroir-driven, estate-bottled wines, which has coincided with a run of good vintages. Indeed, the current 2009 wines have been described as “not only brilliant […] but absolute bargains”.

Beaujolais SoilBeaujolais-Villages 2009, Georges Duboeuf

£7.99 £7.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles

A perennial Majestic favourite from one of France’s largest and best-known producers. Smooth, with juicy blackberry aromas and fine tannins, it’s a versatile wine that’s equally at home on its own or next to a cheese board.

Morgon 2009/10, Château de Pizay

£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles

This is classic Morgon. The nose oozes blackberries and cherries, before the silky smooth palate and fine tannins showcase all the fruity charms of Beaujolais.

Beaujolais-Villages 2009, Château de la Terrière

£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Made with grapes from old vines on the border of the Brouilly Cru, this has the depth and complexity of a top cru wine. Combines fresh strawberry aromas, pleasant earthy notes, light tannins and a lovely rounded finish.

Beaujolais Lantignié 2009, Louis Jadot

£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles

A nose of fresh red fruits with just a hint of dark cherry is followed by spicy liquorice notes on the palate. Pleasing acidity and fine tannins lend a lovely balance to this classy number.

Beaujolais-Villages 2007/09, Château des Maladrets

£8.99 £8.74 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Round, smooth and deliciously fruity, this is a great-value summer quaffer. Enjoy slightly chilled as an apéritif, or with cold meats and cheeses.

Beaujolais 2009, Antonin Rodet

£8.74 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

A fresh, easy-drinking, beautifully balanced wine. The nose is a riot of strawberries and raspberries, while the fruity, lively palate has round, supple tannins.

Chénas 2009, Cave du Château de Chénas

£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles

This highly-prized Beaujolais Cru is a smooth, generous, sought-after wine that’s wonderful now but will also keep well. Its finesse and complex aromas have seen it described as “a garland of flowers in a velvet basket”.

Beaujolais Villages 2009, Chanson Père et Fils

£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles

In the glass it’s a bright ruby colour with purple tints, with a heady rush of fresh red berries and spices on the nose. The palate is well-structured and supple, while the finish is refreshing, with liquorice notes.

Beaujolais-Villages 2009, Domaine des Nugues

£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Made by winemaker Gilles Gelin with grapes from vines up to a century old, this has extraordinary concentration and balance.

Fleurie 2009, Domaine des Nugues

£12.49 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Picturesque Fleurie is perhaps the most famous of all the Beaujolais Cru villages. This vibrant, complex wine, with its palate of sweet fruits and spices and its fine lingering tannins, is a serious tipple.

Beaujolais Vendanges  

  • Patrick Nealon

    All this talk of the good Beaujolais 2009 vintage is encouraging. But I made a bad start – I bought a Bouchard Pere & Fils Fleurie 2009 the other day (not from Majestic, from a well-known supermarket) and I was hugely disappointed. No fruitiness, no purple colour, even the Gamay taste was difficult to discern. I bought it at a discount but the full price was £9.99. My wife says maybe it needs keeping – but I’ve never thought of Fleurie as a wine to keep. What went wrong? I’m prepared to give Majestic a go now. Any chance of the attractive beaujolais range you’re doing right now going on the taste counter in Ipswich (my nearest)?