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A Comeback Story: How Beaujolais is Reclaiming its Glory

Regular visitors to the Comments section of this site will be familiar with the varied, and very helpful, insights that Richard Wyndham frequently provides.

Well, today, he extends those insights into a broader and deeper look at wine from a region he knows well – Beaujolais.

After its celebrity status in the final quarter of the last century, Beaujolais wines fell off the radar in spectacular fashion.

Several factors caused this including improved competition from the new world.

Also at work, though, were the almost inevitable quality issues when demand significantly exceeded supply – as it did there.

However, Beaujolais is edging its way back into the spotlight helped by changes in style and by energetic young winemakers,

Further help comes from the realisation that the region can offer kindly priced relief when Burgundy prices rise.   

In addition, Richard also gently eases us towards an underappreciated aspect of the region – its white wines.

It always saddens me when Beaujolais chardonnay producers say they sell their wine (perfectly legally) as “White Burgundy” because they get a better price.

So, read on for Richard’s words of wisdom.

As is normal here, pictures and hyperlinks are provided where possible to guide you straight to the right wine on shelf or web page.

Taking a new look at nouveau

“As a serious Beaujolais fan for over 40 years, I had some particularly good experiences at the end of 2023.

Firstly, Beaujolais Nouveau is back! My interest in the 3rd Thursday of November had waned but it looks like producers and customers are re-embracing the event.

I had a bottle of 2023 Domaine Bel Avenir Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau by Cècile Dardanelli – what a lovely, charming wine.

Alongside this I opened a bottle of the 2022 Nouveau from the same producer, and this was still drinking very well – so, Nouveau wines sold off cheaply this side of Christmas, could be worth a punt.

These wines came from the enthusiastic people at Wickham Wines.

Their Zoom tastings are also excellent – they post, typically 6 x100ml wine samples, and you can then join an interactive (if you want!) Zoom session.

They also have an admirable policy of free delivery for orders over £40.

Now for the whites

Secondly, I had an opportunity to attend a tasting of Beaujolais Blanc wines.

These Chardonnay wines are a tiny proportion of the overall Beaujolais production, but seem to be gaining traction and, on the basis of the wines I tasted, they are certainly worth seeking out.

Possibly reflecting that growing interest, The Wine Society’s £12.50 2022 Domaine des Côteaux de Font Curé that I enjoyed, has now completely sold out.

Similarly impressive was the 2022 Château Bellevue Beaujolais Princesse Lieven.

Pineapple, baked apple, touch of honey, lemon peel freshness and tad of oak had given it some creaminess – lovely.

By coincidence, the week before, I was much impressed by the 2021 vintage of the same wine at a Mr Wheeler (“We choose better wines”) tasting.  

It is not easy to track down Beaujolais Blanc in the UK but independents such as Alpine Wines and Wickhams stock other examples.

They are good value alternatives to the more widely available Macon whites.

Switching back to reds.

Lastly, as you do, I had a bottle lurking in my wine rack waiting, as the years rolled by, for a “special occasion”.

It was a 2009 Louis Latour Moulin-à-Vent Les Michelons and I decided that one of my elderly cars passing its MOT test was sufficiently special, so cracked the bottle open.

Wow, this was drinking beautifully, no indication that it was past its best – just a lovely Burgundian style red.

In 2019 I had a similar experience drinking another lurker – a 2005 Wine Society's Exhibition Morgon, that was similarly impressive.

So, for some Cru Beaujolais 14 years bottle age seems to hit the spot! Looking forward to sampling 2010 wines during 2024 – I recall it was a good year.”

Editor’s Contribution

Thank you, Richard, for such an excellent piece on a region that seldom gets the exposure warranted by the quality it can attain.

Inspired by your conclusions, I also sought out one of the white Beaujolais choices at Wickhams and here are my conclusions.

2020 Clos du Vieux Bourg Beaujolais Blanc (from £16.50 at Wickhams and 12.5% abv):

At its best when allowed to open up, this proves to be a delightfully smooth and very soft example with pear, mango and ripe pear flavours.

Underpinning those flavours are a chalky undercurrent, sharp orange acidity and suggestions of butteriness, mint and toasty caramel.  

In short, sophisticated white wine well worth digging a little deeper to secure.

In case that starts you looking for a red

2022 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Quincié (£10.99 – instead of £14.99 until 27 February – at Waitrose and 13%):

This only came on offer yesterday and is slightly unusual in that it is from a Beaujolais Villages commune that adds its name to the label.

Quincié is just to the west of the Brouilly and Regnie Crus.

With a classic Beaujolais fruit centred nose, the wine is based around juicy cherry and raspberry flavours.

In support, there is fresh acidity, a cushioned softness, chocolate hints and those violet elements that the region does so well.


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Comments

18 Comments

Dave Cronin

As a Gamay Sceptic, and probably still am to a certain extent, I was interested to read Richards inciteful thoughts, and although I’m not totally seduced I am coming around, and have tasted some dare I say it, enjoyable Beaujolais recently. Beaujolais Nouveau has never tempted me in the past but perhaps this November I will give it a go (did I really say that?)
I didn’t know anything about Beaujolais Blanc, not sure I’ve ever tasted it, so I may try to seek out some.
Thanks again Richard for the excellent write up and Brian for your selections, I’ve always enjoyed Louis Jadot wines, so I feel a trip to Waitrose coming up, cheers guys!

Brian Elliott

Thanks Dave – it is good to hear views from sceptics. So much has changed from the over production days of the last century and the variety’s fruit orientation and limited tannin does seem to fit well with current tastes.

Eddie Walker

Great stuff from Richard and Brian, thank you, on probably one of the most misunderstood wines around, yet everybody seems to know the name of it, Beaujolais…

Likely that’s a lot to do with the big Nouveau Promo’ annual thing. In the 70s long before I ever started going yearly to France, a local-to-me wine specialist always had La Primeur on his counter in November and without recourse to a discerning palate anyone who tried it revelled in the fun of it at least.

When I finally got to France, and the Loire in particular, I was buying the local Gamay and decided it was pretty bleak stuff, especially when cheap. So my association with any Beaujolais version stopped there too. Maybe justifiably, so much of that cheaper stuff especially wasn’t very good either, 40 years ago.

But everything changes. Even in the face of the French now drinking less of their own reds than ever before along come a lot of fine young wine makers from the Département du Rhône down to Languedoc providing bottle after bottle of wonderful French red of all kinds.

If top grade, authentic Burgundy-Pinot Noir is too expensive Brian once recommended me to head a little further south and try the more recently produced Gamay Noir as an acceptable alternative. And how well that worked. Revelling once again but this time it’s the Cru Beaujolais providing lots of answers and in many different guises depending on which terroir-cru we are speaking about.

No longer averse to sweeter-end reds, my wife especially, Beaujolais really hits the spot for me these days when cheap-end Burgundy more often does not. Personally very disappointed with an Asda, Côte de Beaune-Villages I had recently at £17. regardless of a Decanter endorsement.

Personally I would stick with The Wine Society offerings because they are mostly no more expensive than stuff available on the high street, and several of them around the £10 mark I’ve tried and enjoyed. Except that 2022 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Quincié that Brian mentions on a deal at Waitrose sounds very enticing.

Brian Elliott

Thanks Eddie; good to hear from you as always. It is good to remind ourselves of the higher overall quality available in the UK compared to 40 years ago. Be nice if modern Beaujolais was a major beneficiary of the resulting changed perspectives.

Richard Wyndham

Looking back on cellar tracker, I’ve drunk, and much liked, vintages of Beaujolais Quincié from Louis Jadot and from Stephane Aviron (from The Wine Society). I’ve never had anything less than very good from Jadot, and the 2022 Aviron is currently at £10.50 from TWS – with good member reviews – I’ve got a bottle arriving tomorrow!
On a separate note, I look out for The Discovery Series wines whenever I visit Sainsburys. These wines seem to appear without any fanfare, often not listed on their web site, and when gone, they are gone! Earlier this week I came across No 25 – a 2021 Morador Pinot Noir from Patagonia. I thought it had a vg Pinot nose, nice acidity and fruit. At £14, down from £16, decent value, but worth a go, particularly for the ever hopeful PN fans.
( I’ve started to compare buying pricey Red Burgundy with attending a Bob Dylan concert: it’s legendary; capable of magical moments; extremely expensive; very often a tad disappointing; and entices you to go/buy again in the optimistic hope that next time will be great!)

Keith Evans

Given the mention of Sainsbury’s Discovery Collection and today’s discussion of Gamay-based Beaujolais reminds me that there was a decent DC Gamay IGP Comté Tolosan in Sainsburys for £9 back in October. Sadly it seems no longer available. But at the time I mentioned it in comments below Brian’s recommendation of Aldi’s 2022 Specially Selected Gamay Rouge – https://midweekwines.co.uk/a-red-letter-day-for-aldi/. If you like Beaujolais / Gamay then perhaps it’s worth a trip to Aldi to see if their Comté Tolosan Gamay is still on the shelves? It’s still listed on the website – https://groceries.aldi.co.uk/en-GB/p-specially-selected-gamay-rouge-75cl/4061459337082

Brian Elliott

Thanks Keith – good to remind us about that Aldi gamay. Like you and Richard, I am perplexed by Sainsbury’s Discovery range. It has some great wines but by the time I have secured a bottle, tasted it, written up my thoughts for a recommendation, things have often moved on. Perhaps I must try a bit harder.

Brian Elliott

As Eddie suggests in an earlier comment here (and your man Bob D would endorse) “The Times They Are a-Changin”. Red Burgundy does indeed have rivals these days. Even if those countries cannot quite match the premiership level of top Burgundy, they often provide great value at modest prices while ticking many boxes for what pinot noir does well.

Paul Davies

Sainsbury’s Beaujolais Villages Coteaux Granitiques Taste the Difference is a very attractive buy ,especially at the present deal.Down from £11 to £8 and on buy any three or more TTD wines until February 20th with 25% off.
A mellow, juicy and velvet textured Gamay from 50 year old vines with cherry and blueberry flavours to the fore.A rather nicely made, fresh red wine.

Eddie Walker

Oh my word Paul … now there’s a deal!!! I will have some of that. I notice that the 25% off is on for a couple of weeks?? Cheers for the heads up.

Brian Elliott

As Eddie says a bit later, that is a great tip, Paul. Thanks for having such impressive wine antennae.

Chris Scott

Excellent stuff Richard and some good pointers from the “editor”. Agree that everyone knows the name but don’t understand it. Among wine friends I find Beaujolais as a Marmite wine. Happy to be in the love it camp and do enjoy that Louis Jadot. Mate works for Sainsbury’s so he’ll be getting an order after this. Cheers for that Paul.

Brian Elliott

As you have probably guessed, I am in the Beaujolais “love camp” too and it is heartening to see how much excitement the region is creating among regular MidWeekers.

Eddie Walker

Like Richard I have a TWS delivery imminent, ordered yesterday and will be here tomorrow. I wanted a Pinot Noir so settled on the Spätburgunder Ruppertsberg 2022 as well as a couple of half bottles, reduced, of the Societies Sicilian red.

That was before I picked-up on what Paul told us about that TTD Beaujolais Granitiques at Sainsbury’s so off I went to capitalise on such a deal that would have been £11 down to £6 if they’d had any, that they didn’t. Hence I refer to Keith and Brian’s comments on Sainsbury’s Discovery range that indeed can be very impressive and interesting, if only bottles were available by the time we lesser mortals get wind of what is supposed to be current.

In lieu then of the missing Beaujolais, that may be in stock before the deal finishes, I did find some Piedmont TTD Dolcetto D’Acqui 2022, a rare find indeed on the high street, that was £11 to £9 to £6.75 that I’ll take all day long. All red berry and strawberry sweet so I suspect it could come close to a Gamay Noir! There’s a TTD Marrema Toscana too that’s £10.50 down to £6 that’s a steal too.

I like Richard’s Bob Dylan concert analogy btw. I know exactly what he means!

Paul Davies

Hello Eddie,
I would not want you to miss out on the Beaujolais Granitiques.May I suggest that you ask about click and collect at your local Sainsbury’s ?.The wine is in stock online (today) and many other TTD wines on the 25% offer are available to order on line.My understanding is that if your order is over £40,there is no charge.Might help.

Eddie Walker

PS .. should have said … that Dolcetto D’Acqui IS from the Discovery Range #27! I think when the word is out that it’s there at the money being asked it will disappear very quickly.

Richard Wyndham

Thanks to Eddie and Paul for recommendations and alerting to TTD 25% offer.
There is scope for confusion as the 25% TTD offer is for “selected TTD” wines. And on the shelves many TTD wines had a specific label stating 25% off, some didn’t. I bought 4 TTD bottles, 3 of which stated the 25% off, and 1 didn’t. Pleased to say that I got 25% off all 4.
BTW really like the Dolcetto (No 27) – like a Beaujolais with Italian attitude – cracking value at £6.57 nett!

Brian Elliott

Thanks for alerting us to the confusion, and glad you got the best of the deal. I rather like your description of Dolcetto which seems more appropriate than its literal name “little sweet one” as that seldom proves to be an accurate description.


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