Beaujolais wine region – great Gamay

The Beaujolais wine region sits below the main Burgundy region and above the city of Lyon. Here Gamay is king but Chardonnay can also be found.

We have one producer in this region, namely the amazing Michel Guignier who produces stunning Gamay wines with depth, energy and a wonderful lightness of touch.

Where is Beaujolais?

The region within which these wines can be produced lies above the famous city of Lyon in the Rhone Valley and extends north towards the conventional region of Burgundy.

We have used our words advisedly in the previous paragraph because a few hundred years ago the Dukes of Burgundy (including Philip the Bold (1342 – 1404) and Philip the Good) didn’t recognise Beaujolais as part of Burgundy.

So, for example, when Philip the Bold ordered that Gamay vines growing in Burgundy be pulled up and destroyed, he wasn’t interested in the vines of Gamay growing in Beaujolais, rather he thought he was protecting the good name of Burgundy by having only his favourite grape, Pinot Noir, for making red wines.

More recently, it has become recognised as part of Burgundy and, for example, if a producer grows Chardonnay in Beaujolais they have the choice of labelling it as either Beaujolais Blanc or Bourgogne Blanc. Similarly, for red wines they can use the Coteaux Bourguignons appellation for Pinot Noir wines grown there.

Beaujolais appellations

There are three broad appellations in Beaujolais namely:

  • Beaujolais
  • Beaujolais-Villages
  • Beaujolais Cru

Each of these has a number of sub-appellations. For example, the Beaujolais appellation can be used for either red or white wines with the addition of Blanc and Noir respectively. They must be made from Chardonnay and Gamay respectively.

The Villages appellation can be used by some 38 villages where the name of the village can be attached. For example if the grapes were grown in the commune of Saint-Etienne-des-Oullières (which is in the far south of the defined area) then the wine could be labelled as Beaujolais-Villages Saint-Etienne-des-Oullières because it is one of the 38 villages where it is permitted to ujse the village name.

Here is a complete list of villages where the name of the village can be added to the appellation:

In the département of Rhône:
Les Ardillats, Beaujeu, Blacé, Cercié, Charentay, Chénas, Chiroubles, Denicé, Emeringes, Fleurie, Juliénas, Jullié, Lancié, Lantignié, Marchampt, Montmelas-Saint-Sorlin, Odenas, Le Perréon, Quincié-en-Beaujolais, Régnié-Durette, Rivolet, Saint-Didier-sur-Beaujeu, Saint-Etienne-des-Oullières, Saint-Etienne-la-Varenne, Saint-Julien, Saint-Lager, Salles-Arbuissonnas-en-Beaujolais, Vaux-en-Beaujolais, Vauxrenard, Villié-Morgon.
In the département of Saône-et-Loire :
Chânes, La Chapelle-de-Guinchay, Leynes, Pruzilly, Romanèche-Thorins, Saint-Amour-Bellevue, Saint-Symphorien-d’Ancelles, Saint-Vérand

The very best red wines are made in ten communes where the terroir lends itself to the production of fine Gamay wines. The ten villages are St-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. We have arranged the villages from north to south. We have visited a number of these areas over the years and tasted wines from most of them and there is no doubt that wines produced by good winemakers on the best areas of these cru areas will be superior to those produced in the other areas.

Beaujolais appellations map

The following map gives you an idea of where the Beaujolais appellations are to be found. The first thng you will see is that this area lies between the major city of Lyon and the smaller but interesting wine town of Macon.

The Beaujolais region lies to the west of the Saône River and the major A6 freeway that runs from Paris, across to Chablis, down to Beaune in Burgundy, then down to Lyon past Beaujolais.

You can see from the map that the “best” areas for growing Gamay are clustered in the north of Beaujolais. The Villages appellations surround the cru appellations and then the general Beaujolais area surrounds the Villages area.

How are the wines made?

Typically the wines are made using a variation of carbonic maceration where the whole bunches are placed in a large container (made from wood, fibreglass or stainless steel) which is then flooded with carbon dioxide.

Our producer

Michel Guignier

You can also read mopre about Beaujolais on the official Beaujolais site which you can reach by clicking on the following link to the English language site here.