France’s Beaujolais region and their traditional gamay grape are known to many wine drinkers for the annual Beaujolais Nouveau celebration. On the third Thursday of every November, the area releases bottles of its latest harvest — a fresh, easy-drinking preview of that year’s new vintage.
Naturally, there is much more to Beaujolais beyond its famous holiday. This was the theme of a tasting in New York City last week, hosted by Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, the region’s legendary wine merchant, and their U.S. import partner, Quintessential Wines.
“As a wine lover, you do not have to choose between Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau,” said Romain Teyteau, Les Vins Georges Duboeuf export director, North America. “You can love both.”
Much is to love about Beaujolais. Such as the region’s underrepresented whites. Making up only 1% of the area’s viticultural production, they are mostly chardonnay.
Or the 2020 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages (suggested retail price: $17.99). This red blend is 100% gamay (like the remainder of the wines) and comprises this appellation’s 38 villages. Elegant simplicity, with the fresh black fruits and light tannins that define gamay. Here is your entry point to the broader world of Beaujolais.
And what a world there is. The 2020 Chateau de Saint-Amour ($31.99) comes from the region’s northmost and smallest cru. Darker cherry and riper berries pair with silkier tannins for this round, rich wine.
Standing out in the tasting was the 2020 Clos des Quatre Vents Fleurie ($31.99). Growing a little darker now in fruit flavors, this wine with an evocative name also shows impeccable balance — perfect, really. Smooth and velvety, this comes from 50-year-old vines at a historic estate, Domaine des Quatre Vents, located in the center of the ten Beaujolais crus.
We continued across the winemaking region. All the different takes on gamay highlighted the grape’s pleasant red fruit and easy drinkability, with plenty of aging potential. The lineup included 2020 Domaine de Javernière Cote du Py Morgon ($34.99) with a little black pepper, 2020 Chateau des Capitans Julienas ($31.99) with a little white pepper, and 2019 Moulin-à-Vent ($34.99). Each stood up against the perfectly seared rib eye served by Benjamin Steakhouse Prime.
“I think Beaujolais is having a moment right now,” Teyteau said. Especially among younger drinkers, who appreciate the region because “these wines are simple, not pretentious. What we like about Beaujolais is that it tastes like Beaujolais, and is not trying to mimic other regions.”
Younger drinkers also like to learn about and appreciate the people behind the brands. “The wines of Beaujolais are like the people of Beaujolais,” Teyteau proposed. “They’re authentic, cheerful, generous, good company, unpretentious. This isn’t like at chateaus elsewhere, where you need to make a special appointment, and even then they have to deign you worthy of a single drop of their sacred wine.”
Being food friendly is another advantage for Beaujolais. “No offense, but I think a lot of domestic wines here kill the food because they’re so high-alcohol, high in tannis,” Teyteau said. “Beaujolais is more subtle, lighter, more acidic, and goes well with food. Especially the lighter kind of dishes that Americans are eating now.”
That said, the rib eye was no problem with any of these reds. Nor is the idea of aging Beaujolais. Teyteau pointed out several recent vintages as particularly worthy of your cellar: 2011, 2015 and 2019. “With Beaujolais, you’re not taking a huge risk, because it’s so affordable,” Teyteau said. “Buy a case and taste it every year to see how it evolves.”
Beaujolais beyond Nouveau is “still a niche sale,” Teyteau admitted, “but it’s getting there. People fall in love with French wine first through Beaujolais.”