Beaujolaise 1 of 2

Beaujolais is wine region where French label laws, clever marketing, and Californiated confusion collided to sour people on great value.

Today, first of two parts on Beaujolais.

Background: Beaujolais is made in Beaujolais region of Burgandy using Gamay grape and fermentation called “carbonic maceration” that produces wine with profuse fruit flavors and vivacious aromas. Often described as white wine that happens to be red.

First problem: France. Best Beaujolais comes from 10 villages in northern part of Beaujolais, but French label laws don’t allow Beaujolais as lead name on label. Wines with prominent Beaujolais name on the label are the lesser Beaujolais wines. Huh? More next week.

Second problem: marketing masterstroke. Many know Beaujolais from efforts of über-marketer Georges Duboeuf, whose Beaujolais Nouveau goes vineyard to glass in 6-8 weeks and features flashy, flowery new label each year.

Duboeuf’s marketing turned second/third-tier grapes into fast francs (later, euros). Eventually, public catches on. Today, Nouveau no longer new and trendy. Unfortunately, many people still associate Beaujolais with successful gimmick. Ironic kicker: Duboeuf makes good non-Nouveau Beaujolais wines that are easily available in U.S.

Third problem: Californians labeled nondescript wine “Gamay Beaujolais” even though it was not made with Gamay grape and not related to Beaujolais style. West Coasters also named grape Napa Gamay even though it was not related to Gamay grape. Laws now prohibit both, but damage done.

Why not forget about Beaujolais and move on? Do so and you will miss out on extremely good, excellently priced wines. More next week.


• Beaujolais Nouveau. What the heck, give it a shot. On sale just before Thanksgiving, fades fast after that. Find some now, likely a bargain price.

• Jadot Beaujolais-Villages. Step above Nouveau, from grapes throughout the region. $9

• Duboeuf Chiroubles. One of 10 “Cru du Beaujolais”. Delicious value. $12