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The 12 Appellations of Beaujolais: A Deep Dive

Spanning 14,500 hectares, the Beaujolais vineyards are dominated by Gamay grapes, making up 96%, while Chardonnay covers the remaining 4%. The region’s diversity is showcased through its 12 appellations – Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages, Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Régnié, and Saint-Amour. Each has a unique blend of terrain and soil characteristics. Notably, some vineyards even possess Lieux-Dits, known for producing the region’s most premium wines.

This intricate terrain mosaic naturally leads to a diverse wine palette from the 12 AOCs (Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée) of Beaujolais. The AOC Beaujolais, located in the south, is characterized by its Mesozoic Era soils, composed of volcanic rock, shale, and limestone. The result? Vibrant, full-bodied red wines with aromatic floral and fruity undertones. In contrast, nearby steep terrains in AOC Beaujolais have minimal limestone and ancient alluvium, producing round reds, fragrant mineral whites, and vivacious, fruity rosés.

1. Beaujolais

Origin: This broad appellation encompasses the entire region, serving as an introduction to the Beaujolais wine profile.

Taste: Known for its lively freshness, anticipate a dominant red berry essence, coupled with subtle undertones of cranberry and raspberry.

Vineyards: Predominantly sandy soils give the vines their characteristic vibrancy.

Perfect Pairing: Light appetizers, charcuterie, or picnic fare.

2. Beaujolais Villages

Origin: Situated in the northern hilly terrains, this appellation covers 38 municipalities.

Taste: Elevated intensity, characterized by structured tannins and a pronounced fruity depth.

Vineyards: The granitic and clay-rich soils add complexity to the wines.

Perfect Pairing: Grilled poultry dishes, turkey salads, or tangy barbecue sauces.

3. Brouilly

Origin: Encircling the iconic Mont Brouilly, it’s the most extensive cru.

Taste: A harmonious blend of red fruits complemented by subtle mineral whispers.

Vineyards: A diverse terrain featuring granite, limestone, and volcanic soil.

Perfect Pairing: Smoked pork, roasted ham, or mild cheeses.

4. Côte de Brouilly

Origin: The vineyards on the slopes of Mont Brouilly promise wines with character.

Taste: Intricate, mingling fruit and floral hints, ending in a pronounced mineral trace.

Vineyards: The volcanic blue stones of Mont Brouilly impart a unique minerality.

Perfect Pairing: Roast duck, quails, or tangy Asian cuisine.

5. Régnié

Origin: A realm of sandy terrains, recently recognized as a distinct cru in 1988.

Taste: Sophisticated and graceful with dominant red cherry allure.

Vineyards: Ancient pink granite soil rich in minerals.

Perfect Pairing: Oven-baked salmon, grilled sardines, or summer salads.

6. Morgon

Origin: Encompassing the Corcelles slopes, Morgon boasts wines with an aging potential.

Taste: Deeply robust, with rich notes of plum, apricot, and a hint of earthy undertones.

Vineyards: Decomposed schist and volcanic soils lend depth to the wines.

Perfect Pairing: Hearty beef casseroles, grilled lamb chops, or savory pies.

7. Chiroubles

Origin: Gracing the highest altitudes of Beaujolais.

Taste: Exceptionally aromatic, its elegance is interwoven with subtle floral fragrances.

Vineyards: Sandy soils and cool climate enhance the grape’s aromatics.

Perfect Pairing: Light vegetarian dishes, soft cheeses, or fresh fruit platters.

8. Fleurie

Origin: Nestled between Moulin-à-Vent and Chiroubles.

Taste: Velvety and chic, this wine dances with floral melodies, especially violets.

Vineyards: Pink granitic soils are responsible for its delicate nature.

Perfect Pairing: Poached chicken, creamy pastas, or mushroom risotto.

9. Moulin-à-Vent

Origin: Named after a historic local windmill.

Taste: Among the most full-bodied of Beaujolais, it offers spicy notes paired with ripe red fruits.

Vineyards: Manganese-rich soils contribute to the wine’s aging potential.

Perfect Pairing: Spicy meat dishes, mature cheeses, or roasted leg of lamb.

10. Chénas

Origin: The intimate and smallest cru of Beaujolais.

Taste: An enchanting forest-like bouquet intertwined with fruity and spicy accents.

Vineyards: Old vines root deep into its quartz-rich soils.

Perfect Pairing: Game dishes, mature blue cheeses, or walnut salads.

11. Juliénas

Origin: Emerging from the picturesque village of Jullié.

Taste: Bold and energetic, flavors of strawberry dance with hints of cinnamon and earth.

Vineyards: A blend of granite, clay, and schist soils.

Perfect Pairing: Barbecued meats, mushroom stews, or spicy Asian curries.

12. Saint-Amour

Origin: The northernmost appellation, often associated with romance due to its name.

Taste: Light, fruity, and effervescent, with whispers of peach, pear, and red currant.

Vineyards: Limestone and clay give the wines their signature finesse.

Perfect Pairing: Delicate seafood, roasted chicken, or creamy sauces.

The 12 appellations of Beaujolais each tell a story—a fusion of earth, climate, and centuries-old winemaking traditions. As you explore these wines, you’re not just tasting them; you’re experiencing the soul of Beaujolais.