Why Crus Du Beaujolais Wines Deserve Renewed Attention | Media Hard

Why Crus Du Beaujolais Wines Deserve Renewed Attention

Why Crus Du Beaujolais Wines Deserve Renewed Attention

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Credit: Tom Mullen

The restored windmill, or ‘moulin-à-vent’ was first built in 1490

Only after music is turned down do we appreciate the beauty of background sounds.

‘Music’ can be compared to the once popular wave of Beaujolais Nouveau juice—released on the third Thursday of each November to a worldwide trumpet of marketing hype. This quickly macerated, just-bottled wine is made from lower and medium quality Gamay grapes from the Beaujolais region. The ‘background sounds,’ in contrast, are wines from the top-tier Crus du Beaujolais grapes. Until recently, these have been underplayed and thinly recognized. Now that the era of ‘nouveau’ Beaujolais has passed in popularity, the world is tuning into the vinous jewels produced in this region of France: Crus du Beaujolais wines age well, brim with flavor and are not sold freshly fermented.

Decades ago, the rise in popularity of young, just fermented Beaujolais wine (‘nouveau’) coincided with the light ‘nouvelle cuisine’ of chefs such as Paul Bocuse which at that time—during the latter 20th century—was storming Lyon, Paris and the world .

Worldwide sales of this wine surged.

In 1955, Beaujolais shipped out about 400,000 gallons [15,000 hectoliters] of freshly fermented juice. By 1970 that figure had risen to 2.6 million gallons [100,000 hectoliters]. Yet after 2004, exports of nouveau dropped precipitously (by about 50 percent to the U.S.), while exports of Crus (in volume) are on the rise: they increased by 25% to the U.S. just between mid 2016 and mid 2017.

The Beaujolais wine region stretches 34 miles [55 kilometers] long and over a half dozen miles wide—from north of the city of Lyon to the southern Mâconnais wine region of Burgundy. Beaujolais vineyards—in terms of area—constitute a little more than half those of Napa Valley, twice those of the Finger Lakes wine region within New York, a third of those in Burgundy and less a tenth of the area of Bordeaux vines.

Unlike Burgundy to the north—which predominantly grows Pinot Noir as a red grape—Beaujolais reds are made from the Gamay grape, which better suits the local personality of terroir: soils, geography and climate.

In the 1930’s the Beaujolais wine region began to be formally divided into three segments—lower tier Beaujolais to the south and east, medium ranked Beaujolais Villages predominantly in the north and west, and top tier Crus du Beaujolais to the northdeep within the region, like marrow in a bone. Most of the ten Beaujolais ‘crus’ are associated with a specific village. The value of local land reflects the value of vines. As of 2017, Beaujolais vines can fetch approximately $ 7,200/acre (15,000 Euros/hectare), while Crus du Beaujolais can sell for up to $ 48,000/acre (100,000 Euros/hectare).

I recently visited Moulin-À-Vent, one of the 10 crus within Beaujolais. Moulin-À-Vent means ‘windmill’ and is named not after a village, but for the historic mill, constructed in 1490, that commands an airy view of the Massif Central to the west and fog generated farm fields adjacent to the Sâone River on the east.

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Credit: Tom Mullen

The restored windmill, or ‘moulin-à-vent’ was first built in 1490

Only after music is turned down do we appreciate the beauty of background sounds.

‘Music’ can be compared to the once popular wave of Beaujolais Nouveau juice—released on the third Thursday of each November to a worldwide trumpet of marketing hype. This quickly macerated, just-bottled wine is made from lower and medium quality Gamay grapes from the Beaujolais region. The ‘background sounds,’ in contrast, are wines from the top-tier Crus du Beaujolais grapes. Until recently, these have been underplayed and thinly recognized. Now that the era of ‘nouveau’ Beaujolais has passed in popularity, the world is tuning into the vinous jewels produced in this region of France: Crus du Beaujolais wines age well, brim with flavor and are not sold freshly fermented.

Decades ago, the rise in popularity of young, just fermented Beaujolais wine (‘nouveau’) coincided with the light ‘nouvelle cuisine’ of chefs such as Paul Bocuse which at that time—during the latter 20th century—was storming Lyon, Paris and the world .

Worldwide sales of this wine surged.

In 1955, Beaujolais shipped out about 400,000 gallons [15,000 hectoliters] of freshly fermented juice. By 1970 that figure had risen to 2.6 million gallons [100,000 hectoliters]. Yet after 2004, exports of nouveau dropped precipitously (by about 50 percent to the U.S.), while exports of Crus (in volume) are on the rise: they increased by 25% to the U.S. just between mid 2016 and mid 2017.

The Beaujolais wine region stretches 34 miles [55 kilometers] long and over a half dozen miles wide—from north of the city of Lyon to the southern Mâconnais wine region of Burgundy. Beaujolais vineyards—in terms of area—constitute a little more than half those of Napa Valley, twice those of the Finger Lakes wine region within New York, a third of those in Burgundy and less a tenth of the area of Bordeaux vines.

Unlike Burgundy to the north—which predominantly grows Pinot Noir as a red grape—Beaujolais reds are made from the Gamay grape, which better suits the local personality of terroir: soils, geography and climate.

In the 1930’s the Beaujolais wine region began to be formally divided into three segments—lower tier Beaujolais to the south and east, medium ranked Beaujolais Villages predominantly in the north and west, and top tier Crus du Beaujolais to the northdeep within the region, like marrow in a bone. Most of the ten Beaujolais ‘crus’ are associated with a specific village. The value of local land reflects the value of vines. As of 2017, Beaujolais vines can fetch approximately $ 7,200/acre (15,000 Euros/hectare), while Crus du Beaujolais can sell for up to $ 48,000/acre (100,000 Euros/hectare).

I recently visited Moulin-À-Vent, one of the 10 crus within Beaujolais. Moulin-À-Vent means ‘windmill’ and is named not after a village, but for the historic mill, constructed in 1490, that commands an airy view of the Massif Central to the west and fog generated farm fields adjacent to the Sâone River on the east.

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