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To generalize, these red wines are moderately structured, but always with a backbone and edge of tannins to hold together all the delicious cherry fruitiness that is associated with the variety. From there, the differences between the crus are numerous and the various expressions of Gamay are worth the discovery.
Starting with the lightest of the crus—Régnié and Brouilly—these make wines that bring out tons of fruit and freshness. The more familiar is of the two might be Brouilly as it’s the larger region of the two and can be more commonly found in the U.S. market.
In terms of structure, these appellations are followed by Chiroubles and Saint-Amour. Chiroubles boasts the vineyards in elevation of the 10 crus. It produces wines that are ultrafresh and feather-light in tannins. As these wines mature, they quickly acquire a velvety texture. Saint-Amour, the closest to Burgundy, is a cru that brings incredible depth to Gamay’s bright cherry fruit.
Continuing up the weight scale are Chénas and Côte de Brouilly. Chénas is a long, thin appellation, surrounding hills and forests, and makes wines that balance great fruitiness with a firm framing of by tannins. Côte de Brouilly, on the slopes of Mount Brouilly, an extinct volcano, is small but packed with some fine, serious producers.
Juliénas and Fleurie continue up the scale in terms of weight and concentration. Juliénas is where Beaujolais cherry flavors really come into their own. Bold flavors and generous tannins underly this fruit, so that we have wines with structure and ageability. Fleurie is home to many top producers who benefit from great slopes and rich, concentrated wines.
By general consensus, at the top of the weight scale are Moulin-à-Vent and Morgon. There is no village in Moulin-à-Vent, just a windmill and vines. This appellation produces the most elegant, long-lived wines in Beaujolais, aided by some impressive producers. Many regard Moulin-à-Vent as the king, but for my money Morgon is the emperor. Again, the concentration of fine producers and some great vineyards (Côte du Py is a major source of fine wines) gives us some of the wines of Beaujolais that can last almost as long as many fine red Burgundy.
Here are 10 wines to taste through the Beaujolais crus.
Château de Javernand 2020 Vieilles Vignes (Chiroubles); $25, Buy on Vivino. From the estate’s oldest vines, this wine is concentrated while keeping freshness and a light structure… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Domaines Dominique Piron 2020 Côte du Py (Morgon); $29, Buy on Vivino. This structured wine from vines planted on the volcanic soil of the Côte de Py slope is young but already impressive… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW
Domaine Richard Rottiers 2020 Champ de Cour (Moulin-à-Vent); $40, Buy on Vivino. From one of the top vineyards in Moulin-à-Vent, this wine is rich in black fruits and has a powerful structure… SEE SCORE AND FULL REVIEW