I\u2019ve tasted Beaujolais\u2019s future, and it is good.\r\n\r\nThe wines of this oft-maligned region are changing fast. A renewed emphasis on quality is propelling these 100-percent Gamay wines onto the radar screens of collectors and drinkers alike. And the crus\u2014the villages in the north of the region\u2014are leading the way.\r\n\r\nA Beaujolais cru is a small village, rather than an individual vineyard as it is in Burgundy. Producers are working to define distinct climats, which are the equivalent to single vineyards, within the crus. In the meantime, look for individual vineyard names on labels.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nGranite, in colors from blue to pink, is the key to Beaujolais quality. The vineyards are on the eastern flank of the Massif Central, the volcanic mountain range that dominates much of south-central France.\r\n\r\nOf the 10 crus, the five you\u2019re most likely to find are Juli\u00e9nas, Moulin-\u00e0-Vent, Fleurie, Morgon and Brouilly. The others are Ch\u00e9nas, Chiroubles, C\u00f4te de Brouilly, R\u00e9gni\u00e9 and Saint-Amour.\r\n\r\nWines from these crus can stand against many fine Burgundies, and at a fraction of the price. They have fruit, structure and ageability, yet are easy to drink upon release. What more could any wine drinker ask?\r\n\r\n\r\nJuli\u00e9nas\r\nCharm and Fruit\r\nIn the morning sun, the caf\u00e9 in Juli\u00e9nas comes to life. Wine drinkers set up for the morning, while coffee drinkers stop for a quick shot of caffeine.\r\n\r\nAt one end of the village, Sylvain T\u00eate of Domaine du Clos du Fief pours me his wines. Sylvain, 27, works alongside his dad, Michel, after stints in Australia and New Zealand. It\u2019s a voyage typical of the new generation that is taking over in Beaujolais.\r\n\r\nHis wood-aged T\u00eate de Cuv\u00e9e (no pun on the family name intended, he says) is from blue granite, which provides concentration and ageability. But even in this wine, the bright fruit and charming accessibility epitomized by his Cuv\u00e9e Tradition (aged in tank) are apparent. The two wines reflect the two sides of the appellation.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s like drinking cherries, but with just enough tannin.\u201d\u00a0\u2014Pasacal Aufranc\r\n\r\nNext, I meet one of the few organic growers in Beaujolais. The traditional bush vines prevalent in Beaujolais make it difficult to cultivate the soil without damaging the vines, says Louis-Clement David of Domaine David-Beaup\u00e8re. New plantings, with the vines trained on wires, make organic viticulture practical for a grower with just a few acres.\r\n\r\nDavid\u2019s wines come from two areas of Juli\u00e9nas: climat-worthy Vayolette, in the granite hills to the west, and La Botti\u00e8re, on flat land to the east. Again, the wines take on differing styles: perfumed and structured from the granite, charming fruit on the plain. Age the first while you drink the second.\r\n\r\nMy last stop of the day, Pascal Aufranc\u2019s winery, is literally at the end of the road. The steep, narrow road navigates up a side valley and runs right under his archway, and then stops. Not that his range of wines couldn\u2019t stop traffic by themselves.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s like drinking cherries, but with just enough tannin,\u201d Aufranc says. The wines are certainly charmers, marked by flavors of black cherries, pepper and delicious acidity.\r\n\r\nFor all that appeal, Juli\u00e9nas is one of three blue-granite hubs among the region\u2019s crus. The granite, Aufranc says, \u201cruns like a highway through the heart of the Juli\u00e9nas appellation.\u201d\r\n\r\nThat provides the tannin, while the clay and chalk topsoil give the fruit. It\u2019s a winning combination.\r\nTop Juli\u00e9nas Wines\r\nPascal Aufranc 2015 Les Cerisiers Vieilles Vignes (Juli\u00e9nas); $22, 92 points.\u00a0Named after the cherry trees that edge this vineyard, the wine is rich and structured. It has concentrated butts and ripe black-cherry flavors. Full bodied and with an aging potential, this fine wine should be drunk from 2018. Zancanella Importing. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\nGeorges Duboeuf 2015 Ch\u00e2teau des Capitans (Juli\u00e9nas); $20, 90 points.\u00a0This cru estate is owned by the Duboeuf family. The wine has some wood aging that adds to the rich texture while not detracting from the ripe juicy red-cherry fruit. With its tannins, the wine could age, so drink from late 2017.\r\n\r\n\r\nMoulin-\u00e0-Vent\r\nWines with Body\r\nThere\u2019s no village of Moulin-\u00e0-Vent, just a windmill (moulin \u00e0 vent). Sitting at 600 feet above sea level, it dominates the landscape.\r\n\r\n\u201cOn a clear day, you can see Mont Blanc,\u201d says Brice Laffond, winemaker at Ch\u00e2teau du Moulin-\u00e0-Vent.\r\n\r\nI have to take him at his word. Despite many visits to Beaujolais, I\u2019ve never seen Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, from here.\r\n\r\nIn front of the chateau, within sight of the windmill, is a small parcel called Le Clos. Here, Laffond and the Parinet family, the owners of the estate, experiment with organic and biodynamic cultivation, traditional Beaujolais bush vines and vines on wires. Le Clos is a sign that this estate has become a flagship for the appellation.\r\n\r\nMany of the estate\u2019s wines are meant for aging\u2014Le Champ de Cour, La Rochelle and Clos de Londres, in particular. The first two come from single vineyards that will certainly be designated climats as the program picks up steam. They also show the power of fine Moulin-\u00e0-Vent.\r\n\r\nMoulin-\u00e0-Vent is the most Burgundian of the crus: full bodied and complex, with excellent aging potential.\r\n\r\nThat ageability is confirmed the following day while tasting Anita Kuhnel\u2019s wines. The house and cellar of this former pro cyclist are a far cry from the grandeur of Ch\u00e2teau du Moulin-\u00e0-Vent, but the wines are in a recognizably dense, concentrated style.\r\n\r\nUnder the name Domaine Anita, Kuhnel makes wines from another of the great climats-in-waiting: Rochegr\u00e8s. Because Gamay is so strongly affected by its terroir, she makes a number of single-parcel wines.\r\n\r\n\u201cI believe that a wine should be a reflection of that parcel,\u201d says Kuhnel, who characterizes these wines as suitably combining \u201cpower and elegance.\u201d\r\n\r\nHer top wine from Moulin-\u00e0-Vent is Coeur de Vigneronne, harvested from old vines right in front of her house. It\u2019s a wine smoothed by wood aging, rich and robust, almost Burgundian in style.\r\n\r\nMoulin-\u00e0-Vent is the most Burgundian of the crus: full bodied and complex, with excellent aging potential.\r\nTop Moulin-\u00e0-Vent Wines\r\nRichard Rottiers 2015 Dernier Souffle; $35, 94 points. The wine's name (\u201clast breath\u201d) is based on its origins in vines planted next to a cemetery. Putting that aside, the wine itself is impressive, richly structured and with dense tannins and concentration. The wine with its firm character and ripe black fruit will age. Drink starting from 2019.\u00a0Cellar Selection.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau du Moulin \u00e0 Vent 2012 La Rochelle; $59. 92 points.\u00a0From a single parcel that is above the emblematic windmill of Moulin-\u00e0-Vent, this wine shows its 16 months of wood aging in its smooth and perfumed character. Cherries and freshly ground spice mix with some firm tannins to give structure while leaving room for the fruit. Drink from 2017.\r\n\r\n\r\nFleurie\r\nAromatic and Floral\r\nOf all the crus, Fleurie, just three kilometers south of Rochegr\u00e8s, produces the most aromatic wines. At Domaine des Grands Fiers, there\u2019s a wonderful mix of black cherries, pepper and wild blackberries present in Christian Bernard\u2019s wines. After that perfumed moment, it\u2019s a little disappointing to discover the appellation is said to be named after a Roman legionnaire, Florus.\r\n\r\nThese perfumed beauties can age. Bernard poured a 2009.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt was a really ripe vintage, less dense than 2015, but with the same richness,\u201d he recalled. And so on back to 1991, his first vintage, which, like many aged crus, tastes similar to a mature Pinot Noir.\r\n\r\nBernard\u2019s estate is down the road from the village of Fleurie, where Restaurant Villa Cardinale in the square is packed at lunchtime with hungry vignerons and visitors.\r\n\r\nLooming above the village is Fleurie\u2019s emblematic vineyard: La Madone, named after the La Madone stone chapel at the top. It\u2019s likely to be one of the cru\u2019s climats.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nAudrey Charton, president of the local growers\u2019 syndicat, says that after the cru of Morgon, Fleurie is next in line to designate its notable climates. Along with La Madonne, Les Roches and Grille Midi are likely contenders.\r\n\r\nAt lunch with Jacques Lanson and his family, Christophe, the winemaker of Domaine de Layre-Loup and Jacques\u2019s son, explains that Fleurie and Morgon\u2014more of a powerhouse\u2014are very different.\r\n\r\n\u201cFleurie is delicate,\u201d he says \u201cIt needs kid gloves during fermentation. You need to keep an eye on it all the time.\u201d\r\n\r\nMaybe that\u2019s why there are so many subtle flavors that swirl and tease around the bright cherry fruit in the wines from this cru. It\u2019s elegance with a twist.\r\nTop Fleurie Wines\r\nCh\u00e2teau de Chatelard 2015 Cuv\u00e9e les Vieux Granits (Fleurie); $22, 92 points.\u00a0From vines planted as its name suggests on granite soil, the wine is structured and dense with rich juicy black fruits. Packed with perfumed fruitiness and acidity, the wine is developing well, ready to drink from late 2017. Editors\u2019 Choice.\r\n\r\nDomaine de Leyre-Loup 2013 R\u00e9serve Louis Leyre-Loup Le Regard de l'Ange (Fleurie); $26, 90 points.\u00a0A finely perfumed wine that is now at its peak. It still has tannins along with rich black-cherry fruit and a dense texture. It also has ripe juicy berry and black-currant fruits that are totally ready to enjoy. Drink now.\r\n\r\n\r\nMorgon\r\nPower and Structure\r\nIt\u2019s 7 p.m. on the Thursday before Easter, and Villi\u00e9-Morgon is bustling. Parents and their kids stream into the church of Saint Vincent, while the shops are bursting with Easter eggs and rabbit decorations.\r\n\r\nThis town of 1,700 people is at the center of an appellation that seems to have its act together. While Beaujolais is little more than an hour south of Beaune in Burgundy, it seems a world apart from the grandeur of the C\u00f4te d\u2019Or. Still, Morgon is the cru with a climat spirit that\u2019s closest to what you find in Burgundy.\r\n\r\nMaybe that\u2019s because its vineyards are owned by heavy hitters of Beaujolais crus: Dominique Piron, Jean-Marc Burgaud, Jean Foillard, Mathieu Lapierre and Louis-Claude Desvignes. They make wines that are \u201cserious\u201d when young and that can age for many years, when they become similar to red Burgundy. (To pinote, or become like Pinot Noir, is the local term.)\r\n\r\nWhile many of the Beaujolais crus are granite, Morgon is \u201cgranite and more granite,\u201d says Dominique Piron, who represents the 14th generation of his family to work in Morgon\u2019s vineyards. He\u2019s also president of the Beaujolais Wine Council and a top producer.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe were searching for a name, and our kids were watching a James Bond movie. So we thought, why not?\u201d\u00a0\u2014Jean-Marc Burgaud\r\n\r\nPiron\u2019s production epitomizes what has happened in Morgon. No longer does he make general blends from across the appellation. His wines highlight individual terroirs: the dramatic C\u00f4te du Py, with its bluestone volcanic granite on slopes up to 1,500 feet; Javerni\u00e8res, another outcrop of the same soil; and Les Grands Cras, with its decomposed granite.\r\n\r\nAt Jean-Marc Burgaud\u2019s winery next door, we taste his massive 2015s and lighter 2016s. He likes 2016.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt has all the delicious fruit of great Gamay, while it still has the structure that makes good Morgon,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\nHe also makes wine from another of Morgon\u2019s climats-in-waiting: Les Charmes, whose sandy soils produce wines that are more accessible when young.\r\n\r\nBurgaud\u2019s C\u00f4te du Py reveals \u201cthe tannins that give this vineyard its reputation,\u201d he says.\r\n\r\nThe winemaker offers a surprise at the end of the tasting: a sample of Cuv\u00e9e James, a blend of wines from his C\u00f4te du Py vineyards. Why James?\r\n\r\n\u201cWe were searching for a name, and our kids were watching a James Bond movie. So we thought, why not?\u201d\r\nTop Morgon Wines \r\nJean-Michel Dupr\u00e9 2015 1935 Vieilles Vignes (Morgon); $45, 94 points.\u00a0Planted in 1935, this single vineyard wine is rich and structured. At this stage, it is dominated by firm tannins as much as by the perfumed juicy black fruits. As the wine softens with age, this generous fruitiness will comet through to give a deliciously ripe wine. Drink from 2019. Cellar Selection.\r\n\r\n\r\nBrouilly\r\nOpen and Welcoming\r\nBrouilly is the largest of the Beaujolais crus, and everything about Brouilly is big, including the chateaus and large estates that dominate the region. Winding around the volcanic outcrop of Mont Brouilly (which has its own appellation, C\u00f4te de Brouilly), the 3,000 acres of vines of this appellation produce the softest, most open of all the crus.\r\n\r\nThe wines can be enjoyed the year after harvest. Red cherries, red berries and smooth tannins can give the wines an easy, open character. Nothing to it, you might think. But there is another, more serious side to Brouilly.\r\n\r\nWith Winemaker Jean-Baptiste Bachevillier, I taste a glass of Ch\u00e2teau de Pierreux 2014 R\u00e9serve du Ch\u00e2teau. Bachevillier makes concentrated and properly dense wines from vines up to 150 years old, and ages them in oak. The wine that I taste, at three years old, is just about ready, although it will certainly age well.\r\n\r\nMy vineyard workers hate this vineyard.\u00a0The slope is so steep and so hard to work.\u201d\u00a0\u2014R\u00e9mi Jean\r\n\r\nThat ability to age is something I find more than once in Brouilly. Ch\u00e2teau des Tours is a medieval fortress up a hill and just below Saint-Etienne la Varenne. The 2015 Vielles Vignes from this estate is solid and firm, packed with concentrated black fruit.\r\n\r\nWinemaker R\u00e9mi Jean runs the property and the nearby showpiece Ch\u00e2teau de Corcelles. It\u2019s there, lower down in the sand soils of the plain, that Brouilly shows its gentle side, where it produces wines that are soft, fruity and immediately drinkable.\r\nRobert Perroud, a seventh-generation vigneron, has vines on the west side of the appellation, in the shadow of Mont Brouilly.\r\n\r\nTo get there, the road winds around steep slopes on one side and a drop on the other\u2014not the place to meet an oncoming wine tanker. His vines come from two vineyards: Balloquets and Saburin. He calls his Balloquets wine L\u2019Enfer, meaning \u201chell.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cMy vineyard workers hate this vineyard,\u201d he says. \u201cThe slope is so steep and so hard to work.\u201d\r\n\r\nHis wines bring together the two facets of Brouilly in one glass. The 2016 Cuv\u00e9e Pollen from the Saburin vineyard has delicious, accessible fruit and a firm structure. You can drink the wine young, but you can also wait.\r\n\r\nBecause of the volume produced, Brouilly is easy to find and easy to drink. But don\u2019t dismiss it. The wines have as much character as any of the other Beaujolais crus.\r\n\r\nRobert Perroud 2014 Pollen (Brouilly); $25, 91 points. Made from selected parcels, this wine is structured and firm while not losing sight of rich red berry and cherry flavors. It's a dense wine, the tannins still developing and filling out to balance the fruits. Drink from 2017.\r\n\r\nCh\u00e2teau des Tours 2015 Brouilly; $20, 86 points.\u00a0Planted around a 12th-century fortress, the vines of this estate have given a crisp wine with red-berry fruit. Along with its fruit, the wine has fine bright acidity and a core of dryer tannins. Like most cru wines from Beaujolais's biggest appellation, it is ready to drink now.