Here are the three and a half reasons that I decided to tackle the Beaujolais region, here, in the Burgundy Report:
- I really find it hard to find new commentary, in English, on Beaujolais – I think Neal Martin has been doing some recent good work, but many ‘commercial’ critics seem to ignore the region – at least my notes, like the whole of Burgundy Report, will be open to all 18 months after their publication.
- The vast majority of burgundy buyers are being priced out of their historic purchases – mere villages wines of the Côte de Nuits now command €40, €50, €60 and more for a bottle – I’m lucky to have put a cellar together during a phase of more modest pricing, so I can still drink burgundies on a daily basis, if I wish, but very few new buyers can say the same. And it’s not just a question of price, it’s also a question of access to modest wines from great producers. So it’s really time to work on augmenting the list of what to drink – Burgundy Report has vanishing relevance if it only talks about wines you can’t afford or source.
- It was this tasting in December 2015 that really turned my head – here were wines that didn’t just age, there were GREAT wines, IMPORTANT wines at this tasting, and importantly, they were also wines for all pockets.
- And the half reason? Well, despite impressions to the contrary, Beaujolais is a part of Burgundy. Yes it uses a different grape, yes it is actually in the département of the Rhône, yes it has much prettier countryside than the Côte d’Or, yes it has a completely different marketing organisation, and no, the north and south of Burgundy really don’t speak with one voice – or even together very much – but Beaujolais remains an important area within ‘Greater Burgundy.’
After my ‘test visits and tastings’ in April and May 2016 – 47 producers and many blind wines tasted – I can now confirm that given the quantity of great wines that I encountered, I’ll be adding ‘Beaujolais’ to my visit calendar each year in February, directly after my Chablis visits – so February 2017 for Beaujolais 2015.
The structure of the internal Beaujolais Market
(Inter Beaujolais or UIVB) was formed in 1959 and has responsibility for the 12 Beaujolais appellations. This encompasses an area of 16,000 hectares in two départments (the Rhône and Saone et Loire), producing roughly 100 million bottles per year, representing nearly 2,000 winemakers, 12 wine cooperatives and over 150 Maisons de négoce.
*This is the regional equivalent of Beaune’s BIVB
Whilst the merchants of (northern) Burgundy have a strong hold on their region’s wines – 50-55% of all those bottles going through their hands – the négociant aspect of Beaujolais is even higher with at least 75% of production going through the hands of a négoce. In this case, a mix of the négociants of Burgundy* and Beaujolais.
*I will use ‘Burgundy’ as a generic term for northern Burgundy, because (unfortunately) whilst Beaujolais is ‘in theory’ a part of Burgundy, it is anything but in terms of contacts, markets and commercial organisation.
According to the FNEB (who has members is both regions) Beaujolais exports are annually worth about €120 million, though their land generates half the revenue (for regional wines) per hectare vs Burgundy; €10,000 hectare vs closer to €17,000 in Burgundy. Certain sections of the press are beginning to show an interest in the wines of Beaujolais, but the public still much less so. “Brouilly works well in Paris, Moulin à Vent and St.Amour still sell very well, though you will still earn less than for a Bourgogne Rouge if you sell a Moulin à Vent!”
Côteaux Bourguignone is a baseline, in theory it can be all gamay and both regions can sell it; Beaujolais is happy to have a ‘Bourguignone’ label, indeed Beaujolais producers will be allowed to start again with a Bourgogne Rouge label (they already have a Bourgogne Blanc) but it could be some years before that label arrives, as it’s fair to say that this news isn’t greeted cordially by many in Burgundy. Cremant is growing in both Beaujolais and Burgundy – but so are the prices – but to-date there is good cooperation between the regions.
Harvest declaration – AOC Beaujolais
|hl: 5 year av.|
|COTE DE BROUILLY||15,009||15,213||13,397||14,155|
|MOULIN A VENT||26,192||29,043||23,428||25,740|
|BEAUJOLAIS ROUGE SUPERIOR||–||3,049||–||610|
|BEAUJOLAIS VILLAGES ROUGE||180,304||193,850||128,727||171,182|
|BEAUJOLAIS VILLAGES ROSE||2,563||2,405||1,689||2,572|
|BEAUJOLAIS VILLAGES BLANC||2,481||3,066||2,866||2,813|
Although I don’t have the latest Côte d’Or figures, you can still make some comparisons to those tables here.