Why Big Red Diary?

1. Beaujolais – why it’s important, & its market in context

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


*Interprofessional des Vins du Beaujolais:
(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
Appellation 2013
hl: 5 year av.
BROUILLY 56,179 61,816 52,848 56,309
CHENAS 9,564 11,133 8,206 9,534
CHIROUBLES 13,157 16,210 12,117 13,792
COTE DE BROUILLY 15,009 15,213 13,397 14,155
FLEURIE 34,630 41,183 34,043 35,552
JULIENAS 24,503 25,232 22,060 23,959
MORGON 51,231 54,584 45,208 48,625
MOULIN A VENT 26,192 29,043 23,428 25,740
REGNIE 16,256 20,648 13,828 15,114
ST.AMOUR 15,659 15,438 14,381 14,921
CRUS TOTAL 262,380 290,500 239,516 257,702
BEAUJOLAIS ROUGE 227,540 237.583 198,811 224,564
BEAUJOLAIS VILLAGES ROUGE 180,304 193,850 128,727 171,182
BEAUJOLAIS ROSE 11,717 10,600 8,622 11,075
BEAUJOLAIS VILLAGES ROSE 2,563 2,405 1,689 2,572
BEAUJOLAIS BLANC 8,403 10,234 8,498 8,838
BEAUJOLAIS VILLAGES BLANC 2,481 3,066 2,866 2,813
TOTAL BEAUJOLAIS 695,388 751,287 588,729 679,355

Although I don’t have the latest Côte d’Or figures, you can still make some comparisons to those tables here.

One response to “1. Beaujolais – why it’s important, & its market in context”

  1. tick4d

    I am glad to finally see the comment: “the vast majority of burgundy buyers are being priced out of their historic purchases…” somewhere from a writer on wine. A touch of reality is like a gentle breeze on a hot night – refreshing! It makes good sense to turn your face towards the Beaujolais for some relief. Will the Burgundian market suffer the same fate as that of Bordeaux when Chinese buyers discover the next bright, shiny thing, I wonder? Not to the same extent, given the vastly smaller Burgundian volumes, I suspect, but perhaps a little.

    Roll on next February I say!

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