The Beaujo You Don’t Know

What do you know about Beaujolais? Sure – cheap & cheerful Beaujolais Nouveau, rah rah big party in November. Great. And??

I want to share the Beaujo you don’t know. The New Beaujolais. Serious, age-worthy, food-friendly, budget Burgundy beauties. There is a surge in quality gamay as of late, promoted worldwide by sommeliers and wine professionals, and propelled here in BC by BCLDB European portfolio manager and buyer, Barbara Philip MW. Perhaps you’ve been fortunate to sit in on one of her passionate seminars for this fragrant, fruity, fresh red wine. Or you’ve walked the aisles in the BCLDB and seen listings for Fleurie, Morgon, Brouilly and more. Or perhaps you’ve been on social media and seen the rallying #GoGamayGo hashtag, populated throughout Canada and beyond by those as passionate about these elegant and bright wines – like me.

Far beyond the marketing gimmickry of Nouveau (as impressive as it may have been), for Beaujolais to survive into the future, the region’s 2,500 small farmers have to get more value for their grapes – and that means serious wines, not low-priced Nouveau. This is where the “New Beaujolais” is rising, with young, eager and studied winemakers either taking on their role in the family winery, or buying up old domains and vineyards that are selling for very reasonable prices. The new generation is eager to apply techniques and skills learned elsewhere (including Burgundy) to gamay wines. Biodynamic farming, low-sulfite wines, wild yeasts, concrete tanks – these are some of the new (historic) practices that are being reintroduced to the region, one where Romans first planted vines 2000 years ago.

These serious wines primarily fall in the 10 Cru – special, recognized and demarcated villages that produce wine of great distinction. The Beaujo Cru are memorized north to south by sommelier students everywhere (Should Julie Care My Flower Can Make Rain Bow Colours is my mnemonic). The wine from each village is unique, based on soils, terrain and terroir, even as the geography from one nearby village spills into the next, following the Saône River flowing down to Lyon. These Cru are so renowned that labels needn’t put ‘Beaujolais’ in the copy, just the village name: Saint Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin à Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly.

I was fortunate to present a line up of all 10 Cru Beaujolais to a group of sommeliers and wine students in Victoria this week. A great geek afternoon, sure, but it was remarkable to me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I was able to find wines from all 10 Cru in BC (impossible just 1-2 years ago), and secondly, the seminar SOLD OUT.


I’ve included notes on a couple of wines from the tasting this week in my column, as well as a savoury, bright Gamay from our BC backyard and an old-world-worthy local beer using sourdough starter.



Orofino Vineyards
Gamay 2012 Celentano Vineyard
Similkameen Valley, BC
* $23

From the stony, steep sided Similkameen Valley comes this single vineyard Cawston Bench Gamay. Planted in 1999 on Stemwinder soils and granitic shale (gamay hearts granite), this bright, fresh red is laced with cured meats, wild strawberry and dusty, fine spiced tannins. There is a swipe of stony minerality throughout, with an alluring bitter cherry note on the finish. Serve slightly chilled, this versatile wine will suit anything from grilled pizza to charcuterie to salmon. Only 100 cases produced, so get searching. 88 points.


lapierre-morgon-b copyCellar Dweller

Marcel Lapierre
Morgon 2011
AC Morgon, Beaujolais, France
$35  +141366

If your only acquaintance with Beaujolais is the baby, carbonically macerated Nouveau style, you owe it to yourself to buy this wine and let me alter your reality. Morgon is widely recognized for producing high quality wines with structure and aging potential, and Marcel Lapierre was famous for risk taking, adventuresome,  uncompromising style – not to mention his leadership in naturalist, biodynamic winemaking. Though we lost Marcel a few years ago, his son Mathiew has carried forward where his father left.  This wine lures with herbs, stone, perfumed wild raspberries and strawberries and intoxicating floral notes. The silky palate is full of cherries – bing and black – perfectly woven with strawberry, flowers, earth, mineral and savoury notes. A complete wine. Lovely structure, dense yet perfumed fruit, bright acid, and a finish that lingers on and on. As much as I enjoyed drinking this right now, I would save any future bottles for 8-10 years. 91 points.



Maison Des Bulliats
Régnié 2012
AC Régnié, Beaujolais, France
$19  +137760

OK – so I’ve exceeded my $15 Budgeteer budget here. But there is no way to discuss Cru Beaujolais and make budget, but I hope you’ll agree that this is fantastic value for a wine of Cru calibre. Régnié was awarded Cru status in 1988, making it the youngest of the Crus. The majority of the tiny village’s 950 inhabitants are part of the Régnié winemaking process at one stage or another. This Maison des Bulliats was bought by retiring schoolteacher couple Fred and Helen Lockwood in 2005. This is the only wine they regularly produce, from vines averaging 40 years. Youthful wild strawberries, bright, light and fresh with orange peel and fine peppery spice on the finish. 88 points.



Jean-Paul Brun
Terres Dorées Beaujolais Blanc 2012
AC Beaujolais
*$31 +648071

Jean-Paul Brun is the owner/winemaker at the Domaine des Terres Dorées, located in Southern Beaujolais, just north of Lyons, in a beautiful area known as the “Region of the Golden Stones.” Sustainably focused and non-interventionist in both the vineyard and winery, Brun is a firm advocate of minimal SO2, natural yeast, old vines and low yields with his wines, and has seen wide critical acclaim for his honest, expressive Beaujolais. Gamay accounts for 99% of the grapes grown in Beaujolais, so this Beaujolais Blanc (100% chardonnay) is a rare treat and a fantastic value. The warmer climate allows for a richer, fuller wine while the limestone soil adds a fresh, mineral-laden element. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks that are laid on their side to allow for more lees contact, amping the complexity further. The resulting wine (bottled without any oak) is brimming with apple, pear, citrus, creamy lees and bright, saline minerality. Fantastic depth and length. 91 points.


No Wineos

Lighthouse Brewery
Sauerteig Farmhouse Ale
Victoria, BC
* 650ml

Craft beer and craft bread. Doesn’t get much better than that. Victoria’s Lighthouse Brewery has collaborated with acclaimed artisan baker Byron Fry in this new limited release titled Sauerteig.

Sauerteig Farmhouse Ale was created by Lighthouse head brewer Dean McLeod using ingredients provided by Fry of Fry’s Red Wheat Bread. Sauerteig (German for sourdough), made from rye flour, is the prefermented starter in the baking of traditional German sourdough breads. This 7% beer is brewed with rye, wheat and barley flakes, malted wheat and rye, spelt flour and sauerteig prepared by Fry. Of the unique beer, McLeod notes: “A saison with as many bakery ingredients as we could throw at it, including huge tubs of rye sourdough starter made for us by Byron Fry. Sweet and a touch sour with a little rye spiciness, this one’s for more general audience than a truly sour or bretty beer would be.”

Lightly doughy and mildly peach on the nose, with muted hops, a distinct sour note and an understated earthiness, finishing with a bit of that fiery rye.


Each week Treve highlights 5 timely and tasty picks. Her weekly choices include Locavore (BC wines), Cellar Dweller (wines to lay down for a while for maximum enjoyment), Budgeteer (wallet-friendly bottles under $15), Adventurer (wines for geeks, enlightening or pushing the envelope) and No Wineos (a non-wine pro-alcoholic beverage). So what are you waiting for? DRINK This!

DRINKing Guide: How to use our purchasing information:
*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores. The price is suggested retail price, and may fluctuate depending on source. Wines are scored out of 100 points.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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