Photo credit: © D. Gillet / Inter Beaujolais
The term “appellation” refers to the geographical zone in which the grapes for a wine were grown. There are 12 Beaujolais appellations.
The largest winemaking zone in the region of Beaujolais is the Beaujolais appellation. Remember, “Beaujolais” sometimes refers to the region in its entirety, and sometimes refers to the Beaujolais appellation. The Beaujolais appellation comprises 72 winemaking villages.
The second largest appellation is Beaujolais Villages, which is made up of 38 winemaking villages. Wines from Beaujolais Villages are held in higher regard than those from the Beaujolais appellation.
The final 10 appellations are the region’s best and referred to as Crus. From north to south, they are Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. Each Cru represents a single winemaking commune, with the exception of Moulin-à-Vent, Côte de Brouilly and Brouilly, which comprise two, four and six communes respectively. When discussing these zones, the terms “appellation” and “Cru” can be used interchangeably.
Note: the Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages appellations cannot be referred to as Crus.
Gamay is the primary varietal of Beaujolais, representing 99 percent of the region’s wines. Both reds and rosés are produced using Gamay, while whites are generally made of Chardonnay. The grape’s full name is “Black Gamay with White Juice,” or Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc, but oenophiles in the know just say Gamay.
Beyond Beaujolais, cultivation of the Gamay grape is sparse, making the region’s wines deliciously atypical. Beaujolais is the perfect home for Gamay, as its soil is rich with the limestone-clay and granite the grape needs to thrive.