The Beaujolais region is located south of Burgundy along the western side of the Saône Valley between Mâcon and Lyon, but all its best wines - the 'Crus' - are to be found in the northern half of the area, where it is not only the wines that are stunning - the scenery is too.
There are 10 'Crus' of Beaujolais, but most people, even wine-lovers, would be hard pressed to name them all. This is probably for a combination of three reasons: 1) the current generation of sophisticated wine drinkers were probably introduced to Beaujolais by Beaujolais nouveau, that eminently forgettable wine whose shadow still darkens the name of Beaujolais; 2) each Cru is small and a lot of the wine produced is sold in France; 3) it tastes nothing like a big in-your-face New World blockbuster.
Beaujolais Cru wines are unique. Made from the Gamay grape grown on sandy, stony or schistose granite-based soils with no lime, the resultant wines have a roundness, depth of flavour and texture that this grape does not produce anywhere else in the world. As well as the grape variety and the soil, the secret behind the fresh grape fruitiness of Beaujolais lies in the way the grapes are fermented - a technique called maceration carbonique - or more correctly, maceration semi-carbonique. (This is the process that produces the aromas reminiscent of pear drops and bananas often associated with very young Beaujolais.)
The vat is filled with whole, uncrushed grapes on their stalks and the weight of the upper grapes crushes the lower ones, which start a normal fermentation with their natural yeasts. The carbon dioxide given off by this process excludes the air from the uncrushed upper layers where the grapes quietly feed on themselves. Fermentation takes 10-12 days, and after it has started the juice is re-circulated twice a day by pumping it back into the top of the vat - a process known as remontage. After a week or so the vat will be about one third full of liquid, which is then run off, the solid pressed gently and the two mixed together. At this stage the liquid still contains unfermented sugar and the fermentation will continue. The wine is then bottled in the spring following the harvest and will age for a further year in bottle.
We have vineyards in three of the Cru appellations: Fleurie from Domaine de la Madone, Morgon from Domaine de Colonat and Côte de Brouilly from Domaine Les Roches Bleues.