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Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Beaujolais, quantitatively extremely important wine region in east central France producing a unique style of fruity wine which is often relatively, nay unfashionably, light but is increasingly being made in a more concentrated, ‘Burgundian’ style. For administrative purposes, Beaujolais is often included as part of greater burgundy, but in terms of climate, topography, soil types, and even distribution of grape varieties, it is quite different. In some years, Beaujolais has produced more than the whole of the rest of greater Burgundy to the north put together, nearly a million hl of wine, almost all of which is produced from a single red grape variety, gamay Noir à Jus Blanc, and much of it by a single, distinctive winemaking method. Early-drinking Beaujolais at its best provides the yardstick for all the world’s attempts to put red refreshment into a bottle, being a wine that is essentially flirtatious, with a juicy aroma which, combined with its promise of appetizing acidity, is sufficient to release the gastric juices before even a mouthful of the wine has been drunk. In the 1970s and 1980s the region became too dependent on selling embryonic primeur wine, so-called Beaujolais Nouveau. When demand for Beaujolais Nouveau reached its peak, in 1992, nearly half of all Beaujolais AC was sold in this youthful state, for immediate consumption and, from the point of view of the producer, as an immediate generator of cash flow. But producers paid the price of much-reduced demand for their wine in the late 1990s and early 2000s when they had to resort to compulsory distillation. In the French market place, Beaujolais had become almost a commodity, with attendant pressures on prices, so that generic blended Beaujolais was too often a thin, inky liquid that was in all senses lacklustre—or an ultra-commercial blend all too dependent on chaptalization. But in the 21st century there have been distinct stirrings of a revival, not least because an increasing proportion of the wine is vinified traditionally rather than by carbonic maceration, from the 2003 vintage, which resulted in much denser wines than usual. As Harry waugh discovered so many years ago, a domaine bottled wine may well be the most direct route to quality.