Warm summer days like this one seem like a great match for a nice Beaujolais. It’s been a while since I had one and while perusing the wine shop last weekend I stumbled across this nice Julienas from Domaine De Remont. Julienas is one of the 10 Crus of Beaujolais, which are named after the village, not the vineyard like in Burgundy or Alsace. They also tend to leave “Beaujolais” off the label entirely, as their wines sell based on the name and reputation of the Cru. This one’s name comes from Julius Ceasar, as the Romans were the first to cultivate the region. No Beaujolais Nouveau are allowed to be produced in the Crus. Julienas is one of the northernmost villages of Beaujolais and one of the two northernmost Beaujolais Crus, just south of Macon in Burgundy. And in the north there are more slopes which provide extra sunshine, and granite and schist soils which produce more complex wines — hence the Crus all being in the northern part of the region. The wines in the southern part tend to be lighter and fruitier as the soil is more clay and sandstone. This is where you will get most of the basic Beaujolais AOC wines and Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais-Villages are in the north surrounding the Cru and have better growing conditions than those in the south, but have less reputable results and usually blend between them — though sometimes you will see some individually named. Technically, Beaujolais is administratively part of Burgundy, but is known in its own right as a wine region due to these fruity and delicious wines. The region’s red wines are completely Gamay-based whether just a Beaujolais, mid-level Beaujolais-Villages, or a Beaujolais Cru. Though like other AOC’s, you won’t find the varietal on the label. You also won’t find much more than 1% of white wine being made in Beaujolais.
Gamay is a cross of Pinot Noir and and Gouais, an ancient white variety. But unlike Pinot Noir, it’s is easy to grow, and has been grown here since the 14th century at least. It ripens early and grows in abundance in the region, as well as in cooler regions like the Loire where it can also be used for rosé. So while it is a smaller region than Burgundy, its output can be greater in some vintages. The Massive Central to the west and the Mediterranean to the south moderate what would otherwise be a hotter Mediterranean climate, so the grapes ripen reliably.
While Beaujolais Nouveau are a popular light and fruity red wine with little to offer in the way of complexity and intended for immediate drinking (as well as its share of scandal), the Beaujolais Crus are generally considered the best wines of Beaujolais. The Crus tend to be made more like the Pinot Noir just north in Burgundy, with oak aging and intended to wait a few years until drinking. Though they still have the acidity and fruitiness Gamay is known for, they will have more tannin and deeper color as they will undergo traditional fermentation after any carbonic maceration time that they may see. Though generally speaking, all Beaujolais are known for being a refreshing easy-drinking wine with not much tannin.
This wine had a deep ruby hue with a nose full of bright red raspberry fruit, baking spice, soil (I was thrilled that I found such a perfect example of soil) and wildflowers. I could say I smelled those rolling fields and wild berries in the glass. At $17, it was a great value for a top-billed Beaujolais. I paired it with a Ceasar salad, which seems very appropriate not just because it’s a great match, but because this village was named after the man himself!