Gamay and Beaujolais

Trademark qualities: fresh, fruity with a scent of raspberries and sometimes, when young, a hint of acetone (pear drops).

Try it with: cold ham

In general it goes with: charcuterie and white meats, the heftier varieties also work with terrine, lamb and game.  Beaujolais is also good with pork cooked with apples or pears.  Importantly, drink it cool – just a bit above cellar temperature – only the heftiest, most mature Beaujolais should be drunk at room temperature.

This style of wine:

The grape is the Gamay, but it is grown almost exclusively in Beaujolais immediately south of Burgundy.  You will also find some Gamay in the Loire and nowadays the Ardèche, but hardly anywhere else in the world, a pity because it is an appealing lighter red wine that people like when they try it.  The Loire and Ardèche Gamays are very much like the lighter Beaujolais.

(Beaujolais’ reputation was ruined by the Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon of the 1970s and ‘80s when people literally raced to deliver wine to the UK just three weeks after the grapes had been picked.  The results were at best fruity, at worst thin, acid, acetone-smelling fizzy pop.)

Beaujolais covers a range of weights from very light and fruity up to hefty versions like Moulin a Vent which keeps for years and matures into something quite like a good Burgundy.

The most basic wine is just labelled Beaujolais, then the rather better Beaujolais Villages.  Finally come the Cru Beaujolais: the lightest are Brouilly, Regnié and Chiroubles, the medium ones are Cotes de Brouilly, St Amour and Fleurie, and the heftiest are Chénas, Julienas, Morgon and Moulin a Vent in that order, Moulin being the biggest.

You will not find the word Beaujolais on the labels of the Cru wines, and possibly no mention of the Gamay grape, on any of them.  Call it marketing, French-style, i.e. no marketing at all.

Keeping: Mostly drink within three years and the cheaper the sooner.  Morgon and Moulin will happily last five years and twice that in a good year, though by then they will taste like Burgundy rather than Beaujolais.


  • Everyday/Party            £6.00
  • Informal Dinner           £8 – 10
  • Impress the Boss Dinner        £10 – 14 Fleurie, Morgon and Moulin a Vent
  • Investors Only             £16+ and it is only Moulin a Vent


Overall: Good value, light, ‘happy’ and unlikely to offend anyone’s tastes.

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