A Guide to the 10 Crus of Beaujolais
This post was originally posted 7/23/2013 and updated 4/10/2019.
...is getting a lot more attention these days.
The appellations (Morgon, Fleurie, Moulin-a-Vent, etc.) may still not be as well-known as Gevrey-Chambertin or Margaux, but since the first version of this guide was published-- over five years ago--the Crus of Beaujolais have become far more popular. Partly this is thanks to vintages. Every vintage since this guide was first published (2014 through 2018) has been great in their own unique ways. Meanwhile, the wine press and the wine trade continue their never-ending hunt for the next new thing, and many of them have come across Beaujolais.
It has also helps that Beaujolais is such a dynamic region. Thanks to relatively low-cost vineyard land, a number of new high quality producers have acquired land and emerged on the scene. U.S. importers are paying more attention to the area than ever, and consumers are seeing a lot more interesting options on wine store shelves. It's an exciting time to be a Beaujolais lover!
What follows is an updated overview of the area with links to individual blog posts on the different Crus.
What is Cru Beaujolais?
In spite of this growing interest, we noticed that there isn’t much information out there for consumers about the 10 Crus Beaujolais – there’s certainly no obvious book to read – so we thought we’d post a series of articles to help you out.
This is your one stop guide to the 10 Crus of Beaujolais.
Beaujolais, as you probably know, is a region in France (at the very southern end of Burgundy, beginning just south of Macon) where they make wine with the grape, Gamay. You may have heard of "Beaujolais Nouveau." Well, now forget about it! We're talking about real wine here, not that over-marketed stuff.
Beaujolais, like many French regions, ranks its vineyard sites. Ordinary vineyards can produce simple "Beaujolais," while vineyards in higher-ranked villages can label their wines "Beaujolais-Villages." Those wines tend to offer more than the basic Beaujolais: more complex flavors, more structure. Best of all, vineyards in the 10 Beaujolais Crus can label their wines with the Cru name only (so, "Morgon," rather than "Beaujolais"). These wines represent the best of the Beaujolais: serious, delicious, and often age-worthy wines.
Each of these 10 Crus of Beaujolais (Ok, I'll cut to the chase, here's the list, north to south: St-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon,
Régnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly) has its own personality, its own charms. And one of the greatest pleasures in wine is working your way through the region, exploring each of them in turn.
This Guide to the 10 Crus of Beaujolais is just a quick introduction and round-up. Throughout this post, we've linked to our more detailed blog posts on each Cru. But for now we hope this helps you on your exploration through the wonderful world of the 10 Crus of Beaujolais.
This is considered the sturdiest, most tannic, longest-lived among the 10 Crus of Beaujolais. When you hear about folks opening up delicious bottles of 50-year old Beaujolais, it’s usually Moulin-a-Vent. But remember, we are still talking about Gamay. The wine is never that tannic, and most examples are still very approachable when they’re young, unless the vintage is a particularly structured one.
Top producers include Diochon and Chateau des Jacques (Jadot). The Domaine de Vissoux (Chermette) also makes an excellent example.
Read the expanded Moulin-a-Vent article here.
Of the 10 crus of Beaujolais, this is the closest to Moulin-a-Vent in terms of weight and structure, and it can age nearly as well. It has a firm minerality, thanks chiefly to its granitic soils, and a fruit profile that shades towards orange.
But, the chief advantage of Morgon is that it is blessed with an extraordinarily range of excellent producers. This includes all four of the “Gang of Four,” protégés of natural wine pioneer Jules Chauvet: Jean-Paul Thevenet, Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, and Guy Breton. All of these producers are excellent, and you should stock up whenever you see them available.
Another legendary producer is Chamonard. He too follows natural methods, but out of tradition, rather than the mentoring of Chauvet. If he had been imported by Kermit Lynch--who is credited with coming up with the term "Gang of Four," he probably would have been the fifth of a Gang of Five.
Still others make wonderful Morgon: Daniel Bouland, Louis Claude Desvignes, Georges Descombes, Cret de Ruyere, and Julien Sunier.
Read the expanded Morgon article here.
Outside of Morgon, Fleurie appears to have the greatest concentration of good producers throughout the 10 Crus of Beaujolais. And with particularly fine terroir, Fleurie is another great source of Cru Beaujolais. “Fleur,” of course, means “flower” in French, and indeed the wines of Fleurie are characterized by a distinct floral note – think violets.
The many excellent producers include Sunier, Dutraive, Domaine de Vissoux (Chermette), and Clos de la Roilette (Coudert). One of my very favorite producers is Chignard, who works exclusively in a plot of Fleurie that abuts Moulin-a-Vent, and the result is a very distinct, very mineral wine that drinks well young but also ages beautifully.
We would be remiss not to mention a current staff-favorite: Anne Sophie-Dubois, she's relatively new to the scene, but is making masterful wine. Give her a chance and I'm confident she'll impress you. Seek that one out!
Read the expanded Fleurie article here.
Juliénas is another Cru known to be a little sturdier than the others and so can be aged. The wine’s signature profile is deep red cherries, which transform with a few years of bottle age into nuanced flavors that veer towards cassis.
There are not a lot of top producers, but one very important one, Clos du Fief (Michel Tête), that makes a Cuvée Prestige that is one of the best wines for aging from the region. Right now, we have his Cuvee Tradition. There is also Haute Combe, which is perfectly cherry-fruited on the young side, but will also keep a few years.
Read the expanded Julienas article here.
Côte de Brouilly and Brouilly
As the word “Côte” implies, the Côte de Brouilly lies on the side of a hill. Its neighbor, Brouilly (without the “Côte”), is at the bottom. Predictably, Côte de Brouilly tends to ripen better, and it produces a more structured, elegant wine. Whereas, when compared to Cote de Brouilly, and indeed the other 10 Crus of Beaujolais, Brouilly produces a lighter style Beaujolais for early drinking; it makes frequent appearances in the simpler bistros that dot Paris.
The top producer of Cote de Brouilly is the Chateau Thivin, which makes a very long-lived example indeed. The best examples of straight Brouilly are made by Pierre Chermette, and Georges Descombes, both of which make wine that is far richer and more complex than what is typical for the Cru.
Read the extended Cote de Brouilly/Brouilly article here.
St. Amour is the most northerly of the 10 Crus of Beaujolais, bordering the Mâcon region of Burgundy. At its best, St. Amour is an intensely red-fruited wine, bearing a bit of a resemblance to its much more expensive cousin to the north, Les Amoureuses.
The best examples here come undoubtedly from the Domaine des Billards, which makes both a forward, fruity version and an older-vines cuvee intended for aging. I tasted a 2005 in 2013 and it still seemed 10 years too young--ah, if I could only try it now!
Read the extended St. Amour article here.
Chiroubles’ position within the 10 Crus of Beaujolais is unique, as it is at the very highest altitudes of Beaujolais and the grapes take about a week longer to ripen than elsewhere.
Chiroubles tend to have quite a bit of complexity, even as young wines, which makes the appellation a great source for Cru Beaujolais to drink young. To me, this complexity derives from a lovely velvetiness that is absent in the other Crus, as well as a floral note that is reminiscent of Fleurie.
Daniel Bouland makes a great example, as does Damien Coquelet. Cret de Ruyere has proven that Chiroubles is capable of aging – they recently released wine from the 2006 and 2005 vintages that were drinking brilliantly.
Read the extended Chiroubles article here.
In the vineyard, Régnié is distinguished by its pink granite soils. In the mouth, it seems to have a slightly spicier profile than the other Crus. It’s a lovely wine in the right hands, but unfortunately there are not many famous examples. Descombes and Guy Breton, a member of Morgon’s Gang of Four, make the best examples.
Read the extended Regnie article here.
Chénas produces a tender wine that can age surprisingly well. You do not see it around much, as very few fine examples are imported to the U.S.
Domaine Piron-Lameloise makes a “Quartz” bottling that can be dazzling after about five years in the cellar. As the name suggests, the wine comes from distinct, quartzite soils. But even young the wine has an mineral intensity (which, with age, becomes somewhat iodine-y) which gives it a fine complexity.
Read the extended Chenas article here.
Stay tuned as we break these down, Cru by Cru.
Like this blog post? You can learn more about Beaujolais Cru here: Part 2 is a focus on Moulin a Vent, Part 3 is a focus on Morgon, Part 4 is a focus on Fleurie and Part 5 is a focus on Julienas. In Part 6 we look at both the Cote de Brouilly and Brouilly. Part 7 is Regnie and Chiroubles. And Part 8 finishes up with the two remaining crus, St. Amour and Chenas.