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Can You Age Beaujolais?

Does Beaujolais Age Well? Yes!

Beaujolais is delicious on release but the best Beaujolais, especially from the top Beaujolais Crus, age beautifully and should be a part of any reasonably priced cellar.

In my Guide to the Crus of Beaujolais – newly updated just this fall! – I make occasional reference to how well some of the wines can age. So I thought I’d dedicate a whole post to an activity that hardly anybody in the world does these days: keeping a Beaujolais cellar.

Wait, if hardly anyone does it, then why should you?

Let me explain. Historically, only rich people kept wine cellars. They bought wine from just a few very famous regions – like Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne – and that was it. Their focus was so narrow that they didn’t even buy Italian wine! They certainly didn’t buy Beaujolais.

Gradually, wine collecting spread to the middle class. It really started to take off in the 1990s. These new buyers had plenty to choose from, since basically, a middle-class American could afford all but the most expensive wines. It was really only in the 2000s that things started to get tough, with more and more wines moving into price categories that were beyond the means of most of us. Now even basic Burgundies like village Gevrey Chambertin are often north of $100. 

This pricing pressure – as well as an explorer’s sense of adventure – helped push thousands of wine lovers in new directions, like the Northern Rhone, the Loire… and Beaujolais.

So now lots of people are trying Beaujolais and they are catching on to its charms. Thing is, the wines – or at least most of them – are delicious on release! Why wait three years to drink that bottle of Fleurie when it’s already so tasty and you need to drink something NOW?  You can see why Beaujolais cellaring has never really taken off.

Chateau Thivin in Cellar

But here’s what I think. Yes, you should open a bottle of that Fleurie right away. Go ahead. In fact, you should drink lots of Cru Beaujolais on release. It really is delicious! But you should also dedicate at least some cellar space to the Crus. Here are a few reasons to cellar Beaujolais:

1. It’s Delicious. 

Most importantly, Cru Beaujolais, like many great wines, can age into wonderfully mature wine, delivering nuance and complexity that is impossible in a young wine. This is not true of all Beaujolais, of course, but it is definitely true of a good number of wines. To be clear, I am talking about Cru Beaujolais specifically. I’m sure there are a few examples of Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages and maybe even Beaujolais Nouveau that can benefit from a little aging, but that is generally not the case and why bother when you can get a great bottle of Fleurie for your cellar for just a few bucks more? More on which wines are cellar worthy below.

Another thing to mention is that while I think mature Cru Beaujolais -- and mature wine in general -- is delicious, you may not. I know plenty of experienced wine drinkers who really like the fresh fruit and energy of young wines, and think older wine is kind of boring. If you know that’s you, then there’s probably no reason for you to cellar Beaujolais. If you’re not sure yet, it will be a lot easier to figure out with Beaujolais than with other wines. In part that’s because….

2. It Ages Fast…Relatively.  

Cru Beaujolais ages faster than most other wines. There’s no such thing as maturing wine in a hurry, but would you rather wait 20 years for your wine to achieve maturity or more like three to five years?  I’ll be honest: I’ve NEVER waited 20 years for a wine to mature. 20 years ago, I rarely waited more than a few hours before opening up a newly acquired bottle! But 20 years is what it takes for many wines from Bordeaux or Piedmont, for example, to really hit their stride. With Cru Beaujolais, you can have a cellar full of mature wines in just a few years.

3. It’s Your Only Choice. 

If you want to enjoy mature Beaujolais, you really have no other options. Those 20-year-old Bordeaux and Piedmontese wines?  You can buy them at auction. Or from us when we have cellars to sell. Just go on wine-searcher and you’ll see all kinds of options. But mature Beaujolais? You’re not going to find it. Ok, sometimes we’ll find a cellar with five or ten-year old Cru Beaujolais – often we buy those cellars from our own clients, and we’ve been preaching this stuff for a long time now! – but those bottles get snapped up right away. The fact is, unlike most great wine regions, if you want to drink mature Cru Beaujolais, you have to buy it and lay it down yourself.

4. It’s Reliable. 

If you’ve ever tried cellaring wines from Burgundy or Barolo, say, I think you’ll agree that it does not always work out. Think that 10 year old Premier Cru should be singing right now? Open it up, and it’s mean and shut down. Even hours of decanting yield nothing. This happens all the time! But it never happens with Beaujolais. Beaujolais never seems to go through awkward, shut down periods. Sure, you can drink it too late – all wine will eventually decline – but good Cru Beaujolais is pretty much delicious at any stage of its 10-15 year (on average) curve (but see 5 below). Cru Beaujolais is a safe and reliable option!

5. It’s Necessary…. Sometimes. 

Even most ageworthy Beaujolais is delicious on release. And yet, some Cru Beaujolais simply MUST be cellared. They just don’t taste that good in the first couple years of their life. This is true of the traditional Chateaux that make Moulin-a-Vent in the old, Burgundy style (namely, Chateau des Jacques and Chateau de Moulin a Vent). It’s  also true of some newer producers that are employing a more structured, Burgundian style, like Desjourneys and, to a lesser extent, Lafarge-Vial. All of these producers make great wine, but it’s not really at its best until you’ve waited a few years. And good luck finding great old bottles unless you’ve gone to the trouble of cellaring them yourself.

6. It’s Cheap! 

Finally, I have to again mention pricing. The Fleurie VT from Clos de la Roilette is still, in 2020, under $30 per bottle. At 10 years old the wine is magnificent, with the same degree of nuance and complexity as many premier crus from Burgundy. Crazy but true. You could spend $100+ dollars on that Burgundy, or less than $30 on a Beaujolais. So yes, a good reason to cellar Cru Beaujolais is that it is a screaming bargain.

All that said, none of this means that every time you buy a Beaujolais from now on you need to stick it in your wine fridge for five years before opening it. Absolutely not. I also don’t think that you should give up cellaring wines from Bordeaux, Piedmont, Burgundy etc, and focus exclusively on Beaujolais. Those wines are just too good and you’ve got to have some great wines to drink with your grandkids, right?

So what should you do? 

Here are my tips: 

  1. Although Cru Beaujolais is great when it is fully mature, it is also great – though different – when young. So indulge your impatience and drink up! I drink probably 3 out of 4 bottles on release or shortly thereafter. See 5 above though for some important exceptions: Beaujolais from a small handful of producers that you really can’t enjoy on release.
  1. The Crus your cellar should focus on are Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie and Cote de Brouilly. These Crus tend to make the most ageworthy wines and they each have plenty of great producers. You could cellar Foillard from Morgon, Diochon from  Moulin-a-Vent, Thivin from Cote de Brouilly, and Clos de la Roilette from Fleurie, for example. Just collecting the wines of those four producers would result in a pretty fantastic Beaujolais cellar!
  1. Most of the other Crus do produce at least some wines that are ageworthy, but you’ll want to check the details in my Guide for specific recommendations. There is at least one ageworthy wine from each Cru, though personally I do not have any experience cellaring any wines from Chiroubles or Brouilly. I plan to experiment with doing so soon!.
  1. Most Beaujolais vintages are just fine. In the last decade, for example, I can only think of one vintage – 2012 – that was at all disappointing (you will find mixed views out there about 2011, and maybe 2015, but I like them both well enough). So what I typically do is collect my top two or three favorites in every vintage, and then go broader and buy a bunch of different things when a really fantastic vintage – yes, 2019s are looking fantastic – comes along
  1. Buy and cellar these wines for pleasure, not for investment. These are not wines that trade at auction and there is not much reason to think that they will appreciate in value as they age. Also, because Cru Beaujolais is so inexpensive, the ratio of your storage costs to the price you ultimately realize in a re-sale is going to be much higher than normal. All of this could change, of course, but in 2020, at least, I would steer any dollars you have for investment to other wine regions.
  1. As I said, these wines do not need a ton of time in your cellar. I love drinking 2013s or 2014s right now. Special vintages, like 2005 or 2010, can last a lot longer. Many 2005s are excellent now; many 2010s are still improving! So you have to consider vintage and producer, but if you want a simple rule of thumb, start drinking your cellared Crus after about three years and try to have them all drunk up within ten.

To get you started, I’ve put together – a collection of good cellar candidates from Beaujolais for the cellar. You can view it here. We’ll try to update this over time.

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Read More:

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It’s Versatile! 

It’s interesting! 

It’s a great value! 

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