With Beaujolais Nouveau arriving in two days, this seems like the right time for a discussion on Beaujolais in all its many incarnations. After all, though the Nouveau is an often fun and almost always gulpable wine, it is far from the extent of the region’s potential.
There are four kinds of Beaujolais you can find. They are, in ascending order of quality:
Beaujolais Nouveau, which is released on the third Thursday of November each year, and should be consumed in the very short-term.
Beaujolais, whose grapes come from anywhere within the Beaujolais region itself.
Beaujolais-Villages, whose grapes come from any of the more than three dozen specific villages whose fruit is supposed to be of higher quality than elsewhere in the region.
Cru Beaujolais, which comes from any of 10 specific crus, is often surprisingly age-worthy, and whose labels note the name of the cru and not Beaujolais itself.
The best part about Beaujolais is that the values are often stellar, and the price differences between standard Beaujolais and a well-made cru bottling is typically far less than the difference between, say, Bourgogne Blanc and Meursault.
So while Thursday will be a time for revelry, take advantage of all that this region has to offer. It’s about so much more than the light, fruity, fun juice we’ll all be gulping in 48 hours.
(As an aside, here is an excellent article by Jancis Robinson on the fantastic 2009 vintage in Beaujolais.)