In 1395, Philippe le Hardi, Duke of Bourgogne, outlawed the wine grape gamay, calling it a “very bad and disloyal plant.”

His objection was that gamay, which is easy to grow and ripens early, was displacing pinot noir in Bourgogne’s vineyards. Thus began over 600 years of snobbery towards a wine we know today as Beaujolais.

Some of the ill feeling is justified – the quality of Beaujolais has ebbed and flowed considerably over the years, hitting a nadir in 2005, when the AOC’s largest producer, George Duboeuf, admitted to mixing lower-quality juice into his vintages following a bad harvest.

At its best, however, Beaujolais is proof that wine need not always be complicated or high in alcohol content or in need of decanting. For a particularly long meal, where consuming a heavier cab sauv might be deadly, a Beaujolais (“the only white that happens to be red,” as critic Karen MacNeil once said) can be just the thing.

This week, in belated celebration of November’s Beaujolais Nouveau release, we’ll turn things over to our resident wine expert, Julien Miquel, for a quick lesson in France’s most drinkable appellation.

Until next week, 

The Wine Explorer

Bonner Private Wine Partnership