Dream Destination: Beaujolais the Bold and BeautifulAuthor:Annette Hanami
The writer Leon Daudet once said of the food capital of France, “Lyon is watered by three major rivers: the Rhone, the Saone and the Beaujolais” because the local wine flows in all the classic bouchon eateries here. Beaujolais is synonymous with youthful, fruity wines but a quarter of the area’s production are cru Beaujolais, serious, long-lived red wines that hail from the mountainous northern part of the region. Next time you’re in Lyon, take a short jaunt north to Wine Country and discover the multiple facets of one of the world’s most beloved wines.
Visit a Shrine to Beaujolais
Begin your exploration with a visit to Georges Duboeuf and the Hamlet of Wine in Romaneche-Thorins, located in the heart of cru Beaujolais country. The Hamlet of Wine is a colorful, complete wine experience as exuberant as Georges Duboeuf himself, including winery tour, exhibits, gardens and café. One of the most fascinating exhibits is low aerial video tour of the region that gives the first-time visitor a real sense of the unique terrain. In the winery, guests learn about semi-carbonic winemaking that is used exclusively in Beaujolais to create the aromatic, fruity wines we love.
Many of the buildings retain the original look of the former train depot, once a bustling station for transporting wine to the rest of France. The Belle Epoque influence is everywhere, including Duboeuf’s collection of 500 period advertising posters, spreading the joie de vivre spirit. The festive décor in the café above celebrates Georges Duboeuf’s 50th anniversary in 2014. Hameau Duboeuf 796, Route de la gare, Romaneche-Thorins.
Explore the Cru Beaujolais
There are ten cru Beaujolais appellations in all, differentiated from basic Beaujolais territory by their distinct climates of granite soils, steep slopes and high elevations. Century-old, shy-bearing vines are not uncommon here, adding to the intensity and character of the Gamay fruit.
Moulin-a-Vent (the windmill) is considered the king of the cru Beaujolais appellations because of the wine’s power and complexity. The windmill was classified an historic monument in 1930. Equally powerful and long-lived is Morgon, as we discovered for ourselves at Cave Jean Ernest Descombes with a 1980 Morgon, a complex wine with undeniable finesse.
The pink granite slopes of Fleurie are as steep as the vineyards of the Rhone. The cru wines are, like the name, floral and feminine in its elegance.
In Brouilly we visited beautiful Chateau de Nervers built ca. 1780. Inside, it was decorated with Moroccan tiles, faded tapestries, Murano glass chandeliers and fine furniture that showed centuries of lives well-lived. The chateau was built with the heartwood of oak representing the strong foundation of tradition, not only here but throughout Beaujolais, ingrained in the current generation. I found their Brouilly cru wines from century-old vines to be deeply fruit-driven with hints of spice and licorice.
Stay and savor
A convenient hotel to stay to explore the Cru Beaujolais in the north of the region is the Maritonnes Hotel with a lovely restaurant Rouge et Blanc owned by Georges Blanc, 3-star Michelin chef. Another highly recommended restaurant is the Michelin star Auberge du Cep in Fleurie.