Do you believe everything happens for a reason? I do! I believe that there is a sequence and appropriate timing for everything. Stick with me, this is going to be a little bit of a story before we get to the part about why Beaujolais wines need to be in your life, particularly if sustainable wine practices are important to you.
Disclosure: I was gifted 3 bottles of Beaujolais wine from wineries focused on sustainable practices.
My Wine Back Story
I grew up in a household where there wasn’t a lot of alcohol. Both of my parents are lightweights when it comes to consumption and my father (based on stories that have been told about his drinking as a youth and young adult) suffers from some sort of super-low tolerance that was passed on to me. Once every 5-10 years I test those limits and end up very sorry! Why do I tell you that? Well, it has made me super particular in my selection process. When I drink, it is usually 1-3 servings and that is it. So I am not “wasting” them on anything that is not up to par!
When I first moved away from home and began drinking wine, I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, right next to Napa and Sonoma where we can argue they create some very good wine. My only experiences with wine before that were watered down glasses of red wine that my grandfather let my sister and I have when visiting (my other grandfather would let us have sips of his beer while fishing with him, so I had a well-rounded education!) so when it came to purchasing and drinking my first bottles of wine, I started with red. I had friends that favored cabernets and merlots, so that is what I drank.
As I got a little older and began trying different varietals, I settled on pinot noir. Then I started traveling to Europe for work, in particular Switzerland, where at business lunches and dinners I had the opportunity to taste some excellent French wines (and a few Swiss ones too) and began to relish the diversity in wines at my fingertips in France. I was already an established Francophile when I moved there for work and I continued to explore the wines of all the regions I visited as well as at wine bars in Paris which were becoming a thing in the early aughts.
Eventually, I moved back to the US and bought a house in Berkeley where I was very lucky to be exposed to one of the best wine shops in the country, Kermit Lynch, whose collection of wine is vast and who carries wine from all over France, especially lesser-known ones that aren’t in a lot of stores outside of major markets. I traveled to Oahu several times to participate in a few food and wine festivals where I tried some very special French wines and kept adding to my collective wine memory. Truth be told pinot noirs remained my favorite and I eventually discovered that I had a preference for those from Willamette Valley.
During my trip to this region of Oregon, I was reminded that how wine is created is just as important as the wine itself. Sustainable practices are going to allow us to have these wines for future generations. Farming practices and eco-friendly standards matter, not only for our own health but for the planet. As I was getting healthier in all areas of my life (leaving the rat race in the San Francisco Bay Area, taking a sabbatical, spending months outdoors, changing our diet, and adding regular exercise) I also wanted to ensure that my wine was healthier too. After all, I am married to a Frenchman, and wine is an essential part of life 😉 (that plus butter – bless you Julia Child – and cheese!).
But then something happened.
With our low-carb lifestyle and the loss of 40 pounds, my tastes changed again. Sadly, most red wine tastes bad to me now, something that truly confounds Mr. Misadventures! Poor fella has to drink his bottles alone while I now partake of chardonnay, pinot gris, and pinot grigios.
I did tell you it was going to be a long story…
For the last year, I have been lamenting about this change to my wine drinking, I have been really missing red wine.
Then Beaujolais came into my life!
Discover Sustainable Beaujolais Wine
In all honesty, I didn’t know much about sustainable wines in France but became keenly interested in them after reading a French detective series in which the lead character lives in an area with lots of vineyards, some of them making huge efforts to create organic and sustainable, eco-friendly wines. After reading the series I became interested in researching the transition to more sustainable wines in France and there definitely is reason to keep your eye on this region just above Lyon (the true gastronomic capital of France by the way). When Mr. Misadventures and I lived in France we were a 2-hour drive from the Beaujolais region. We did visit the area (it is gorgeous) but not nearly enough!
You might be surprised to learn it produces more wine than Burgundy. But you may not have heard of this region unless you are familiar with Beaujolais Nouveau. And let’s get this elephant in the room out of the way. The Beaujolais Nouveau grapes are harvested between late August and early September, fermented for just a few days, and released to the public on the third Thursday of November. The Beaujolais Nouveau wine is polarizing. It has truly been around since the 19th century when some of this early production was sent to the bistros of Lyon (known as bouchons) for consumption and continued to gain popularity for several decades, leading up to 1985 when it became heavily marketed and the Beaujolais Nouveau “day” was created and celebrated on the third Thursday in November, particularly in Paris. But some people still look down on it.
However, it is ONLY one-third of the production of this region. The other two-thirds goes into the “good” stuff, the 12 appellations (in 3 classifications): Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages, and Beaujolais Crus. Beaujolais (comes in red, white, and rosé), Beaujolais Villages (comes in red, white, and rosé), and 10 Beaujolais Crus (reds only: Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Régnié, Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent, Chénas, Juliénas, and Saint-Amour). Beaujolais comes from 2 grapes: gamay (98%) and chardonnay (2%).
Another thing to note is that it is an “appellation d’origine controller” or AOC which means ‘controlled designation of origin.” It is a certification granted to certain French (and other countries like Italy, Greece) regions for wines, cheeses, and other agricultural products. It is basically protection from others making products that are claimed to be from that region, they protect the consumer too. Some examples are Roquefort cheese (how it all started); feta cheese (protected in Greece), Parmesan cheese (protected in Italy), champagne, etc.
Because Beaujolais isn’t as well known as some of the other wine regions, the price for land and grapes is cheaper and therefore has attracted the next generation of growers and producers focused on sustainable production. Lots of producers are now certified organic or biodynamic and are terroir-driven.
In addition, many Beaujolais winemakers are producing natural (minimalist) wine (vins nature) which means there are fewer additions, like yeasts and sulfur dioxide. The natural wine movement was born in the Beaujolais region by winemaker and merchant Jules Chauvet who is seen as the founder. Remember Kermit Lynch mentioned above? He wrote about him in his must-read book, Adventures on the Wine Route.
What I can tell you is this. I can drink this wine! My tastes may have shifted from moving to a low-carb lifestyle, but once again the Universe has deemed to put Beaujolais in my path and save the day. I can once again enjoy French red wine while at the same time feeling good about supporting a region and a wine that is kinder to mother Earth. Sustainable practices lead to healthier, more biodiverse vineyards and better wine and I believe drinking wines made without chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides, with fewer sulfites and additives has to be better for me!
Earth Day is a global annual event that takes place on April 22 and has been going strong since the year of my birth, 1970. To demonstrate my support I was pleased to collaborate with Discover Beaujolais and am sharing 3 Beaujolais wines along with a little bit about the producers who make sustainability a priority.
Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly 2019
The Geoffray family has been running Château Thivin in Mont Brouilly since 1877, using hands-on viticulture and vinification techniques to create terroir-reflective wines. They work to optimize growing practices to promote soil health, ensuring balance in the vineyard’s ecosystem. The vineyards are home to an array of wild plants, flowers, and herbs to promote biodiversity.
- Sustainable certifications: High Environmental Value (see definition below) and Terra Vitis (see definition below)
- Location: 630 route du Mont Brouilly, Odenas, France. Visits and tastings by appointment, BUT they have 2 gîtes in and around their vineyard, a wonderful way to experience Beaujolais!
Château de Javernand Chiroubles “Les Gatilles” 2018
Friends Arthur Fourneau and Pierre Prost craft wines together at the estate founded by Arthur’s great-grandfather in 1917, which features an 18th- century château and nearly 50 hectares of vines in the high-altitude Chiroubles Cru. The estate has been under organic conversion since 2018. “We are aiming for a sustainable and efficient system that goes far beyond organic,” the duo says, detailing their plan to achieve agro-ecological balance and boost biodiversity. “The vine is, therefore, less subject to stress, and it finds a balance that allows it to fully express its terroir.”
- Sustainable certification: 3rd year under organic conversion
- Location: 421 impasse de Javernand, Chiroubles, France. You can do a tasting in their cave by reserving by telephone (+33 09 63 29 82 13) or using the email form on their site. They also have “Journées Portes Ouvertes” open weekends in spring and fall, check the website for the latest details.
Château de Fleurie 2019, Fleurie
Owned by the Boisen and Barbet families—both direct descendants of the château’s original owner—this 18th-century château farms nine hectares of vines in the village of Fleurie, using large, traditional oak barrels for vinification. “Via HVE certification, Château de Fleurie engages in sustainable agriculture and respect of soil, water, and air,” says the winery team. The winery also works to protect and develop biodiversity and look for alternatives to phytosanitary inputs.
- Sustainable certification: High Environmental Value (see definition below)
- Location: Not open to the public, they are sold through wine distributors.
Sustainable Certification Definitions
- High Environmental Value (HEV) Agriculture is a French certification created and supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Agri-Food, and Forestry in order to promote production from farms that voluntarily commit themselves to environmental-friendly practices. (Source)
- Terra Vitis was created in 1998 to publicize and recognize the concept of Sustainable Wine Production to business partners and consumers, to offer serious guarantees by the application of technical specifications, and to offer consumers wines made from grapes grown in Sustainable production. (Source)
What to Eat with Beaujolais
Beaujolais is the perfect wine pairing for almost anything! Bring it for a picnic (grab some for your Paris picnic!), serve it at an apéro, pour a glass alongside a starter (entrée), main course, and dessert, and it pairs perfectly with a bistro meal. It is very food-friendly, with high acidity and fruity aromas. The 3 Beaujolais I had were on the lighter side, so this is what I recommend.
L’apéro (Happy Hour!)
- Beaujolais is great with French charcuterie and with cheeses like Brie, Camembert, or Tomme de Savoie. It also pairs well with Gouda and Cheddar.
- Try it with cold meats on a picnic: cold ham, cold turkey, or chicken.
- Beaujolais is often eaten with salads such as Niçoise (tuna, green beans, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, onion, capers, and potatoes), Vosgienne (warm potato salad), Franc-Comtoise (ham, Comté cheese, and walnuts), Provençale (potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives, capers, parsley, tuna, and eggs).
- Salads with chicken or bacon, goat’s cheese, and dried fruits or berries.
- Drink Beaujolais with chicken (why not poulet basque?), duck, mushroom risotto, blanquette de veau, or cassoulet.
- Seared tuna and salmon or even sushi
- For dessert, (are you still with me?) fruit tarts, especially something like mango.
- Strawberries with Beaujolais poured over them – this is one of the first desserts Mr. Misadventures ever made with me when we were dating, strawberries soaked in red wine with a tiny bit of honey or sugar – delicious!
What I ate with the 3 bottles
- Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly 2019: stir-fried cauliflower rice with zucchini and cubes of leftover barbequed turkey breast with Japanese curry and a little bit of sour cream.
- Château de Javernand Chiroubles “Les Gatilles” 2018: foie gras (from the Lafitte store on Île Saint Louis in the 4th Arrondissement), levain bread from local baker Union Special in Raleigh; low carb whole-grain crackers and low sugar superfruit jam. Honestly, the only thing missing was some of mon amie Brianna’s hot honey drizzled over the foie gras!
- Château de Fleurie 2019: v
How to Taste/Drink Wine the Right Way?
Answer: any way you want. The formality. The etiquette. Sometimes the rules surrounding tasting and drinking wine can be overwhelming and scare people away. Don’t let all the secret code prevent you from enjoying French wine. Or any wine for that matter. Throw the rules out the window and you do you. For example, the “rules” say to drink a sweet white wine (Classic is Sauternes) with foie gras, but it was lovely with the Chiroubles!
If you “need” some guidance, try these tips for tasting wine:
- Hold your glass by the stem
- Swish your glass around to release the flavors
- Smell it
- Take a small sip
- Don’t swallow it
- Let it roll around on your tongue for a moment
- Take a few seconds to assess the taste
- Swallow and analyze the after-taste or spit it out
The “process” is the same for a restaurant when they bring you a bottle, but you don’t spit it out 😉
How to say the word Beaujolais? And what does it mean?
I was looking up something for this story when I ran into something that I thought was interesting. As a Francophile I don’t always think about how to pronounce things, I have a French hubby and I can just ask him! People seem to be curious about what is the Beaujolais wine pronunciation, so I thought I would add it here as well.
You pronounce it like this: Bo-Jo-Lay. Beau means handsome, joulais is a form of jolie which means pretty.
In essence, Beaujolais is gorgeous!
What do you think?
Where to buy Beaujolais wine
The good news is that Beaujolais wines are widely available from grocery stores to wine and specialty stores, you’ll find a wide range of bottles at all price points from wineries throughout the 12 appellations. Look for bottles with: Beaujolais (comes in red, white, and rosé), Beaujolais Villages (comes in red, white, and rosé), and 10 Beaujolais Crus (reds only): Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Régnié, Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent, Chénas, Juliénas, and Saint-Amour.
Now that I have discovered a red wine (I didn’t try the white or rosé, but will now!) that I can truly enjoy, I am very excited to explore more of what this region and its wines have to offer. My wine journey isn’t over. And I am pretty sure it never will be. It has taken some twists and turns but always allowed me to discover wonderful new delights like
If you are interested in learning more about Beaujolais wines, visit the Discover Beaujolais or download this incredible guide (pdf) to the Beaujolais region and Beaujolais wine.
Santé / Cheers!
How about you? Have you tried Beaujolais wine? If yes, share your experience, share your favorite! If not, have I piqued your interest? Do you plan on finding a bottle near you and giving it a try? Do tell!
For a visual summary of this post, check out my Beaujolais web story!
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