A.� The Beaujolais Nouveau tradition was started originally as a marketing scheme. It turned into a good way of improving the Beaujolais cash flow by selling lots of wine only a few weeks after the harvest, instead of having to wait a year or two. It was established an an innovative scheme because France and much of Europe took it to heart and many still eagerly await a bottle of Nouveau each Novemeber - particularly it it can be drunk on the first day (traditionally, this is around November 18). Thousands of people still take part in wacky races ti bring home the newest bottle in the quickest way possible.�
Q.� Where dies it come from
A.� Specifically, it is the 50-mile area from Lyon to Dijon which starts with Beaujolais and then runs into the Macon and the Burgundy wine regions. The region makes three grades of red wine. Beaujolais, the basic quality, most of which is used for the Nouveau marketing drive. Beaujolais Villages is the next grade up, the grapes for this coming from designated areas. The highest quality is Beaujolais Cru, which is based on 10 villages in the north of the area in the highest vineyards. Each of the 10 has slightly different soils, micro climate and produces quite a wide variety of end product from the same grape.
Q.� What is the grape used in the production
A.� No other wine region relies on a single grape variety so much as Beaujolais. The Gamay, or its full name Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc, is grown almost universally in the region., save for a little Chardonnay to make Beaujolais Blanc. The small, dark plum-coloured thick skinned grapes are grown on tidy bushes, often trained in the gobelet or goblet shape, a bit like gooseberry bushes. Gamay is important in the production of Beaujolais, but it has little importance in other regions of France. It is high in acidity, a good element for ageing, but low in natural tannis, which is why it has never become a heavyweight..
Gamay is said to have originated in the Burgundian Cote D'Or area, and was known as Gamet, but was largely ostracized because of the importance of the noble Pinot Noir grape. Gamay is still used in the rustic Bourgogne Passe Tout Grains.
Plums, strawberries and cherries are the flavours often associated with Gamay, while in the fuller wines, expert can predict a chocolate toffee essence.�
Q.� What kind of vintage Beaujolais exist
A.� The real jewels come from the 10 Cru areas mentioned above. It is a wine mostly drunk young, but it has many facets and several different quality levels. This is reflected in the vintage variation and is the result of weather conditions and the location of the vineyard.. 1997, for instance, was an exceptional year for Nouveau, Beaujolais Villages and Crus, whereas 1993 was a poor year for Nouveau, but an excellent year for Crus.
The label Brouilly is a Beaujolais Cru, highly recommended by experts, and some of the finest Beaujolais is made around the village of Morgon.
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by Katharine MacColl