Rachel Jones suggests some stops on a tour of Beaujolais. Believe it or not, this is one of just two entries that are based on France. You can find links to all the other articles in this series in Writing competition 2019 – latest.
It’s refreshing to walk into a cellar and not feel embarrassed about whether you can afford all of their wines. Beaujolais offers fantastic value and a brilliant range. The Gamay grape has long been scorned for the Pinot Noir of Burgundy a mere 100 kilometres away. However the ‘young bloods’ in the region are making serious wine that people should take notice of.
Situated in central France – just 50 kilometres north of Lyon – Beaujolais is accessible by the mighty A6 which many a ski-tripper will recognise from their Alpine excursions. With a leisurely luncheon in Champagne, the six-hour drive from Calais will seem altogether less arduous.
The region stretches from just outside Lyon in Beaujolais AOC up to the Beaujolais Villages AOC region with its main town of Beaujeu and the city of Villefranche-sur-Saône. The ten Cru regions are where the excitement builds and the quality skyrockets.
Named after a windmill, this is one of the most powerful and respected Cru regions of Beaujolais. You can sit at the local Caveau du Moulin-à-Vent on the balcony with a glass watching the windmill. They offer a tasting, or opportunity to buy a glass.
A pleasant drive up the 485m hill shows the rolling hills of the Cru villages to the north and the plains of Beaujolais to the south giving an idea of terroir.
The Wine Trail
La route des vins du Beaujolais has 173 tourist office-approved cellars that can be visited – from just outside Lyon to St-Amour (the most northerly Cru). Either download the handy app or grab the physical map which is available at all the local tourist offices. If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon one of Beaujolais’ tourist offices offering tastings of the local wines.
There is also the village Caveau, a co-operative of the local producers offering a tasting and a place to purchase their wines. Those of particular note include:
La Maison du Cru Fleurie, Rue des Crus, 69820 Fleurie
Staffed by the local wine growers offering a free tasting with a wide selection of Fleurie wines.
Caveau de Morgon, 56 Rue du Château Fontcrenne, 69910 Villié-Morgon
In the cellar of a seventeenth century château surrounded by a wildlife park with deer. Offers older vintages of Morgon to taste and buy. My biggest regret was that I didn’t buy more of the 2013. This truly shows what age can do to these wines and includes individual, named vineyards in Morgon with vintages going back to 2010. Bottles cost around 12 euros.
Régnié Cru Caveau, 298 Rue du Bourg, 69430 Régnié-Durette
Dating back to 1967, this provides an excellent opportunity to taste surrounded by locals in a presbytery cellar.
Comptoir Beaujolais, Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, 69430 Beaujeu
In the centre of Beaujeu, the capital of Beaujolais, this caveau is located in the vaulted town hall cellars. The barrels for seating is admittedly rustic, but most wines are just 1 euro per glass and less than 5 euros per bottle. You may find this gem to be both dog-friendly and a welcome escape from the heat!
Contacting producers to arrange a visit can give a special insight into the wines. Try to avoid the harvest in September and you’ll get a better reception. There are many options with lots of producers advertising degustations along the roadside. This is a small selection of notable producers:
Domaine David-Beaupère La Bottière, 69840 Juliénas
Louis-Clément has set up the family farm which borders one of his plots. This is a must-view estate and well worth contacting for a reservation. He is an organic farmer in Juliénas and is producing fine wine, sealed with wax. Also offers accommodation as a bed and breakfast.
Domaine de Chenepierre Les Deschamps, 69840 Chénas
In a tiny hamlet outside Chénas with good Chénas and Moulin-à-Vent.
Domaine Richard Rottiers, La Sambinerie, 71570 Romanèche-Thorins
A newer producer based near Moulin-à-Vent who has struggled with hail and succumbed to netting. They produce some more concentrated and ageworthy wines.
Domaine Gerard Brisson, Les Pillets, 69910 Morgon
An opportunity to encounter older Morgon wines.
Julien Sunier, Ferme des Noisetiers, 69430 Avenas
An organic producer particularly known for Régnié wines. Other wines include Fleurie and Morgon.
Domaine de la Combe Au Loup, Meziat Père et Fils, Le Bourg, Chiroubles 69115
David Meziat based in Chiroubles with Morgon, Régnié, Chiroubles and Beaujolais Villages along with a white Beaujolais Villages. He was nothing if not thoroughly welcoming and knowledgeable. There are a few Meziats in the village so look carefully.
Le Morgon, Route de Morgon, 69910 Villié-Morgon
This is a good restaurant outside of Villié-Morgon in Morgon village. Across the road from Mee Goddard, who is a fantastic (albeit slightly elusive) producer. They offer three menu choices with regional cuisine and a good wine list. Nice shady terrace for the summer. A husband and wife team.
Auberge du Cep, Place de l'Église, 69820 Fleurie
Very welcoming to dogs with great food but a little more expensive. Beware that they are closed on Sunday evening and all day Monday.
La Benoite, 5068 Rue de la Voûte, 69460 Salles-Arbuissonnas-en-Beaujolais
A restaurant further south, provides a particularly good-value lunch menu for 16 euros with an evening menu with interesting choices.
You are a step away from St-Véran in the north and the Mâconnais. You are also less than 100km from Beaune, the heartland of Burgundy where your wallet may take a pinch. To the south, Lyon offers good connections to the rest of France and the option of a combined city break.