Whether you are a seasoned wine connaisseur or more of a "I buy whatever is on sale" person, you undoubtably know of the prestigious wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux. People flock to these areas to taste the wines so deserving of their reputation. However there is another region, often overlooked, but meriting a detour - Beaujolais. I have a special fondness for Beaujolais wines, as they are the first wines I learned to love in France. You too? That is because they are the fruitiest red wines in France, making them fun, festive and easily appreciated.
30 years after my first introduction to these wines, I decided it was time to see where they were made. I came expecting a wine tour, and left filled with joyful memories and a handful of new friends. Come along with me, virtually, or in person in 2023, and experience the friendliest wines of France. You don't have to be a wine lover to enjoy this beautiful region of rolling vineyards peppered with quaint villages serving excellent cuisine - there is something for everyone here.
It begins, of course, with Georges Duboeuf. Thanks to his passion and strong desire to share and celebrate these wines, there is a world-wide toast to the Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of November. It is a young wine - about 6-weeks old - but it is the first glimpse of the harvest, and a great reason to take a collective pause and give thanks for another vintage and for the hardworking people who make it happen.
Joyful. The feeling is palpable as the people pick their way through the rows and rows of vines, sporting smiles and exchanging friendly banter as music fills the air.
Georges Duboeuf felt this joy and wanted to share it with the world. Not only did he promote these wines world-wide, but he created his own discovery park in Beaujolais. (Le Hameau Duboeuf). While educational, more importantly, it is fun. With lively videos that will even capture your children's attention, the Hameau is a delightful wine experience for adults. I can't help but feel he was a kid-at-heart as everything is meant to surprise and delight. George's son has since taken over, and the festive atmosphere is alive and well. Plan to spend a day here to take it all in.
"But I like serious wines"
Beaujolais Nouveau is meant as a sneak peak - like the trailer to a movie - it is young, fresh and should be consumed within a few months, but it is far from the only wine in Beaujolais! (The feature-length film exists as well!) This small region is separated into 3 areas: Beaujolais, Beaujolais Supérieur, and Cru Beaujolais, of which there are 10: Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Régnié, Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent, Chénas, Juliénas, and Saint-Amour. Tasting them all will take a bit of time ...
Each area is unique and has something special to offer, from the windmill at Moulin-à-Vent, to the Madonna perched on the hilltop of Fleurie, to 4x4 tours and the Roulotte accommodations of Christophe Savoye in Chiroubles.
"You can't live on wine alone"
You may be thinking that small villages must mean a poor choice of restaurants. While there are fewer restaurants than in large cities, the quality of the cuisine in each one is exceptional! Beaujolais is a stone's throw from Lyon, gastronomic capital of France (and maybe Europe!) so the bar is set high, and talent abounds. Our first stop is at Le Rouge & Blanc, located in the Hôtel les Maritonnes in Romanèche-Thorins. Chef Georges Blanc features his specialty of Bresse chicken with morels, as well as frog legs, les oeufs en Meurette (eggs in a Burgundy wine sauce), several fish dishes, and classic escargots de Bourgogne. ( I had to eat here several times to try everything that tempted me on the menu! ).
You can have a Michelin-star experience at Auberge du Cep in Fleurie, dine in the middle of the vines at La Robe Rouge, or feel like you are at the family table at Josephine a Table in Saint-Amour. The Auberge du Pont specializes in frog - the entire frog - which requires nibbling around a lot of bones!
You know I love nothing more than trying all of the regional specialties, so between gastronomic meals, we were off to taste the local fare at Charcuterie Bobosse.
I'm not going to lie, I hesitated scheduling a visit to Charcuterie Bobosse because I knew one of the specialties is Andouillette Beaujolaise. I am not too picky of an eater, but I didn't know if I could truly appreciate pork intestines. The history and reputation of Bobosse made it impossible not to go. Greeted warmly by the staff, we were treated to a smorgasbord of culinary delights, each more impressive than the last, (and pairing perfectly with Beaujolais wines). I timidly tasted the andouillettes, and while not something I would eat weekly, it was surprisingly pas mal! (not bad). My favorite dish was the quenelles de brochet, a traditional dish from Lyon that is like a dumpling made with fish (Pike) and served with an indescribably delicious sauce. This gem of a charcuterie will remain on my "return often" list!
Do I belong in the kitchen?
This rich array of local dishes inspired me to try my hand at cooking! I must preface that I am NOT a cook. I prefer eating and have absolutely NO skills to speak of. Stephane Fonlupt of Table, Etable et Tablier was not aware of this, so he welcomed me into his studio without reservation! We were all set to prepare his variation on a local dish - fricassée de vollaille au bleu de Beaujolais. Our chicken and vegetables (glazed carrots and beets) turned out to be delicious, but I think that had a lot more to do with Stephane than with me! It was an absolute blast, and next time I would plan more time to do the visit of the local producers as well. In the mean time, I will leave the cooking to the professionals and take up my spot at the table.
Take a hike
With natural beauty as rich as the cuisine, it might be a good idea to walk off the food and wine in the countryside. The Roche de Solutré is a rare limestone spur that is easily hiked, providing sweeping views of Solutré-Pouilly. Near the city of Macon, also known for exceptional wines, it is a must-see.
Last but not least
One of the "plus beaux villages de France", the charming village of Oingt is known for its "Pierres Dorées", or golden stones. This tiny village of 614 inhabitants has it all - it's a perched, fortified, medieval town filled with artisans, and surrounded by vineyards. Yes, it is a postcard at every turn. (Un grand merci to Anthony Litaudon of AL Drone getting up before dawn to capture this amazing footage.)
Has this overview whet your appetite for more?
Come along with me to experience the beautiful, bountiful region of Beaujolais during the harvest in September 2023. We will explore wine, food, nature and local products in Macon and various villages throughout Beaujolais (including all of the places highlighted here) before heading to the gastronomic capital of Lyon for several days. End your trip in this city of rivers, food and rich history, or continue on to Nice, where we will take in the city and surrounding villages.
(The complete itinerary is in the works, and details will be available on the Learn page under Events).
Like the wine they produce, the people of Beaujolais are friendly, fun and easy to be around!
I know I will be back often.