There are a lot of distinctions in wine, some not so subtle, which is to be expected when we’re talking about a marketed, profit generating product. I won’t say they are intended to confuse the average consumer, but there are often trends and well-known names with an inherent value to be leveraged. Beaujolais is a fine example.
Even one who does not know much about wine will possibly have heard this word, even if they don’t know that Beaujolais is a French appellation (AOC) which technically is in the South of Burgundy. But instead of pinot noir, the wines are made with gamay, and tend to be less complicated, more approachable, cheaper, and in some cases, mass produced.
As is the case when talking about Beaujolais Nouveau, a big to-do where wine from grapes picked just weeks earlier are released the 3rd Thursday of November. They are simple, light, “fresh” wines with a release which happens to occur right before Thanksgiving, allowing for some serious cross marketing. As the release of these wines and BS marketing reached critical mass in the 90′s, demand became quite high, and the wine makers (particularly Georges Debueof) were content to supply a bunch of crap wine, which over time ruined the “Beaujolais” brand, a fate similarly bestowed upon Australian wine over the last five years as they pumped out millions of gallons of Yellow Tail swill and the like.
Though, it seems that in the last few years, higher quality wines from Beaujolais (with a “Cru” and often a specific vineyard designation) are making a comeback, with many people realizing they have the ability to be complex, age worthy French wines, at a reasonable cost. Last week I sampled this wine from the Fluerie, and thought it was excellent.
Back to my story. The Beaujolais popularity wave was so big in the 90′s, a few California producers were like, hey, we like money. We should grow gamay and call it Beaujolais too! I found this bottle of Beringer in my father’s cellar, I wonder how it’s drinking??
The practice of producing an artisan product (often wine, meat, cheese) and applying a name of an internationally known region is something you don’t see much anymore, as these names have become protected and infringements are generally enforced by reasonable countries.
There are some people that are grandfathered in though, and can continue to use these names. Which is why even though wine snobs like me will say “if it’s from California, it’s sparkling wine, not Champagne, idiot”, you will still see the word used on sparklers like this abortion of a wine below.
Don’t fall for the sham-pagne. True ballers only drink real Champagne, like Cristal, vintage Krug, or farmer fizz (Grower Champagne).
But really, I find it quite funny when I come across 90′s California Beaujolais, or say, 1960′s Australian Burgundy (it’s happened). It’s sort of like when you’re traveling abroad and you come across one of those reject shirts that announce some event that didn’t happen.