It is almost here. That wonderful day in March that wine lovers all over the world anxiously wait for every year. Thousands gather for jubilant festivities of the wines of Beaujolais. No, my calendar does not need adjusting. November’s annual harvest fete known as Beaujolais Nouveau Day is a distant memory by the time the real stars of this French wine region are allowed to be released to adoring fans. Though you would be correct if you said I was overstating the excitement of the annual release of the crus of Beaujolais (and in actuality most are aged longer than laws dictate), these are wines worth celebrating.
The Crus of Beaujolais are stand-alone AOCs representing the region’s very best vineyard land. These are high-quality wines reflecting individual terroirs and showcasing the great potential of the Gamay grape. Gamay is one the most underrated red grapes and the Crus of Beaujolais provide an incredible value to quality ratio.
There are ten Beaujolais Crus, each named for a village within the growing area. Following in succession, the Crus span approximately 20km/12.5mi of northern Beaujolais. The soils in this part of the region are largely what makes these places so special. Primarily a mixture of ancient granite and schist, the soils of the Cru areas bring out the best in Gamay. Across the board, these are structured, complex wines with spicy aromas and the potential to age well, but each Cru has its distinctive signature. The following excerpts from our French Wine Scholar™ manual describe what makes each Cru special.
The vintage chart and harvest reports provided by the Wine Scholar Guild gives you the ranking for every French wine region and vintage from 2000 to today.
Andrew Jefford, award-winning wine journalist for Decanter Magazine and author of twelve books on wine including The New France has compiled information and written the vintage charts starting with the 2013 vintage. He is also updating information for the vintages prior to 2013.
Last updated: Jan. 16, 2023
|2021||Drink||A warm winter, savage April frosts, a cold May, hail in June and a cold, wet July: the first two-thirds of the growing season in Beaujolais was as difficult as it was elsewhere in Burgundy. August began coolly, too, and by the time véraison got underway on the 5th of August, the ripening cycle was 18 days behind that of 2020. From August 12th up until harvest eventually began in mid-September, though, the weather was warm and dry, and those growers prepared to sort extensively and vinify according to the needs of each parcel have produced incisive, vital wines packed with freshness and vivacity: mouth-watering drinking in the short to medium term.|
|2020||Drink/Cellar||A mild winter led to an early budburst at the end of March, and April and May, too, were warm, sunny and dry, with flowering beginning very early on May 20th. It was successfully concluded by the end of the month – but June then slowed things down a little with a cold, wet debut before finishing with a new pulse of heat. July was hot and very dry, and August continued hot, with a very early harvest beginning from around August 20th – the second-earliest harvest on record (after 2003). Things got much cooler at the end of the month for the final two weeks of harvest. Quality depending on how well each parcel was able to cope with the intense dry heat of July and the beginning of August: drought, sunburn and raisined grapes were in evidence in the sandiest, most freely draining parcels. Where the vines could find moist subterranean clays, though, quality was outstanding (our rating is based on the quality of the best wines). Despite the heat, the wines have retained freshness, and an almost hail-free year with little disease-pressure meant satisfactory quantities. The cru wines will mature well.|
|2019||Drink/Cellar||The 2019 vintage is qualitatively attractive in Beaujolais – but growers had a wild ride along the way. Overall quantities (at 400,000 hl) were only half the size of the generous 2018 crop, and a quarter down on the five-year average. After a mild spring, budburst was early – but severe frosts in early April reduced the potential crop. As elsewhere in France, a generally cool late spring and early summer gave way to flamboyant heat in July, with temperatures cresting 40°C in this continental climate. The second half of August brought rain and – the second major blow of the season – hail, with the southern half of the region being particularly badly affected. The crus were largely spared the hail, though, and here the rains were helpful for maturation after the fierce heat of summer. The style of the best wines is concentrated and fresh.|
|2018||Drink/Cellar||The growing season began with a period of tropical warmth after a very wet, mild winter, though cooler weather later in spring slowed down the vines’ progress somewhat. Flowering took place in late May and early June, just three days earlier than in 2017, and was accomplished successfully in six days rather than the usual 10. After that, summer was in general hot, dry and sunny (August 2018 was the hottest in Beaujolais since 1959), and harvest began in late August, though in many of the best cru sites growers had to wait until full phenolic ripeness came in September, a little later than expected. The style of the wines was expected to be as flamboyantly ripe as 2015, but in the end they have proved to be fresher and more vivacious than that, with slightly lower alcohol levels, perhaps due to the groundwater reserves in the soils after the very wet first half of the year. The best cru Beaujolais from 2018 will mature well.|
|2017||Drink||In contrast to other parts of France, Beaujolais was not badly affected by the frosts of late April; by contrast, catastrophic hail storms in July slashed many growers’ production volumes for the second year running, both in the Beaujolais Villages zone and in the zone of the crus, on July 10th and then again on July 31st. Some growers in both Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent lost 80% of their crop in both 2017 and 2016, and growers in other crus have fared almost as badly. This was all the more tragic since the rest of the summer was largely problem-free with ample fine weather, providing a crop of exuberantly fruit-packed wines for those growers lucky enough to have escaped the hail.|
|2016||Drink||After mild winter weather and a mixed early spring, northern Beaujolais was hit by three separate hail attacks. The first, on April 13th, affected Juliénas and parts of Beaujolais-Villages; the second came on May 27th, and hit 1500 ha principally in the crus, with 650 ha suffering losses of more than 75 per cent; while the third, on June 24th, was the worst of all, affecting 2,250 ha again principally in the crus, with 1,000 ha suffering losses of 80 per cent or more. Overall, however, these losses in the north were compensated by an ample harvest in the south of the region. Poor weather at the start to the year was balanced by a generous summer. The result was a harvest of soft, amply fruity wines, though without the depth and density of the outstanding 2015 harvest.|
|2015||Drink||A sunny, dry spring was followed by ideal flowering conditions. Summer veered between very warm and hot, with a series of heat spikes—all alleviated by periodic rains and cool nights. Harvest began early, August 24th. The wines are dark, generously fruity, sometimes heady and chewy; acids remained bright, thanks to the cool nights.|
|2014||Drink||A warm spring followed by successful, early flowering gave way to a cool summer. September, though, was hot and dry, and harvest unfolded under perfect conditions. The wines are sprightly with pristine fruit characters but great depth too; more ‘classic’ than 2015.|
|2013||Past peak||A cool, moist spring and early summer resulted in bud break in late April and flowering in mid-June. July and August were warm and sunny, but not enough to speed the cycle. Harvest was late, the end of September and into October. Quality was variable, but the best wines were fresh, vivid and lively.|
|2012||Drink||Smallest harvest in 40 years (509,000 hl), 40% less than 2011, yields barely 30 hl/ha. Concentrated, fresh, vibrant reds.|
|2011||Drink||Third highly successful vintage in row, combining mature dark fruit without exaggeration & fresh acidity. Well-suited to cellaring at cru level.|
|2010||Drink||Poor flowering, small crop. Small berries, concentrated reds with typical red fruits. Higher acidities than ‘09 though less homogeneous overall. Many crus need bottle age to show their best|
|2009||Drink||Atypical in best sense. Consistently ripe reds display rich dark fruit, sometimes verging on jam, uncommon generosity. Delicious early, best crus will age well.|
|2008||Past peak||Rainy year, widespread hailstorms, rot & mildew. Success hinged on skill of vigneron. Nearly all to be consumed now except for a handful of top crus.|
|2007||Past peak||Lack of sunshine. Mildew problems. Crus show their superiority, fare far better than regionals.|
|2006||Past peak||Alternating extremes of climate, heterogeneous results. Better end of season. Southern Beaujolais more consistent than northern zone.|
|2005||Past peak||Hot, dry year with water stress. Fully mature, healthy grapes with excellent phenolic ripeness & overall equilibrium. A few may still improve.|
|2004||Past peak||Light Beaujolais for early drinking. At its best in Moulin à Vent & Morgon.|
|2003||Past peak||Extremely dry season stresses vines. Heterogeneous wines, most successful are dense, full-bodied & tannic.|
|2002||Past peak||Typical wines though uneven; many picked in rainy period. Best have appealing fruit & charm but are meant for early consumption.|
|2001||Past peak||Large harvest. Healthy, ripe grapes crafting wines meant to be drunk young.|
|2000||Past peak||Charming wines; drink early.|
These vintage notes have been prepared by Andrew Jefford, Academic Advisor to the Wine Scholar Guild. New vintage information, and any revisions of previous vintage drinking suggestions, are made each autumn. Use the chart as a guide only; in every vintage there will be outperforming and underperforming wines.
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