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Beaujolais (French pronunciation: [boʒoˈlɛ]) is a French Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) wine generally made of the Gamay grape which has a thin skin and is low in tannins. Like most AOC wines they are not labeled varietally. Whites from the region, which make up only 1% of its production, are made mostly with Chardonnay grapes though Aligoté is also permitted. Beaujolais tends to be a very light-bodied red wine, with relatively high amounts of acidity. In some vintages, Beaujolais produces more wine than the Burgundy wine regions of Chablis, Côte d'Or, Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais put together.

Vignoble BeaujolaisThe wine takes its name from the historical Beaujolais province and wine producing region. It is located north of Lyon, and covers parts of the north of the Rhône département (Rhône-Alpes) and parts of the south of the Saône-et-Loire département (Burgundy). While administratively considered part of the Burgundy wine region, the climate is closer to the Rhône and the wine is unique enough to be considered separately from Burgundy and Rhône. The region is known internationally for its long tradition of winemaking, uniquely emphasized the use of carbonic maceration, and more recently for the popular Beaujolais nouveau.


The region of Beaujolais was first cultivated by the Romans who planted the areas along its trading route up the Saône valley. The most notable Roman vineyard was Brulliacus located on the hillside of Mont Brouilly. The Romans also planted vineyards in the area Morgon. From the 7th century through the Middle Ages, most of the viticulture and winemaking was done by the Benedictine monks. In the 10th century, the region got its name from the town of Beaujeu, Rhône and was ruled by the Lords of Beaujeu till the 15th century when it was ceded to the Duchy of Burgundy. The wines from Beaujolais were mostly confined to the markets along the Saône and Rhône rivers, particularly in the town of Lyon. The expansion of the French railroad system in the 19th century opened up the lucrative Paris market. The first mention of Beaujolais wines in English followed soon after when Cyrus Redding described the wines of Moulin-à-Vent and Saint-Amour as being low priced and best consumed young.

In the 1980s, Beaujolais hit a peak of popularity in the world's wine market with its Beaujolais nouveau wine. Spurred on by the creative marketing from négociants like Georges Duboeuf, demand outpaced supply for the easy drinking, fruity wines. As more Beaujolais producers tried to capitalize on the "Nouveau craze", production of regular Beaujolais dropped and an eventual backlash occurred in the late 1990s and early 21st century. By this point, the whole of Beaujolais wine had developed a negative reputation among consumers who associated Gamay based wines with the slightly sweet, simple light bodied wines that characterized Beaujolais Nouveau. Producers were left with a wine lake surplus that French authorities compelled them to reduce through mandatory distillation. In response, there has been renewed emphasis on the production of more complex wines that are aged longer in oak barrels prior to release. Recent years have seen a rise in the number of terroir driven estate-bottled wines made from single vineyards or in one of the Cru Beaujolais communes, where the name of the commune is allowed to be displayed on the label.


There are twelve main appellations of Beaujolais wines covering the production of more than 96 villages in the Beaujolais region.[9] They were originally established in 1936, with additional crus being promoted in 1938 and 1946, plus Régnié in 1988. About half of all Beaujolais wine is sold under the basic Beaujolais AOC designation. The majority of this wine is produced in the southern Bas Beaujolais region located around the town of Belleville. The minimum alcohol level for these wines is 10%. If the grapes are harvested a little later, or the wine is subjected to chaptalization, to get the alcohol up to 10.5% the wine may be labeled as Beaujolais Supérieur. The only difference between basic Beaujolais and Beaujolais Supérieur is this slight increase in alcohol.

Beaujolais AOC is the most extended appellation covering 60 villages, and refers to all basic Beaujolais wines. It implies a minimum alcohol of just 9%; Beaujolais Supérieur implies wine with more than 10% alcohol. A large portion of the wine produced under this appellation is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau. The maximum yield for this AOC is 55 hl/ha (3.1 tons/acre). Annually, this appellation averages around 75 million bottles a year in production.


Beaujolais-Villages AOC, the intermediate category in terms of classification, covers 39 communes/villages in the Haut Beaujolais, the northern part of the region accounting for a quarter of production. Some is sold as Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, but it is not common. Most of the wines are released in the following March after the harvest. The terrain of this region is hillier with more schist and granite soil composition than what is found in the regions of the Beaujolais AOC and the wine has the potential to be of higher quality. If the grapes come from the area of a single vineyard or commune, producers can affix the name of their particular village to the Beaujolais-Villages designation. Since most of the villages of Beaujolais, outside of those classified as Cru Beaujolais, villages have little international name recognitions most producers choose to maintain the Beaujolais-Villages designation. The maximum permitted yields for this AOC is 50 hl/ha. These wines are meant to be consumed young, within two years of their harvest. Several of the communes in the Beaujolais-Villages AOC also qualify to produce their wines under the Mâconnais and Saint-Véran AOCs. The Beaujolais producers that produce a red wine under the Beaujolais-Villages appellation will often produce their white wine under the more internationally recognized names of Mâcon-Villages or Saint-Véran.
 
Cru Beaujolais, the highest category of classification in Beaujolais, account for the production within ten villages/areas in the foothills of the Beaujolais mountains. Unlike Burgundy and Alsace, the phrase cru in Beaujolais refers to an entire wine producing area rather than an individual vineyard. Seven of the Crus relate to actual villages while Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly refer to the vineyards areas around Mont Brouilly and Moulin-à-Vent is named for a local windmill. These wines do not usually show the word "Beaujolais" on the label, in an attempt to separate themselves from mass-produced Nouveau; in fact vineyards in the cru villages are not allowed to produce Nouveau. The maximum yields for Cru Beaujolais wine is 48 hl/ha. Their wines can be more full-bodied, darker in color, and significantly longer-lived. From north to south the Beaujolais crus are- Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly.

Beaujolais Blanc & Beaujolais Rosé - A small amount of white wine made from Chardonnay or Aligote is grown in the region and used to produce Beaujolais Blanc or Beaujolais-Villages Blanc. The vineyards to produces these wines are normally found in the limestone soils of the far northern extremities of the region. Part of the reason for the small production of these wines is that many of the vineyards overlap into the Mâconnais regions and producers will usually choose to label their wines under the more marketable and well known Mâcon Blanc designation. There is also regulations in several Beaujolais communes restricting growers to dedicating no more than 10% of their vineyard space to white wine grape varieties. Beaujolais Rosé made from Gamay is permitted in the Beaujolais AOC but is rarely produced.
[edit] Beaujolais Crus
Bottle of Côte de Brouilly wine.The ten Beaujolais Crus differ in character. The following three crus produce the lightest bodied Cru Beaujolais and are typically meant to be consumed within three years of the vintage.

Brouilly - The largest Cru in Beaujolais, situated around Mont Brouilly and contains within its boundaries the sub-district of Côte de Brouilly. The wines are noted for their aromas of blueberries, cherries, raspberries and currants. Along with Côte de Brouilly, this is the only Cru Beaujolais region that permits grapes other than Gamay to be produced in the area with vineyards growing Chardonnay, Aligote and Melon de Bourgogne as well. The Brouilly cru also contains the famous Pisse Vieille vineyard (roughly translated as "piss old woman!") which received it name from a local legend of a devout Catholic woman who misheard the local priest's absolution to "Allez! Et ne péchez plus." (Go! And sin no more.) as "Allez! Et ne pissez plus." (Go! And piss no more). The vineyard name is the admonishment that her husband gave to her upon learning of the priest's words.

Régnié - The most recently recognized Cru, graduating from a Beaujolais-Villages area to Cru Beaujolais in 1988. One of the more fuller bodied crus in this category. It is noted for its redcurrant and raspberry flavors. Local lore in the region states that this Cru was the site of the first vineyards planted in Beaujolais by the Romans.

Côte de BrouillyChiroubles - This cru has vineyards at some of the highest altitudes among the Cru Beaujolais. Chiroubles cru are noted for their delicate perfume that often includes aromas of violets.
The next three crus produce more medium bodied Cru Beaujolais that Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan recommend needs at least a year aging in the bottle and to be consumed within fours years of the vintage.

Côte de Brouilly - Located on the higher slopes of the extinct volcano Mont Brouilly within the Brouilly Cru Beaujolais. The wines from this region are more deeply concentrated with less earthiness than Brouilly wine.

Fleurie - One of the most widely exported Cru Beaujolais into the United States. These wines often have a velvet texture with fruity and floral bouquet.[9] In ideal vintages, a vin de garde (wine for aging) is produced that is meant to age at least four years before consuming and can last up to 16 years.

Saint-Amour - Local lore suggest that this region was named after a Roman soldier (St. Amateur) who converted to Christianity after escaping death and established a mission near the area. The wines from Saint-Amour are noted for their spicy flavors with aromas of peaches.[9] The vin de garde wines require at least four year aging and can last up to twelve years.


The last four crus produce the fullest bodied examples of Cru Beaujolais that need the most time aging in the bottle and are usually meant to be consumed between four to ten years after harvest.

Chénas - Once contained many of the vineyards that are now sold under the Moulin-à-Vent designation. It is now the smallest Cru Beaujolais with wines that are noted for their aroma of wild roses. In ideal vintages, a vin de garde is produced that is meant to age at least five years before consuming and last up to 15. The area named is derived from the forest of French oak trees (chêne) that used to dot the hillside.

Juliénas- This cru is based around the village named after Julius Caesar. The wines made from this area are noted for their richness and spicy with aromas reminiscent of peonies. In contrast to the claims of Régnié, Juliénas growers believe that this area was the site of the first vineyards planted in Beaujolais by the Romans during this conquest of Gaul.

Morgon - Produces earthy wines that can take on a Burgundian character of silky texture after five years aging. These wines are generally the deepest color and most rich Cru Beaujolais with aromas of apricots and peaches. Within this Cru there is a particular hillside, known as Cote du Py, in the center of Morgon that produces the most powerful examples of Morgon wines.

Moulin-à-Vent - Wines are very similar to the nearby Chénas Cru Beaujolais. This region produces some of the longest lasting examples of Beaujolais wine, with some wines lasting up to ten years. Some producers will age their Moulin-à-Vent in oak which gives these wines more tannin and structure than other Beaujolais wines. The phrase fûts de chêne (oak casks) will sometimes appear on the wine label of these oak aged wines. The region is noted for the high level of manganese that is in the soil, which can be toxic to grape vines in high levels. The level of toxicity in Moulin-à-Vent does not kill the vine but is enough to cause chlorosis and alter the vine's metabolism to severely reduce yields. The resulting wine from Moulin-à-Vent are the most full bodied and powerful examples in Beaujolais. The vin de garde styles require at least 6 years aging and can last up to 20 years.

 Source: Wikipedia

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