Beaujolais is a French AOC wine generally made of the Gamay Noir grape which has a thin skin and few tannins. Gamay Noir is now known to be a cross of Pinot Noir and the ancient white varietal Gouais Blanc.
In contrast to the Pinot Noir grape varietal, Gamay tends to ripen two weeks earlier and is less difficult to cultivate and ripen. It also produces a strong, fruitier style wine, and in a much larger abundance.
The region really began to develop an identity distinct from its northern neighbour Burgundy, after Duke of Burgundy - made his famous decree in July 1395, outlawing the Gamay grape and forbidding its cultivation in the great duchy of Burgundy proper.
The official orders decreed, had the effect of pushing Gamay plantings south, out of the main wine region of Burgundy and into the granite based soils of Beaujolais where the grape thrived. So Burgundy went with Pinot Noir and Beaujolais went with Gamay. Although the proclamation was not at all popular with the grape-growers of his day, it proved to be a good thing for each of the two wine regions.
Located South of Burgundy proper, between Macon and Lyon, Beaujolais produces an average of 13 million cases annually. Best of all, once a year, when the world falls in love with Beaujolais Nouveau, nearly half of this crop is pressed, fermented, racked, fined, filtered and sold within weeks. The rapid cash flow generated is the envy of winemakers everywhere.
Beaujolais is diverse geographically, but it is unified by the Gamay Noir grape. Ninety-eight percent of the area is planted with it. The other 2% is basically planted with Chardonnay, Aligote and Pinot Noir. Beaujolais is the young, refreshing, and fruity wine that has been so popular in the French cafes. The fruity, exuberant, intensely aromatic wines produced here, owe a lot not only to the Gamay grape, but to the style of vinification used.
Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages pair well with light fare, like picnics and salads. The lighter Cru Beaujolais pair well with poultry and the heavier Crus pairing better with red meats and hearty, seasoned dishes.