All about Natural Wine in Beaujolais

Often referenced as the ‘birthplace’ of the French Natural Wine revolution, Beaujolais as a region has certainly had both its ups & downs in earning respect in the wine world.

Famed for the area where the legendary ‘Gang of Four’ formed consisting of Jean-Foillard, Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thévenet & Marcel Lapierre (and later Joseph Chamonard), Beaujolais became an inspiration for other low-intervention winemakers who were keen to follow suit.


This is not to say that ‘Natural winemakers’ did not exist before this gang, but their at-the-time revolutionary methods really were seen as a little crazy back then.

Natural Wine from Beaujolais

The gang of four committed to farming without the use of pesticides, adding minimal-to-no SO2, harvesting grapes later, sorting grapes for quality control and refusing to add to sugar to fermenting wine (this was commonplace to boost alcohol content, as the 1980’s wine trends demanded somewhat, arguably due to ‘Parkerisation’), all of which together were certainly a complete abstract to what others were doing in Beaujolais at the time.

It’s worth also noting, this was when Beaujolais was not seen as being capable of producing wines to impress, and as a result, it had lost its identity from trying to make wines with higher alcohol and mimicking what other regions were getting critic’s praise for, rather than celebrating what it actually had available at the time (when using the right winemaking techniques it had as a whole not quite found itself with at this time).

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Gamay design for morenaturalwine by Guen Douglas. Not for stealing please hehe. Tee shirts here btw...

This struggle for showing the potential of a better Beaujolais wine was more hindered with the ‘Beaujolais Nouveau’ campaign of the 1980’s; this focus on cheap, wishy-washy wines of little substance did no favours to the Gang of Four’s aims to showcase the higher quality of their wines, which truly showcased the potential of the regions’ older vines, the various Granite & Schist soils and ideal climate for winegrowing, not to mention how Gamay as a grape could be more versatile than previously thought and also has aging qualities when made.

Subsequently, the Beaujolais Nouveau campaign of the 1980’s became rather damaging for the region’s name further in time. Note: It’s interesting to see how Beaujolais Nouveau has evolved in these times within the natural wine scene to showcase a better focus on quality, as despite the damaged name, Beaujolais Nouveau is now in hot demand from natural winemakers, perhaps to a lesser degree than beforehand in the conventional wine world...

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What is a Beaujolais Nouveau?

Celebrated on the third Thursday of November every year, ‘Beaujolais Nouveau’ rejoices the first Gamay release of the same year’s harvest, also known elsewhere with other grapes as a Primeur wine.

This is usually the fastest wine to market anywhere. This is made possible by the quicker winemaking method of Carbonic Maceration*, which this wine region is famous for. The tradition of a Nouveau wine actually comes from the 1800s, whereby bar owners in Lyon would buy barrels of freshly made wine to serve in November.

With grapes picked in September, it’s only got a short time to ferment and shortly age before release. Nowadays, the logistics to meet the demand for Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations around the world for the third Thursday of November is challenging (also for us, hehe!).


What is Carbonic Maceration?

‘Full Carbonic Maceration’ is a winemaking process sealing lots of (only) whole bunches in a vat. Pumping the presence of Carbon Dioxide helps the grapes to ferment from the inside. 


Semi-Carbonic Maceration is a similar process, but the weight of the top grapes crush the ones on the bottom, bursting their skins and releasing juice which ferments spontaneously, making Carbon Dioxide produced naturally rather than added. This does not need to be a sealed vat, like with full Carbonic Maceration, and takes longer than a full Carbonic Maceration (meaning generally, all Beaujolais Nouveau are made with full Carbonic Maceration)


Fermentation eventually reaches all the grapes and results in a quickly-made, fruit-forward, quaffable ‘glou-glou’ style of wine with little tannic structure. This has favourable results achieved with thinner-skinned grapes like Gamay which are ideal for this method (although this technique works with any grape).

What is Carbonic Maceration?

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What are the 10 Beaujolais Cru?


In addition to Village wines which are generally more affordable, Beaujolais features the areas of Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chénas, Saint-Amour, Juliénas and Chiroubles as the 10 Beaujolais Cru.

Despite all featuring Gamay (and some Chardonnay) you’ll find noticeable differences drinking the wines of these Cru side by side, with Morgon in particular favoured for producing wines of a more respected caliber, especially around the famed ‘Côte du Py’ which is a Volcanic hill of Schist soils. The Jean-Foillard ‘Côte du Py’ Morgon is a favourite of ours.


What are the 10 Beaujolais Wine Cru?Image source:

What are the best Natural Wines from Beaujolais?

This is up for debate, and can cause some good table discussions! 

For more producers focusing on slightly more structured, terroir driven wines, we suggest to try harder to find producers, often not in stock due to high demand and low supply like Jean-Foillard, Mathieu Lapierre (the son of Marcel Lapierre), Yvon Metras, La Soufrandière and Domaine Thillardon.


For more ‘quaffable’, and often more affordable Beaujolais producers easier to find, we recommend David Large, Alex Foillard, Christian Ducroux, Chateau du Grand Pre,  Julie Balagny, Clos Bateau, Pierre Cotton, Domaine des Canailles as well as some Negoce producers outside of Beaujolais including Patrick Bouju (who makes his own ‘Boujulais Nouveau’) and Sons of Wine who makes a Gamay Davidson with Beaujolais grapes.


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