Controversy in Beaujolais and Burgundy


Burgundian landscapeThe wine industry is waiting to see what will come of the ongoing disagreements between the BIVB (Burgundy’s representative generic body) and the Syndicat des Bourgognes (as reported by Jancis Robinson and Decanter).

I have for years been campaigning for the anomaly, by which the Beaujolais crus can be declassified into Bourgogne Rouge, to be suppressed. There is a commercial history behind it, but surely it flies in the face of what terroir is about, which is matching grape varieties to locations. There is nothing in common between two wines labelled as Bourgogne Rouge, one grown on acid soils and made with Gamay, the other on alkaline soils made with Pinot.

It worries me that there may be more overlap between these two completely distinct regions. What we need is for the Beaujolais to regain its own valuable identity, not for it to be propped up by sliding under the wing of Burgundy.

There is no point in going back over where Beaujolais has gone wrong, but we should be thinking on how to discover a successful future. I have started drinking much more Beaujolais in the last couple of years, having discovered how good straight Beaujolais grown in the hills can be, as well as finding growers in the crus who concentrate on quality without recourse to thermovinification and other short-cut techniques.

But the good growers are not charging enough for their wines, so it is hard for them to continue to invest in quality without adequate return. If 2009 turns out to be as good as we all are hoping (admittedly two months before harvest) it might be a great moment to start a Rediscover Beaujolais drive.

I have started a thread with these comments in Jancis’ Purple Pages members’ forum, so please feel free to take a look and join the debate.