Made from the Gamay grape, the red wines of Beaujolais are mostly exuberantly fruity and brisk wines that are often served lightly chilled for added refreshment. There is also a small amount of white Beaujolais, made from Chardonnay, but little of this is exported to the U.S. Today, the overwhelming majority of Beaujolais production is controlled by negociants , of whom Georges Duboeuf is the undisputed king.
The fruit-dominated aromas and flavors of so many Beaujolais are due in part to fermentation via carbonic maceration, in which the whole bunches go into the vat unbroken and some or most of the fermentation takes place within the uncrushed berries. By minimizing contact between the juice and the skins, carbonic maceration brings much lower tannin levels and emphasizes the fruity character of the Gamay variety.
Ten villages in the northern end of the Beaujolais region--Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin a Vent, Regnie, Saint-Amour--are allowed to show their names on the label. These crus, most of which feature soils rich in granite, have proven to be the best sites for producing wines with greater complexity and character. Beaujolais-Villages is made from a few dozen additional villages that are felt to offer somewhat lower potential quality, while wines simply labeled Beaujolais are generally less serious and intended for drinking young. Beaujolais Nouveau, which can legally be released the third Thursday of November, barely two months after the harvest, is a very fresh wine that provides cash flow for its producers and instant gratification for consumers. But way too much Beaujolais Nouveau is overchaptalized (i.e., too much sugar has been added) or overprocessed.