Baby brother to the Burgundy region in northeastern France, most people associate Beaujolais with the ubiquitous Thanksgiving dinner partner- Beaujolais Nouveau- the fresh and fruity first wine of the new harvest that is released on the third Thursday in November every year. In addition, however, this region produces a wider range of wines, from the simple, picnic-friendly basic reds to the more serious Cru Beaujolais.
Almost all red Beaujolais are comprised of 100% Gamay (although legally they are allowed to blend in other grapes, few do) -- a light-bodied, soft red that is fresh and crisp and low in tannin. Ripe red fruits dominate, especially cherry, and bubble gum flavors are commonly found in the inexpensive bottlings. These wines are often compared to Pinot Noirs, but Spanish Garnachas are also similarly styled.
Beaujolais and Beaujolais Village are the most widely available appellations. These are the softest, most fruit-forward expressions of the grape. The next step up are the Cru Beaujolais, made of Gamay also, but from grapes out of 10 designated villages in the Beaujolais district. Each Cru has its own style- from the richer Morgons and Brouillys, to the lighter Fleuries and Juliennes. All of these wines have one thing in common, however-- they make excellent pairings for spicy foods, Mexican dishes, tuna and chicken.