Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 31

The Annexation
of Beaujolais
The Merchants of Beaune Embrace Gamay
by Roger Morris
In the late 14th century, the Black Death wiped out much of Burgundy's population, leaving in
its wake a devastated economy and a labor shortage. It was a time when locals began planting
more gamay-a natural cross between pinot noir and gouais blanc-which was easier to grow,
less labor-intensive and more productive than the reigning pinot noir. Vineyard yields were further
increased by a new practice of fertilizing crops with animal wastes.
But in 1395, the region's ruler, Philip the Bold, put an
end to gamay's brief popularity, ordering that within
five months the "very bad and disloyal variety called
Gaamez" be cut out of the vineyards of Dijon, the
Côte d'Or and the Chalonnaise. In the same decree,
he also banned fertilizers. Though farmers complained, Philip was unwavering, even removing the
mayor of Dijon for too loudly protesting his edict.
Wines made of pinot noir commanded a higher price,
plus Philip wanted the reputation of having the most
prized vineyards in France.
Six centuries later, the wine merchants of Beaune,
Burgundy's wine capital, have re-evaluated the status
both of gamay and of Beaujolais, the one place in Burgundy where Philip's edict was never enforced, and
the grape has continued to flourish. Simply stated,
Burgundy has run out of places to plant vineyards,
and it desperately needs more of them for entry-level
table wines and for sparkling wines.
To get those grapes, the Beaune merchants are
jumping into Beaujolais like wine tourists into a vat

of freshly picked grapes. Beaune-based wine merchants-négociants-have acquired smaller, Beaujolais-based négociants, snapped up top Beaujolais
estates, changed regulations to incorporate more
gamay with pinot noir in Burgundy blends, begun
planting pinot noir in southern Beaujolais (with one
large firm launching a Beaujolais-based pinot noir
last year) and, in December, merged the Burgundy
and Beaujolais growers associations. The annexation
of Beaujolais is quickly becoming a fact.
"The merge between these two wine regions
started in the 1990s with the arrival of northern Burgundy houses buying either land or companies," says
Frédéric Drouhin, head of Maison Joseph Drouhin, a
Burgundy estate grower and négociant that recently
purchased Hospices de Belleville, with vineyards in
three of Beaujolais's ten cru villages. Drouhin now
produces more than 1.1 million cases of regional Burgundy wines in Beaujolais, most of it in sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne, with recent growth in Côteaux
Bourguignon and plans for Bourgogne Blanc and

WINE & SPIRITS

OCTOBER 2017

31



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wine & Spirits - October 2017

Contents
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover1
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover2
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 1
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 2
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 3
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 4
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Contents
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 6
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 7
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 8
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 9
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 10
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 11
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 12
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 13
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Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 15
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Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 17
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 18
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 19
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 20
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 21
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 22
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 23
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 24
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 25
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Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - 31
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Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover3
Wine & Spirits - October 2017 - Cover4
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