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UK Beaujolais sales show big upward trend

The tide appears to be turning for Beaujolais in the UK, with the latest export figures showing a volume increase of 31.68% for the Beaujolais Crus and 12.75% for Beaujolais-Villages in the 12 months to December 2016.

Beaujolais Cru export volumes to the UK were up 32% in the 12 months to December 2016 (Photo: Daniel Gillet)

The figures from Inter Beaujolais are backed up by the recent findings of on-trade supplier Jascots, whose recent on-trade insights survey of 240 wine lists from restaurants across the UK, undertaken between November 2016 and January 2017, revealed a 44% rise in Gamay listings since the same period 12 months ago.

During Jascots’ Insights Briefing in January, Jascots managing partner Miles MacInnes drew attention to the emergence of ‘alternative classics’ in response to the increasingly prohibitive pricing of traditional classics Bordeaux and Burgundy. Such a trend, he said, could help to explain the prevalence of Gamay (and by extension Beaujolais) on UK lists.

At a Beaujolais tasting held in South London two weeks ago, more than 25 leading sommeliers and independent merchants turned out to taste more than 100 wines from iconic producers such as Jean-Paul Brun and Domaine Lapierre.

Consumer demand for cru Beaujolais is confirmed by Doug Wregg of Les Caves de Pyrene: “We’ve found that certain Beaujolais producers are attracting attention and this is driving sales of the more serious cru wines. Customers are favouring wines which display vineyard character and are made in the Burgundian (as opposed to carbonic) method with longer elevage in barrels.”

Rupert Taylor of OW Loeb is also a Beaujolais enthusiast who believes the region’s star is in the ascendant. “There is such a great mix of experience, youthful energy and exuberance in the area at the moment,” he said.

“Allocations of some Beaujolais have been tight for well over a year, a pretty good sign that the region is on the rise.”

“Beaujolais is doing really well for us,” added Charlie Brown of independent retailer Vino Vero.”It’s a region that sparks interest and we are seeing many customers returning and asking for more to try, so we now have a range of eight.”

In the last five years, Beaujolais has focused its efforts on the characterisation of soils, identifying variations among each cru and mapping out lieux-dits and climats to identify top vineyard sites.

More producers are using lieux-dits in the labelling of their wines, while the trend towards minimal intervention has gone from strength to strength, with a growing number of producers citing lutte raisonnée (sustainable viticulture/minimal use of industrial chemicals) or vin sans soufre (wine with no added sulphur).

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