Beaujolais

I write a fortnightly wine column for the New Zealand Health and Wealth Report.  In November I wrote a somewhat critical column on a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau I had purchased.  The wine was fine for what it was but was over priced at around NZ$45.  The same bottle here in Geneva was selling for SF3.50 (on discount).  At maximum price you would have paid more than SF7 (NZ$10) for this wine.  We paid over the top prices for Beaujolais Nouveau this year in New Zealand because it has to be air freighted and because our exchange rate had crashed against the Euro.  I suspect there was a fair amount of importer and retailer margin added in also.

 

What interested me more than the particular bottle of wine was the impact the Beaujolais Nouveau strategy has had on the economics of the Beaujolais region.  The strategy proved highly successful in terms of generating cash flow and getting rid of the region’s lower quality wines.  But it has come at the reputational cost of the higher quality wines from the 10 Beaujolais Crus.  The average consumer is not able to differentiate between Beaujolais Nouveau and a wine from one of the Cru vineyards.  The producers of the much finer Cru wines are therefore not able to sell their wine as easily or realise the price they deserve for their wines.  I concluded that long term, the Beaujolais Nouveau craze had probably done more harm than good for the region.

 

Since it is only a 2 hour drive from Geneva we went to Beaujolais as our family outing on Sunday.  We managed to visit all ten of Cru areas, probably the only tourists in the region on that day (the highest temperature was -2c).  It was a less than satisfactory visit in some ways as the restaurant we wanted to lunch at was closed (when all guide books said it would be open) and given that so few of the wine producers were open.  But I have come away more convinced than before that the Beaujolais Nouveau strategy I the wrong one for this region.  At their best, the higher quality Beaujolais wines are very good satisfying wines displaying distinct Cru character.  And the region is even more beautiful than I remembered from my last trip.  It clearly has greater tourism potential than it is realising. 

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