We have several guided and independent walking holidays in the Beaujolais region of France. Our unique holidays offer a real French experience through our choice of guest house, meals, drinks, walks etc. Of course, the Beaujolais is synonymous with its wine, so no walking holiday would be complete without the chance to sample the best that the area has to offer. Our guest houses such as the Ferme de Planay are a great way to sample the famous Beaujolais hospitality as well as its food and wine. As way as an introduction, you'll find some basic information on the Beaujolais wines below.
The Beaujolais wine region of France is located south of Burgundy in Rhone-Alpes, between Mâcon and Lyon on hills that make up the eastern limit of the Massif Central. Beaujolais is a prosperous wine region. Cultivating almost 55,000 acres, more than the other three departments of Burgundy combined, it produces an average of 13 million cases annually. Once a year, nearly half of this crop is sold within weeks as Beaujolais Nouveau.
Beaujolais is diverse geographically, but is unified by the Gamay Noir grape. Ninety-eight percent of the area is planted with it. The other 2% is planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Unlike Bordeaux, there are no large properties in Beaujolais. The system, called "vigneronnage," consists of hundreds of small properties on which the wine grapes are grown. Most of these grapes are purchased by wine producers (Négociants) who make and market the wines. The recent decline in the Beaujolais market has seen many small vineyard owners reducing the acreage of vines and only producing and selling their wine direct to the public and retail outlets.
Beaujolais is comprised of 12 appellations and is divided into the northern and southern Beaujolais. (see our related page about the appellations or AOC) This division is based on distinctions in the soil of each area. The South has gentler hills and plains with rich soil that is mostly limestone with some sandy areas. The picturesque Pierre Dorrée (golden limestone) region, home to our independent walking holiday - Medieval Village Tour, forms part of this region. This soil produces younger and lighter wines than the north. They should be drunk within a few years.
In the North, the hilly topography has lighter granite and schist based sandy soil and therefore makes a fuller wine. It is in the north that you will find the Beaujolais-Villages appellation and the 10 Beaujolais Crus. We have an independent walking tour in the north that follows a wine trail linking a number of vineyards- Beaujolais wine trail. Our guided walking holiday - Beaujolais Discovery encompasses the two areas.
Cultivated since roman times, the Beaujolais wine growing region covers a production that takes in more than 96 villages. In the 10th century, the region got its name from the town of Beaujeu, Rhône and was ruled by the Lords of Beaujeu till the 15th century when it was ceded to the Duchy of Burgundy. The wines from Beaujolais were mostly confined to the markets along the Saône and Rhône rivers, particularly in the city of Lyon. The expansion of the French railroad in the 19th century opened up the Paris market.
The modern appellations were originally established in 1936, with additional crus being promoted in 1938 and 1946, and finally with the addition of Régnié in 1988. About half of all Beaujolais wine is sold under the basic Beaujolais designation. In the 1980s, Beaujolais hit a peak of popularity in the world's wine market with its Beaujolais Nouveau wine. After a decline in its popularity, there has been renewed emphasis on the production of more complex wines that are aged longer in oak barrels prior to release. There is also a trend towards diversification with more white wines, rosé and sparkling wines.
See more information about the Beaujolais appellations
See more information about the Beaujolais region and our walking holidays