Ten years ago, if you asked wine professionals to name a reliable, delicious red that offered excellent quality for, say, $25 retail, there’s a strong chance that Beaujolais would be among their recommendations. Having landed in the U.S. in the ’90s, serious, non-nouveau Beaujolais gained traction among somms and retailers in the late aughts and became a veritable industry darling by 2010. Even cru bottlings from top producers comfortably sat in a $60 to $70 sweet spot on a wine list.
A decade later, demand for Beaujolais has soared—and so have prices. It’s tough to find a cru Beaujolais under $30 retail; the Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon, for instance, an industry-favorite cru Beaujolais that used to sit between $20 and $25 on the shelf, now retails for $45, on average.
“For me, it’s kind of tough to find the value that I used to feel I would find in Beaujolais,” says Joe Salamone, the wine director for Crush Wine & Spirits in Manhattan, who points out that prices had already increased by the late aughts.
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In a region that has become synonymous with value, accessibility, and discovery, rising prices can feel like somewhat of an identity crisis—not only for the wines themselves, but for the professionals who love to sell (and drink) them. Do top-notch Beaujolais wines still exist at the price points we grew accustomed to a decade ago, or are we just nostalgic for a market that is long past?
A More Expensive Beaujolais Landscape
Wine professionals agree: Beaujolais prices have risen. “It’s hard, if not impossible, for cru Beaujolais to hit [$20 to $30 retail] prices these days,” says Dustin Wilson, the cofounder of Verve Wine in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago.
This is due to a confluence of reasons, many of which are not exclusive to the region. “These increases are commonplace across most wine regions, but Beaujolais is among the categories that people think should be inexpensive,” says Whitney Schubert, the New York-based French portfolio manager for Polaner Selections. In essence, price increases are more noticeable in Beaujolais because the region is so closely associated with value.
Climate change has taken a toll on Beaujolais yields, bringing unpredictable weather conditions to vineyards. In 2021, for instance, devastating spring frosts and summer hail and rain dropped production to 485,207 hectoliters across the region—23 percent less than 2020, and 30 percent less than a decade ago, in 2013. Some producers lost 50 to 70 percent of their crop. “2021 was a disaster in Beaujolais,” says Courtney Wieland, the director of operations for Thatcher’s Wine and Thatcher’s Imports. “How can you sell 10 to 20 percent of your normal production for the same price?”
Philippe Bardet, the president of InterBeaujolais and the director of Maison Jean Loron, confirms that overall Beaujolais production has decreased over the last 10 years, not only due to the changing climate, but also because of an increasing number of lower-yielding old vines and moves towards sustainable and organic farming. “It means the cost of production is higher than ever,” he says.
Economic factors—such as inflation and cost increases along the supply chain—are also driving wine prices up across regions, Beaujolais included. Vintage-over-vintage price increases—which Cara Patricia, the cofounder and sommelier of DecantSF in San Francisco, refers to as “wineflation”—are common practice right now. Patricia notes that she has experienced year-over-year price increased between 13 to 30 percent from Burgundy, Champagne, and even California. Beaujolais price increases, she says, actually have not been that high, comparatively.
Even the lingering effects of U.S. tariffs on European wine—which levied 25 percent tariffs on French, German, and Spanish wines under 14 percent alcohol from October 2019 to March 2021—persist. “While many of those tariffs have been relaxed or sunsetted, the wine producers realized that their wine is still going to sell when priced higher,” says Patricia. “The importers haven’t reduced their prices since then.”
And of course, demand has pushed prices higher as well. “Notable producers from the original natural wine movement have become more heavily allocated,” says Rebecca Flynn, who was most recently the general manager and beverage director of Red Hook Tavern in Brooklyn, referring to the “Gang of Four”—Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Guy Breton, introduced to the U.S. through Kermit Lynch in the 1990s.
“It felt cool and in the know to be drinking a bottle of Morgon a decade ago,” says Jacob Brown, the beverage director of Lazy Bear in San Francisco, “but with a whole generation of sommeliers, wine retailers, and even influencers spouting their love of Beaujolais, it is no wonder that pricing has gone up.”
Retaining Value Despite Higher Prices
Even at a higher price point—Wieland feels the sweet spot for cru Beaujolais now runs $30 to $40—professionals agree that there is still serious value to be found in Beaujolais.
“I only have five [cru Beaujolais] that are over $40 on the shelf,” says Patricia, “and $40 for a really good cru Beaujolais—it’s very hard to find top-quality wine from most of France in that price range.”
In fact, compared to other nearby wine regions, Beaujolais may represent even more of a value today than it did 10 years ago. “There’s been an increase, but relative to the rest of the wine market, especially in Burgundy, that increase has been gentle,” says Wieland. “The increase in prices in Burgundy has been four times on some wines just in the past year.”
Though producers have long been making excellent wines in Beaujolais, younger generations and newcomers are raising the bar for quality in the region, rethinking accepted farming and winemaking standards. In the region once known for large négociants and carbonic maceration, more producers are opting for ecologically minded farming, parcel-specific vinification, and traditional fermentation and maceration, among other quality-minded techniques.
“When you’re making wine at a higher level, it’s going to make the prices of wine higher—but it will make the quality higher, too,” says Wieland. She points to Pierre-Olivier Garcia, a tiny producer based in Nuits-Saint-Georges who also crafts Brouilly using the baie par baie method of picking and destemming, in which individual berries are clipped from the bunch as they are harvested—an extreme but telling example of the investment many Beaujolais producers are pouring into their wines. “He’s that attentive to what’s happening in the vineyard, and it shows in his wines,” says Wieland. Thatcher’s Wine sells the 2021 Pierre-Olivier Garcia Brouilly ‘La Folie’ for $58 and the 2020 vintage for $51.
Where Are the Beaujolais Bargains?
If the Thévenet and Lapierre crus of the world—and even ones from the cool kids of the ’10s, like Yann Bertrand—now regularly retail for $40 and up, where are bargains to be found? Luckily, one positive effect of Beaujolais’ rising popularity is an influx of new producers to the U.S. market.
“There is more Beaujolais available than ever before,” says Schubert. Overall, the amount of Beaujolais imported to the U.S. has remained relatively steady in recent years, oscillating based on vintage conditions and amounting to 44,279 hectoliters in 2022. But the mix has changed in recent years as American consumers have steered away from Beaujolais Nouveau and towards Beaujolais AOC, Beaujolais-Villages AOC, and the region’s 10 crus.
“There’s more of a selection of small producers now than there’s ever been,” says Patricia. “There’s so many growers in Beaujolais with tiny plots … now the new-wave winemaking generation is going in and purchasing them.”
“The new generation doesn’t want to sell their wines to the négociants,” adds Bardet, noting that this may be a reason why there are more Beaujolais growers available in the U.S. “They want to sell their own labels in export markets.”
And wholesalers are more than happy to seize on the region’s momentum. “Because of the interest in cru Beaujolais, different distributors and importers are bringing in fresh producers who, 10 years ago, weren’t making wine,” says Isabella Fitzgerald, the food and beverage director of Temple Court and The Bar Room at the Beekman in Manhattan. “Growers realize if they invest in themselves and their story and their land, the demand is there.”
It’s with these new—or new-ish—producers that professionals find more bargains, simply because they are less known. “There is still and always will be great value in Beaujolais, especially once you go out of the Gang of Four, [Yvon] Métras, or any of the other ‘name brand’ Beaujolais,” says Brown, who currently lists bottles from Domaine Bonnet-Cotton, Mee Godard, Jean Foillard, and Marcel Lapierre at Lazy Bear, ranging from $85 to $125 (excluding large formats).
“I find more deals with wines that are made by Burgundy producers,” says Patricia. “Their Burgundies are more expensive, so they can offer their Beaujolais estates [with more value].” She highlights Armand Heitz, who took over his family’s domaine in Burgundy in 2011 and began working in Beaujolais in 2018. DecantSF sells his 2020 Juliénas for $29.
This influx of fresh faces isn’t upending the region’s identity, though; many have been mentored by those who came before them. “The newer class of producers has the ability to connect with the Gang,” says Fitzgerald. “It seems like that’s really happening, and there’s mutual respect for the terroir and story of Beaujolais.”
Though it’s cru Beaujolais that captured the hearts of American sommeliers and retailers, it’s also worth stepping outside of the crus to find values. “I’m a big fan of finding a producer that I like and buying their basic Beaujolais—either village or nouveau style—as those are where I find the best values,” says Wilson.
Beaujolais Villages is currently the region’s bestselling AOC in the U.S. market, comprising nearly 42 percent of total Beaujolais exports to the U.S. last year. Flynn, who perpetually tried to offer at least one Beaujolais by the glass at Red Hook Tavern, recently listed the Jean Foillard Beaujolais Villages (though she does note that the wine was allocated).
Schubert also feels there are values to be found in Beaujolais Villages; within Polaner’s portfolio, Lapalu’s old-vine Beaujolais Villages has developed a strong following, and both Antoine and Julien Sunier have begun releasing wines from the AOC. “They each recognized the importance of having a value-driven wine to offer their customers,” she says.
Though Bardet notes that Beaujolais Villages offers an opportunity for consumers to discover the region without needing to know the individual cru names, some professionals are diving deeper into the appellation’s terroir. James O’Brien, the owner and general manager of Popina in Brooklyn, is excited about Lantignié, one of the 38 villages within Beaujolais Villages. Wines entirely made with fruit from the village—which is increasingly referred to as Beaujolais’ “11th cru”—may be labeled instead as Beaujolais-Lantignié.
“I think established producers are shedding some light on Lantignié,” he says, pointing to names like Yann Bertrand and Famille Dutraive. “People are interested in drinking wines that represent a specific place, so it’s only natural that people are focused here.”
Getting Deeper into Beaujolais
Though nostalgia remains for the days where Beaujolais rarely exceeded $70 on a list, many professionals recognize that the higher price tags of today indicate that the region is maturing. In addition to the variety of producers now available, there are also more single-vineyard Beaujolais wines on the market, adding even more nuance to the region.
“I think the variety we’re seeing is people doing single-parcel and individual vineyards within Beaujolais, where for the longest time it was just Fleurie or Morgon,” says Wieland, “and instead now it’s like, one producer is making five examples of Fleurie.” She points to Gregoire Hoppenot, who crafts a number of different Fleurie cuvées; Daniel Bouland has become known for doing the same in Morgon.
This specificity offers professionals an opportunity to understand the region in an even deeper way. “Beaujolais at the cru level graduating, in a sense, to the classics realm is awesome, and to see site-specific terroir is exciting beyond [Morgon’s] Côte du Py,” says Brown, who is excited to explore the pink granite of Poncié within Fleurie.
And though Beaujolais is undoubtedly more expensive these days, professionals don’t foresee prices rising astronomically. “I don’t fear they will go the way of Burgundy, just becoming unattainable to the general public,” says Fitzgerald.
With wines fetching more money per bottle, producers have an opportunity to further invest in their vineyards and wines—and that bodes well for the future of Beaujolais. “We are no longer the entry-level wines just for Thanksgiving parties,” says Bardet. “We are now the wines that people are ready to pay more than $20 for, and we are very happy with that.”
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Courtney Schiessl Magrini is the editor-in-chief for SevenFifty Daily and the Beverage Media Group publications. Based in Brooklyn, she has held sommelier positions at some of New York’s top restaurants, including Marta, Dirty French, and Terroir, and her work has appeared in Wine Enthusiast, GuildSomm, Forbes.com, VinePair, EatingWell Magazine, and more. She holds the WSET Diploma in Wines. Follow her on Instagram at @takeittocourt.