Beaujolais Blanc is, perhaps not surprisingly, a term reserved for white wines grown in Beaujolais from the Chardonnay grape variety. A part of the wider Beaujolais appellation (which also covers red and rosé wines), Beaujolais Blanc makes up just a tiny portion of the region's production. White wines from Beaujolais are light and fresh, with characteristic aromas of stone fruit, pears and melon.
The Beaujolais appellation covers vineyards on the land between the Saone River and the eastern foothills of the Massif Central mountain range, stretching from the hills just south of Macon to the plains that lie north-west of Lyon.
© Daniel Gillet/InterBeaujolais
Beaujolais appellation laws state that white wine grape varieties must make up no more than 15% of any one vineyard, effectively limiting the quantities of white wine that can be made here. Unusually, Beaujolais Blanc wines must be made entirely of Chardonnay, while the Gamay-predominant red wines that Beaujolais is famous for are often allowed a proportion of other white grape varieties such as Aligote and Melon de Bourgogne.
While large swathes of Beaujolais are planted to Gamay (that variety being most suited to the granitic terroir of the region), plantings of Chardonnay fare well in the limestone soils in northern Beaujolais. Here, the rolling hills are essentially a continuation of the southern Maconnais, and the wine styles produced in both areas are very similar. In fact, the vineyard areas of the Macon appellation overlap those of Beaujolais Blanc, and many white wines made in northern Beaujolais are sold under the better-known Macon appellation.
Beaujolais is subject to a temperate continental climate, sheltered from harsh weather from the west by the hills to the west of the region. Instead, some cooling influences make their way into the vineyards from the Mediterranean Sea some way to the south, moderating the warm sunshine that the vineyards receive in the growing season. While this climate favors the Gamay grape variety, it is also well suited to Chardonnay, balancing the variety's flavor characteristics with fresh acidity.
Given Beaujolais' bias toward Gamay, it is not surprising that Beaujolais Blanc is a little-known appellation. Most of the wines are not designed for long ageing, unlike their white Burgundian counterparts, and are best consumed within a few years of vintage.