Saint-Amour is the most northerly of the ten Beaujolais cru areas, located just to the south of the Maconnais appellations of Pouilly-Fuisse and Saint-Veran. Saint-Amour wines are among the lightest of the Beaujolais crus, often displaying spiced berry and stone-fruit characters with a marked minerality.
Just under 800 acres (320ha) are planted to the Gamay grape variety on the south- and east-facing hillsides on the western banks of the Saone River, making up the viticultural area of the Saint-Amour appellation. While most of the ten Beaujolais cru areas were established in the 1930s, Saint-Amour was not officially delimited as a cru until February 1946. Today, it is one of the smallest Beaujolais appellations, larger only than Chenas.
The landscape here in the northern part of Beaujolais is hillier than in the south, and clay loam soils made up mainly of schist and granite are complemented by smaller amounts of limestone. These lightly textured soils are often credited with contributing to the minerality that marks the wines of Saint-Amour.
The hills to the west of Beaujolais shelter the vineyards of Saint-Amour from heavy weather systems from the north, instead giving rise to a dry, warm wind that helps to keep moisture out of the vineyards, negating the risk of fungal vine diseases. The angle and elevation of the vineyards maximize sunshine exposure, ensuring grapes have ample sunlight during the ripening period. The harvest in this part of Beaujolais often comes earlier than that in the flatter vineyard areas in the south of the Beaujolais region.
The Saint-Amour appellation takes its title from the Saint-Amour-Bellevue commune, itself named for a Roman soldier who escaped death by converting to Christianity. Legend has it that he established a monastery in the area, and was later canonized as Saint Amateur (amateur meaning 'lover' in French, but without the sexual connotations). Despite the non-romantic origin of the word, sales of Saint-Amour wine tend to soar around St. Valentine's Day in February.
A large quantity of white wine is also made from Saint-Amour's vineyards, mostly from Chardonnay and Aligote grapes, although under appellation laws they must be labeled under the more-generic Beaujolais Blanc designation, or under the Saint-Veran appellation that overlaps slightly with Saint-Amour.