I believe that there isn’t other wine, causing as much fuss and as many contradictory comments, as Beaujolais Nouveau does. This “Thanksgiving wine”, as we call it in America, is being released within a few hours from now.
The French law and tradition determines that the Beaujolais Nouveau is released exactly one minute past midnight, on the third Wednesday of November, every single year.
No wine consumer in the world can taste it prior this time.While nouveau’s fans are counting hours to get the chance to try the newest wine, other wine drinkers are snubbing their noses at the idea.
For some it is the ultimate Thanksgiving wine that can’t be missed on the holiday table, for some it is not wine at all. So what exactly is Beaujolais Nouveau and should we pay attention? It’s the moment of the surprise that makes this young, soft, light and fruity wine from Gammay grape so interesting. You have to know what it is, not to expect the impossible.
Beaujolais Nouveau is never going to be a big, tannin red. When it’s really good, it might remind you of a fruity, light Pinot Noir. If you only drink your favorite Shiraz and hate wines that don’t taste like that, ignore nouveau. It’s not going to work for you.
No matter when the harvest occurs (not even French can command the nature), the release date is set in stone. Therefore nouveau is often made in hurry and could only have a few days fermenting. Every year is different, based on the harvest season – and so is the time that the winemaker has to work with the wine in the winery. Nouveau doesn’t spend any time in oak so what you grew is what you get. Unfortunately, that time pressure might sometimes result in sharp, too alcoholic wine without balance.
You should also know that nouveau doesn’t keep long. It is a young wine meant to be drank within a couple of months of its release. Winemakers from Beaujolais are promising a good quality this year. Nouveau is supposed to have a beautiful purple color, hints of wild strawberries, raspberries and currant, they are talking about great balance and perfectly integrated tannins.
We wouldn’t know until tomorrow, which is the first day we can buy some in States. Yes, the wine does fly overnight from France and it’s being delivered everywhere tomorrow.
If you are considering trying Beaujolais Nouveau for the first time, look for the one that says Beaujolais-Villages. It ‘s coming from the better half of large region of Beaujolais, and it’s often much tastier than plain Beaujolais.
As far as the brand name to look for, I would say that nobody knows fine Beaujolais wines better than George Duboeuf. He is easily recognized with his traditional floral labels.
I like what George Duboeuf once said about his designs: “Flowers and wines are fleeting in nature. They want to please visual and olfactory senses: they have the same annual cycle and the same allegiance to soils and sun. Flowers, like wine, are messengers of joy and happiness. But wildflowers are the work of nature alone while wine is the fruit of human labor.”
Some old-timers in Beaujolais still remember tough times during early fifties, when poor winemakers kept cows, chickens and pigs because they couldn’t depend on the wine only. Even worse, they were exploited by a class of absentee wine merchants – les négociants – located in big cities, who bought, bottled and sold their production in anonymous bulk.
Their favorite strategy was to go to local butcher or baker and ask which vignerons families were farthest behind their bills – those would have the weakest bargaining position when it came to prices.
George Duboeuf hated it and believed that there must be a better way. He spent his youth riding bicycle around the hills and valleys between Lyon and Mâcon. He was sampling, tasting, re-tasting over and over again, the finest wines in the region, while also sharpening his own palate and nose and building a list of the best vineyards. His hard work made him a legend among wine tasters and today it is a privilege to sell wine in Beaujolais to George Duboeuf.
But don’t look for them now. French wine regulation requires that the Cru Beaujolais can’t be released before December 15th.
So what do you think about the Beaujolais Nouveau – to buy or not to buy? Make up your own mind. No, it is not the most gourmet wine and you wouldn’t find Beaujolais Nouveau on the wine list of fine French restaurants.
I think it is a nice tradition and I will try a bottle, just like I do every single year. On a good vintage, Beaujolais Nouveau could be in fact a good match to your Thanksgiving meal. Its light, fruity and soft enough profile will match well with the turkey and side dishes. I would recommend to taste a bottle first, before you put it in front of your guests.
Based on the “Le Parisien” news, there were total of 266.000 hectoliters of Beaujolais Nouveau sold last year (that’s about 39,5 millions bottles) – more than half of it in France. The rest was sold in 110 countries of the world. I was surprised to find out that the biggest fans of Beaujolais Nouveau are lately Japanese, who purchased 6 millions bottles. Far behind is America with 2,3 millions and Germany with 1,3 millions bottles.