By French law Beaujolais Nouveau may not be released before the third Thursday in November, so at midnight on Wednesday the French will be celebrating by cheering, “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!”.
Beaujolais is a wine growing region in the southern part of Burgundy bordering on Lyons. Unlike Burgundy, which is famous for Pinot Noir, it produces wines made primarily from the Gamay grape. It is also unique in that it uses carbonic maceration as it wine making technique. This is a process where whole clusters of grapes are dumped into large vats containing carbon dioxide and yeast. The bottom grapes are crushed by the weight of the grapes above and fermentation begins with the juices that are excreted. This then begins to envelop the grapes above with the CO2 that is being given off, and whole berry fermentation ensues. Essentially, whole grapes are fermenting rather then the must (grape pulp and skins) and juices which is how wine is more commonly made. Carbonic Maceration produces light, fruity red wines that are low in tannin. Since they are low in tannin they are meant to be consumed very young and this is where Beaujolais Nouveau comes in.
Many “cork-dorks” shun Beaujolais Nouveau as a marketing ploy; a way for Negociants to peddle their juice fast without putting in the time or money generally required to produce wine. I have also been told (although I can’t remember the details- oops job hazard) that this wine was originally produced from vineyards adjacent to an orphanage. They turned around a wine quickly each year and sold it off to raise funds to support the orphanage and in turn, it’s children. It’s a lovely sentiment and story, but in researching this further I could not find any evidence to support the story I had been told by a wine history professor years ago. However, by all other accounts this wine has always been a celebratory beverage enjoyed to mark the end of harvest.
It is a fresh, fruity wine that often has banana, fresh pear and ripened strawberry aromas. It is meant to be served chilled; nearly as cold as you would enjoy a white wine. The best part though is that it pairs perfectly with your traditional Turkey dinner that always falls on the same day, or just after, Beaujolais Nouveau is released. It is a great wine for white wine drinkers who want to gain appreciation for reds. It is also a great wine for those who revel in gluttony! This is a wine that begs to be gulped, it’s cold and refreshing and it’s cheap!!! It usually hovers around the $9 mark. The most reputable labels to buy are George Duboeuf and Joseph Drouhin.
As every years release (vintage) is different I can not tell you if this is going to be a good one. From what I have heard about the growing season, it was hot and rainy. What does that mean? Who the hell knows?? Another method practiced in Beaujolais is Chaptalization! This is the process of adding sugar to the wine during fermentation. So, you can be fairly certain that the wine won’t be complete swill. Keep in mind that if you love to drink Barolos and heavy Cabs, you will probably loath this fruity, playful wine, but if you’re fruity and playful- pick up a couple of bottles and pound em down this Turkey Day. Bring them to your In-Laws house and entice them with all this profound information that I have just shared. Then maybe you won’t feel so badly for having necked 2 bottles! After all… it’s what the French do!