Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!

So what is Beaujolais Nouveau, you ask? Well, a lot of things: a fresh, young red wine to celebrate the fall harvest; a novel addition to your Thanksgiving table; a classic example of the power of marketing; and a wine to be enjoyed without great discussion (this post notwithstanding).

Last Thursday, November 18, was Beaujolais Nouveau release day for 2010, and I’m the proud owner of a couple of bottles (but not for long). The main beauty of Beaujolais Nouveau is its seasonality: produced from Gamay grapes picked just a few weeks ago, it is officially the first red wine of 2010. Its much anticipated release, the epicenter of which is the Sarmentelles festival in the regional capital of Beaujeau, provides an immediate taste of the fall harvest.  As a young wine, Beaujolais Nouveau is roughly in the same class as Federweisser, a white wine (typically Riesling) served as early as September / October and therefore right in the midst of fermentation, which makes it pretty sweet, yeasty, slightly effervescent and a classic pairing with Zwiebelkuchen(e.g., at a Mosel wine fest).

Beaujolais Nouveau, by contrast, is a dry, fruity red, but low in tannins due to the distinctive winemaking technique of carbonic maceration (fermentation INSIDE whole grapes!). And thanks to Gamay skins not being very thick, even “regular” Beaujolais, which is made using more traditional processes, is still light-bodied and low in tannins — on the order of Pinot Noir or even lighter. Given all that, Beaujolais (and especially Beaujolais Nouveau with its great seasonality) has become for me a favorite Thanksgiving wine. I know, Miss Manners advises serving white wine with chicken, turkey, etc., and I have no objection to serving a white as well, like a nice Kabinett Riesling or Spanish Albariño (I do, however, reserve my standing objection to American Chardonnay), but to raise some eyebrows around the Thanksgiving table for less than $10 is, in my view, worth every penny.

Be prepared, however, for some scoffing from the “knowledgeable” wine crowd. Beaujolais Nouveau is not a serious wine, they’ll say. Absolutely right. So what?   Others insist that “Beaujolais Nouveau is just a marketing gimmick.” I agree with that entire statement, except for the word “just.” Yes, the marketing of Beaujolais Nouveau is legendary, as evidenced by the unmistakable labels of Nouveau king and négociant George Duboeuf. Not only does Duboeuf commission a label in his trademark colorful and abstract style for each year’s release, he also distributes silk neckties with the same design.

This year, I’m trying the Duboeuf Nouveau and, for a fun comparison, a Beaujolais-Villages from Domaine Cheveau. My plan for them is simple: serve them up Thursday and enjoy. I might even see if I can get a necktie for Christmas.

Beaujolais Nouveau is traditionally drunk before January 1. In some cases, it might last 9 months to a year. But if your bottle says anything on it besides 2010, bitte wegschmeissen! No vertical tastings!

P.S. If you have a perennial favorite Thanksgiving wine (or a perhaps a new discovery this year — Beaujolais or otherwise), we’d like to hear about it. Please drop us a line.


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9 Responses to Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!

  1. Rita says:

    Wines…hmmm…its not so intimidating when you present it this way! Thanks for some great suggestions!

  2. Sally says:

    It sold out in Dubai before I had chance to try it!

  3. Em says:

    Gosh. Gee. And I picked up a bottle of pinot grigio! I think I even saw the beaujolais stuff but passed by it ’cause I haven’t the faintest clue when it comes to wine. I stick to what’s safe (as far as I know) and cheap (but not cheap like Joel’s four buck chuck cran-rasberry merlot with the twist off top). not the greatest way to buy wine. Perhaps we’ll make a wine run to the store this evening and up our game! Joel loves a sweet wine.

  4. Tío says:

    gobble gobble gobble, gulp gulp gulp!

  5. DeeDee says:

    Thanks, David! Now I can impress my sommelier brother-in-law — he’ll be thrilled we are trying something not sold in our local grocery store (I’m expecting a trip across town to the only wine shop in Cedar Rapids will be in order.) And just in time, we spent Thanksgiving with Bible-belt Tea Tottlers (sp?) so we are having Feast #2 Tonight, now complete with Beaujolais Nouveau. (and besides, it’s just a fun name to say, isn’t it?!)

  6. ZE says:

    Nice call. I also picked up a few bottles of Beaujolais for Thanskgiving, but then ended up serving older Burgundy instead.

  7. Mark S says:

    Great post David. You are truly on your way to becoming a budding sommelier and master of haute cuisine, and several other French words like that.

  8. DPK says:

    Great to hear from everyone! I did crack the Duboeuf Nouveau on Thanksgiving, and it proved to be a fine accompaniment for our smoked and roasted birds. Significantly better with food than as an aperitif, I thought. But my favorites from the holiday weekend were: Leitz Riesling Ruedescheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Spaetlese (with its nice acidity, the residual sugar of the Spaetlese worked just great) and the 2007 Domaine Cheveau “Or Rouge” (the Beaujolais-Villages I mentioned in the post, which turned out to be light and elegant, with nice berry fruit and a touch of old world terroir). In short, the Domaine Cheveau was pretty much everything I was looking for in a Thanksgiving red, although I admit that aged red Burgundy is now an aspiration for next year . . . .

  9. Em says:

    I totally rushed out on Thanksgiving Eve to buy a beaujolais. Had to go to two different stores to find it, but was well worth the effort. We loved it! Light and subtly sweet, it was perfect with the turkey dinner. Thanks Dave!

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