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.