Beaujolais (the Nouveau makes its annual debut every November) makes a fine pairing with Thanksgiving. From the most simple Nouveau to the more serious Beaujolais-Villages, and including the Beaujolais Cru’s (the 10 top wine villages of this region, entitled to list the village name, and not the word Beaujolais. Look for Moulin-a-Vent, Brouilly, Morgon, etc.) Beaujolais has an appealing fruitiness which everyone seems to enjoy.
It’s that time – time for Beaujolais Nouveau to make its way from Beaujolais producers (traditionally, actually IN Beaujolais, but there are some American producers) to the harvest table. So what’s so special about this wine?
Considered the “First Wine of the New Vintage”, Nouveau Beaujolais is a festive red wine produced from the early crop of Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais area, south of the Burgundy region in France.
The Beaujolais Nouveau excitement begins in early November each year, and peaks on the third Thursday of the month, the release date world-wide for this wine. This year’s release will be available on the 18th.
Nouveau wines are quite simple to produce. The Gamay grapes are harvested, and placed in a fermenter in whole clusters, with no, or very little, crushing. The fermenter is then topped with CO2 gas to protect the grapes from oxygen. The weight of the clusters crushes those below, and fermentation begins. Allowing each grape to begin fermentation individually from the inside out without any pressure heightens the fruity component. This process is called Carbonic Maceration, or Whole Berry Fermentation, and the resulting wine often…and certainly in the case of Beaujolais Nouveau….displays aromas of fresh pears, a vibrant, fruity flavor, and a crisp bite of acidity. The entire process from grapes to wine takes only a month, and the wine appears in the market soon after!
The roots of the Nouveau style are hard to trace, but one romantic version goes something like this…Beaujolais was all the rage in many a Paris bistro. During the fall months, most of the bistro proprietors would take their families to the countryside, a vacation in the Beaujolais, where the views are beautiful and the rooms and the wines are cheap. Savvy wine producers began to produce an early version of their regular wine, to showcase the new vintage to these proprietors, their best customers back in Paris. The wine would be tasted, probably re-tasted over and over (after all, they are on vacation!) and orders for the upcoming wine would be placed…Sort of a working vacation. Well, this style caught on, and somewhere between then and now, a guy named Georges DuBoeuf came along and helped create this phenomenon.
And that’s pretty much it. Is it a great wine? Well, it’s not designed for cellaring. There are about zero tannins. But it’s a great wine to celebrate the harvest with, to stop and take stock of the good things in life with, and to take a break from the serious business of business with (like those bistro proprietors!). Good thing it goes with turkey….
-Shayne Hebert, Wine Supervisor, Central Florida