There is an exciting feeling we get from something NEW. Whether it be a new piece of clothing, a new car or maybe a new house, the feeling is exhilarating. Same goes for NEW wine! One special wine is available just weeks after it is harvested— Beaujolais Nouveau.
These wines travel from Beaujolais, in the southernmost part of Burgundy, to destinations around the world for their “official” release on the third Thursday of November. Beaujolais is a region that makes mostly red wines from the Gamay grape known for its fruitiness, soft tannins and food friendly acidity.
About half of the wines made in Beaujolais are bottled early for the Nouveau release and the other half spend time aging in oak barrels until being released in the spring. Nouveau wines are seen by some as a way to celebrate the harvest and gauge the quality of the more “serious” wines to be released in the spring.
Winemaker Georges Duboeuf is credited with developing the idea of Nouveau to help find a unique way to create demand for Beaujolais. He felt that these wines could be released within weeks of harvest and increase cash flow for wineries that typically could not sell their wines until later in the year. By the 1970s Nouveau was a tradition in Paris and eventually all over the world. On the day of the release at midnight the wines would be transported to Paris and other destinations where eager wine drinkers would gladly purchase these affordable wines. Through marketing and other means this became a day of celebration where parties and events drove consumption and purchase of Nouveau.
Most producers in Beaujolais use a unique process called carbonic maceration to create these fruity wines. Unlike traditional fermentation the grapes are not crushed and in fact the fermentation happens inside the grape itself. This process creates fruity wines with soft tannins that are reminiscent of fruit salad. In general, Beaujolais Nouveau is made for early consumption and its flavors can fade after six months or so. Serve these wines slightly chilled at maybe 60-65 degrees to taste them at their best.
Wine snobs and wine enthusiasts sometimes view Nouveau as a “serious wine” but they miss the point. Nouveau is about celebrating the harvest and all the hard work that went into that year. These wines are not built for critical acclaim. Instead, they are meant to be fun wines that appeal to a wide variety of wine drinkers.
Not all the wines from Beaujolais are the light, fun and fruity like Nouveau. Wine drinkers looking to see the best of this region should consider trying Beaujolais from one of the ten best villages. These 10 form the Cru appellations, which include St-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly. Moulin-à-Vent, for instance produces full bodied and structured reds that have the ability to age for up to twenty years.
The fact that Beaujolais is a great pairing to an American Thanksgiving feast is reason enough to enjoy these wines or introduce them to your guests. So grab a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau or a Cru Beaujolais and celebrate the harvest of 2015!