Thursday, November 15th is the official 2018 Beaujolais Nouveau Day – the day when we celebrate the yearly release of France’s Beaujolais Nouveau wine. The arrival of the wine is noted with signs and placards that read: Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrivé!
Every year, at exactly one minute past midnight on the third Thursday in November, Beaujolais Nouveau is released to the world in a frenzy of bottling, buying and guzzling. Cases of this young wine are sent by train from warehouses in Beaujolais (a wine-producing region in Burgundy) to Paris bistros, and on to restaurants and stores in North America within hours of their release. Back in the days of the Concorde, New York City restaurants competed for the first cases of Beaujolais Nouveau flown to America on the supersonic airliner.
Well, what’s all the fuss? What is this stuff, anyway? Originally, Beaujolais Nouveau (literally, “new Beaujolais”) was drunk in France to give the public a sampling of what the regular Beaujolais wines would taste like for that year. Which means obviously, that not all Beaujolais is “nouveau.” Due to its increasing popularity and wonderful effect on winemakers’ cash flow, about a third of the Beaujolais crop now winds up as Beaujolais Nouveau. The rest goes into making three qualities of Beaujolais wines, which are in ascending order of desirability and price: Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, and “Cru” Beaujolais.
Wines don’t get any younger than Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais is picked, fermented, bottled and sold within a matter of weeks. This quick vinification means that this will not be a wine for the ages. It’s not a wine to store in your cellar. Most Beaujolais Nouveau hits its peak around the Christmas holidays, and is just a happy memory by springtime. It’s a flimsy little summer cottage of a wine. But that’s partly why we love this young, low-alcohol (relatively), inexpensive, easy-drinking wine.
Unlike the luscious and adored world-class Burgundies made from Pinot Noir grapes, Beaujolais comes from 100% Gamay grapes, which produce a lightweight red wine that is acidic, but mostly tannin-free. Its aroma is intensely grapy, although raspberry flavors are also common. Beaujolais Nouveau is a fruity, juicy, pinkish-purple wine that’s easy on the palate – it’s not a wine to put away or ponder.
The release of Beaujolais Nouveau coincides with Thanksgiving, which is a nice coincidence since it’s a good wine choice for the holiday table. The lack of heavy tannins in Beaujolais Nouveau make it a good partner for roast turkey, stuffing, gravy and pumpkin pie, but it’s also a fine accompaniment to salads, vegetables, and fruits. In Paris bistros, classic food matches for Beaujolais are cold chicken, charcuterie, pâté, and cheeses.
So grab a bottle or two of Beaujolais Nouveau to enjoy on Thanksgiving or for sipping anytime; you don’t really need an excuse to indulge in this playful red wine.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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