Friday, November 18, 2011

Beaujolais Nouveau: It’s a great excuse.

by contributor Wendy Gordon

Thursday saw the debut of the 2012 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau.  What??? You may ask.
Beaujolais.  Nouveau.  You know, the Gamay only wine released the third Thursday every November.  The annual event that invites us to sample the ‘still in diapers’ vintage each and every year.  It’s a great excuse.

You know it, you love it, you take it to Mom’s House for Thanksgiving.  This year’s release is actually not too shabby.  For a very young wine, it doesn’t offend.  At Central Michel Richard, this is an excuse for a party.  Enter the live music, classic fare like Coq Au Vin, and a cast of hundreds of locals that pretty much jammed the place for a taste of the grape.  

It’s a celebration.   But here’s the kicjker:   At Central, there are wine games entitled “Good or Great?” and “Guess Which Wine from the Wine Wall?”  With a taste alone worth the challenge, why not?  And oh, by the way?  We flunked.  Totally flunked.  We thought we had it down, but apparently not.  We did, however, gain a taste of some amazing Pinot Noirs.  Would we suffer the embarrassment of failing again?  Sure.  It was worth it.  Stay tuned—this contest may become a weekly trend. 

Let’s all golf-clap Georges Duboeuf for this genius marketing effort which has aided many vintners in selling this vintage to us all. All in all, in the last 45 years, sales have risen from around a million bottles to more than 70 million bottles.  Apart from the fanfare, what makes Beaujolais Nouveau so popular? And especially in the U.S. where consumption of red wine is less than 30%?  Simply put, Beaujolais Nouveau is as about as close to white wine as a red wine can get. 

Due to the way it’s made  - the must is pressed early after only three days- the phenolic compounds, in particular the astringent tannins, normally found in red wines, isn't there, leaving an easy to drink, fruity wine. This, coupled with the fact that it tastes best when chilled, makes for a festive wine to be gulped rather than sipped, enjoyed in high spirits rather than critiqued. Do we feel bad about it?  Hell no.  Let’s face it.  It’s a reason to celebrate.  And thanks to the local French inspired restaurants, we do. 

Happy Beaujolais Noveau release, everyone.  Run, don’t walk, to your nearest purveyor.  It’s an inexpensive way to transition into red wines if you happen to be a white wine afficianado, and as for red—pretty much goes with just about anything.  Enjoy the 2011 vintage.  It may be out of date in the next 20 minutes or so….along with its celebration.