As Thanksgiving approaches, many folks who enjoy wine are looking out for this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais Nouveau is a celebratory wine released around this time of year with fresh pressed and fermented grapes. It’s a light, fruity and fun wine and while many consider Nouveau the definitive version of Beaujolais, that isn’t really the case. Cru class Beaujolais can rival top quality Pinot Noir from the villages in northern Burgundy and it can also be a fantastic Thanksgiving wine!
When people think Burgundy (Bourgogne), people think of Pinot Noir and rightfully so! Burgundy makes arguably the best expressions of the Pinot Noir grape including bottlings from legendary producers and vineyards. The phrases DRC (Domaine Romanee-Conti, the most prominent producer in Burgundy) and La Tache (a top vineyard/appellation held by DRC) will send shivers up the spines of many wine drinkers. But Burgundy has another star grape in Gamay Noir. Gamay, a thin skinned red grape, makes light and fruit forward wine. Given the right barrel conditioning and aging, it can make red wine comparable to Cote D’Or’s super star villages for a fraction of the cost.
Gamay makes complex wines in Beaujolais. The wines will have notes of ripe strawberry, cherry and raspberries with earthy undertones like mushrooms and fresh tilled soil. The grape has a huge amount of acidity and goes through carbonic maceration to highlight the fruit flavors. This high acidity makes the wine great for food pairings like creamy or fatty dishes. Thanksgiving turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, anyone?
So, what is carbonic maceration? Essentially, it’s when the juice goes through fermentation when the grape is still whole in a carbon dioxide rich environment. The result is a wine that is fruity with low tannins (tannins come from the skins). Since the wine is made inside of the grape, it doesn’t see a lot of skin contact. This interesting process is at the heart of Beaujolais production and is a hallmark of the region.
Then what exactly is Beaujolais Nouveau? It is Gamay that has been quickly fermented and bottled right after the harvest of grapes. This is seen as a celebratory wine because it is normally going to be the first bottled wine of the vintage as it hardly sees any time aging.
Beaujolais comes in my forms, from Beaujolais Nouveau to Cru bottlings from the villages. Here’s a handy guide to tell which is which.
As the name implies new Beaujolais, light and super fruit forward.
This is going to be basic level Gamay. You’ll hardly see this in the United States.
A step above basic level Beaujolais, made famous by Louis Jadot who makes a nice version of all of these wines.
This is going to carry a village name. The villages of Beaujolais all produce different styles ranging from light bodied to full bodied wines. There are ten in total and below they are separated by style.
- Lighter Bodied – Brouilly, Regnie, Chiroubles
- Medium Bodied – Cote Brouilly, Fleurie, Saint-Amour
- Full Bodied – Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-A-Vent, Chenas
There is a Beaujolais out there for everyone, whether you like them light and fruit forward like a Nouveau or more complex and earthy like a Morgon. The best part about Beaujolais is that they pair very well with Thanksgiving dinner, so definitely consider pouring some Beaujolais this year right next to the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce!
Top image via PopSugar