This time of year most people are thinking about Thanksgiving, but I’m a little different. I didn’t wait for the turkey and sides; I started my celebrations one week early, because that’s the day the year’s Beaujolais Nouveau arrived.
I’m not the only one who celebrates. “Beaujolais Nouveau Day” was once marked with grand races from the wineries in the Beaujolais region of France to the center of Paris. Then parties and festivals ensued where the year’s vintage was uncorked and enjoyed. The festivities have dwindled since their peak in the early 1990s, but the third Thursday in November is still a popular day to stop in at a cafe or corner shoppe and raise a glass to the harvest.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a young red intended to be consumed sooner rather than later. And I do mean young – this wine is made from grapes harvested just months earlier, and it is celebrated as the first sample of the wine from the year’s harvest.
By French law, only one kind of grape – Gamay grapes – from only one area – the Beaujolais region – can be crushed, fermented and bottled under the name “Beaujolais Nouveau.” The grapes are harvested by early September and fermented for just a few days before the wine is bottled. By the time it hits your glass on the third Thursday in November, it has been in the bottle approximately two whole months.
The Beaujolais Nouveau was originally a table wine, fermented quickly in a fashion that doesn’t lend itself to the usual aging process. It originally was intended to be consumed after the harvest was complete, and for best flavor, I recommend sticking with that tradition. Most wine lovers would recommend drinking against holding on to it past Valentine’s Day or so, but some experts say it can hold for up to a year or more.
There are about 30 vineyards that bottle their own versions of this wine. This year, I picked up a bottle of the Georges Duboeuf 2015. I was delighted – the deep red fills your glass with color, then sips deceptively lightly. The 2015 puts its best fruit forward (I tasted an edge of strawberries) to reveal a freshness underneath that’s unexpected if this is your first Beaujolais Nouveau.
Each vintage is different, but in general, if you enjoy a good pinot noir, you’ll enjoy a Beaujolais Nouveau. The light body of the wine appeals to people who won’t always try a red, and some people even sip this one chilled. It is slightly more acidic than other wines, due to its age.
Overall, this is a great wine to pick up for the holidays. Its youth and fruitiness make it a great companion for the cheese trays and smoked meats that adorn the tables at various parties of the holiday season. And at a price point hovering around $9-$13 a bottle, it’s an easy addition to any social event you may attend or throw. A bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau will always have a place at my holiday table.