Beaujolais nouveau, the red, light, fragrant, easy-drinking and quaffing wine that launched a million love affaires with the fermented grape juice, turns 51 this year. (Nouveau as a Beaujolais quality category was legalized in 1951).
Barely a few vinicultural steps from grape juice, Beaujolais nouveau is made from the tart and tangy Gamay grape, grown on the fertile soils of southern Beaujolais and by using a technique called carbonic maceration
(maceration carbonique), which induces a cellular fermentation within the grape prior to crushing and a “ real”, short and low temperature . (Carbonic maceration involves subjecting hand-harvested intact bunches to carbon dioxide for 72 hours in a false-bottomed hermetically closed container. The carbon dioxide generated by a portion of harvested grapes that are crushed and left to ferment at the bottom of the container). After this process the grapes are crushed and the must undergoes a rapid, low-temperature fermentation to preserve fruitiness. The wine then is quickly racked and placed in a cellar where ambient temperature is raised artificially to induce a malo-lactic fermentation (malo-lactic fermentation reduces harsh malic acid in the wine by 50 percent and increases soft, mellow lactic acidity rendering the wine more palatable). This technique produces a fragrant, light, fruity, palatable and quaffable red wine within six weeks of harvest. Both aromatic and flavour characteristics depend on the vintage. It takes nine bunches of grapes to produce one bottle of nouveau.
Nouveau wines are always awaited with bated breath by aficionados in major cities. Beaujolais nouveau, and for that matter all nouveau wines, are considered to be “fun” wine to enjoy, and are quickly forgotten. Ingenious Beaujolais vignerons used to ship their wines to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France, as early as 19th century, and soon after to Paris. After World War I serious marketing efforts were made to release it during third Thursday in November.
Beaujolais madness starts one minute past midnight on the third Thursday of November when the wine is officially released.
More than 50 percent of Beaujolais leave this lovely corner of southern Burgundy (on some 4000 fully loaded trucks) and begin the journey by plane, ship, and train to wine lovers around the world.
The world wide meticulously co-ordinated release is an extraordinary feat by marketers and collaboration between shippers and transport companies. Because of differing time zones, the “nouveau” is jetted to each distant country (Japan, Canada, the U.S.A, the U.K. and Australia) just a few days before its official release at local time, (2000 trucks transport nouveau to Paris airport, to be transported by 450 airplanes).
But since most stores around the world are closed at one minute after midnight, people wait until the following morning; although a few diehard aficionados start lining up shortly after midnight, not so much to obtain a few bottles, but for the camaraderie like-minded people share.
Parisians, of course, get to sip it the moment it is released. French merchants who sell nouveau before its official release must pay a heavy fine; outside France retailers sign agreements.
At its height of popularity, as much as 65 percent of all Beaujolais was sold as nouveau and helped many growers become rich in a short period.
George DuBoeuf, a world-famous Beaujolais shipper, has been able to promote nouveau with his colourful labels and made a fortune in the process, but he also gave back to the community part of his fortunes by building a state-of-the-art wine museum.
Today, approximately 60 million bottles of nouveau are sold worldwide, as several regions started producing nouveau-style wines using Syrah, Teroldego, and other grape varieties. These are sold for less than Beaujolais and hit markets earlier. Touraine (Loire), Ardeche(Cotes du Rhone), Languedoc, Veneto, Trentino-Alto-Adige, California, and Ontario produce nouveau wines.
Austria is known for its white “nouveau” wine (heurige) from Gruner Veltliner grown within the city limits of Vienna.
Beaujolais nouveau in good vintages possesses bright fruitiness, with distinct aromas of cherries, and raspberries, is light, and should be quaffed rather than sipped. It should be served chilled at about 12 C (55F) to appreciate its subtle fruitiness. The best foods to complement it are fatty fall dishes, like sausages, pates, casseroles, game stews and cream cheeses. Nouveau wines and for that matter any red wine vented by using carbonic maceration, should be consumed within a few months, and maximum one year. After this period the wine will still be enjoyable but will have lost much of its youthful charm.
Beaujolais, a large sub-region of Burgundy, south of Lyon is famous for its fruity red wines, but some white wines are also produced. Beaujolais comes in the following qualities: Beaujolais nouveau, Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Village, Beaujolais cru from the following communes: Moulin-a-Vent, Chenas, Chirouble, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Regnie, St Amour, Fleurie, Morgon and Julienas.
The L. C. B. O. makes available nouveau wines from the following regions on the third week of each November: Beaujolais, Languedoc, Veneto, Trentino-Alto-Adige (Mezzocorona) and Ontario.
This year the management of the L.C.B.O decided to offer nine nouveau wiens, four from Beaujolais, one from Ontario, one each from Abruzzo and Veneto and two from southern France.
All told 11 000 cases were imported and will be released on November 17 at 9.30 a.m. at 400 stores across the province.
I tasted all and recommend to:
Beaujolais Villages Nouveau from J. Drouhin, which offers attractive berry aromas, is acid-driven, refreshing, midweight. It is a fine wine to go with food.
Novello Rosso Terre di Chieti from Abruzzo is dark purple in colour, offers fine fruit aromas, and pleasant mid-palate and clean finish. This is an acid-driven wine, which should be enjoyed with food particularly with pizza, cold cuts, cheeses, and cream-sauced pastas.