The Young Red Wine That Has Come A Long Way The season of Beaujolais Nouveau is finally upon us.
On the third Thursday of November, some
six or eight weeks after the Vendanges, the Beaujolais of the year is ready to
be opened at precisely 12:01 a.m. French law forbids it from being done two minutes before, but allows
the Beaujolais to be shipped well in advance.
As if Saint Vincent, saint patron of the winemakers, knew
that this delightful Vin de Soif would pair perfectly with the traditional
Thanksgiving turkey that is to come the following week. At least this is the wish of the thirty and some negotiants
who produce this light and pleasant wine, coming from the thousands of
vineyards of the Beaujolais region, south of Burgundy.
Since 1995, the Beaujolais Nouveau has been struggling to
regain its popularity of the early '90s, before the critics delivered a drastic
verdict on the 1995 wine, calling it a “tutti-frutti, banana bubble gum scented, headache-inducing
Winemakers have been trying to regain the lost ground left
by the economic consequences of this late '90s snobbery. Some 65 million
bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau are produced every year; nearly half of them are
exported, with Japan and Germany the largest markets, followed by the US. And what
you do no sell, you cannot keep. Needless to say, it was devastating.
Beaujolais wine growers had developed a tendency of picking the
grapes at their minimum ripeness, then adding sugar to boost alcohol levels.
This proved to be a bad habit.
Beaujolais wines are produced by the technique of
semi-carbonic maceration, also called whole berry fermentation. For Beaujolais
Nouveau, the process can be completed in little as four days — a very, very
short time. The result is an overpowering taste of berry and a deplorable lack
of tannin, which led to the 1995 disaster that crept up on the winemakers
Reason has prevailed over greed and the Beaujolais Nouveau
of the last ten years has been a delightful vins de soif, with an incredible
2000 vintage that made it almost a vin de garde.
Here is a Beaujolais Nouveau Quiz, to be taken after the
third Thursday of November.
When you answer wrong, have a glass of Beaujolais. When you
are right… have two!
Beaujolais Nouveau Quiz
1. Gamay is the only grape permitted for Beaujolais.
2. Beaujolais grapes must be hand picked.
3. Beaujolais Nouveau should be served at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or even a few degrees below.
4. Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be consumed before the next spring.
5. Beaujolais Nouveau can also be white or rose.
6. Beaujolais Nouveauis is mostly drunk as an aperitif, not with a meal.
7. Beaujolais Nouveau was the favorite wine of the Dukes of Burgundy.
8. Beaujolais Nouveau can also be made from grapes of the ten crus (great growth) of Beaujolais.
Beaujolais Nouveau Answers
1. Gamay is the only grape permitted for Beaujolais. Only Gamay noir Jus Blac is allowed for Red Beaujolais.
2. Beaujolais grapes must be hand picked. In France, only two wine regions have mandatory hand harvesting. Champagne, Beaujolais, and all the others can use machines.
3. Beaujolais Nouveau should be served at 55 degrees Fahrenheit or even a few degrees below. The perfect temperature for Beaujolais Nouveau is 52 F. Beaujolais AOC and Beaujolais Village should not be served over 57 F. But the 10 Cru Beaujolais, Saint-Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnie, Brouilly, and Cote de Brouilly are served at 60-62 degrees F.
4. Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be drunk before the next spring.
5. Beaujolais Nouveau can also be white or rose. Beaujolais Nouveau is exclusively Red. Although Beaujolais Rose is also 100% Gamay, it cannot be sold as Nouveau.
6. Beaujolais Nouveau is mostly consumed as an aperitif, not with a meal. If you are in Lyon in late autumn, go to a café, stand at the zinc, and ask for a ballon of Beaujolpif. But Beaujolais Nouveau pairs well with poultry, which means of course turkey, as well as grilled and roasted meat, pasta, salad, and some cheeses.
7. Beaujolais was the favorite wine of the Dukes of Burgundy. In fact, they canned Gamay from their lands. Gamay ripens an average two weeks earlier than Pinot Noir and is much less difficult to cultivate. When Philippe the Good stated “The Dukes of Burgundy are known as the lords of the best wines in Christendom. We will maintain our reputation”, the edict pushed Gamay to be planted southward, to the domain of Sieur de Beaujeu (the city that gave the region the Beaujolais name).
8. Beaujolais Nouveau can also be made from grapes of the ten crus (great growth) of Beaujolais. Only Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Village have the right to produce wine that can be sold that early in the year.
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