When you mention the worlds Beaujolais Nouveau in France people tend to cringe. But you mention the words in Japan and people typically get very excited. Hell, they even bathe in it. You mention it in the United States and people on the west coast would probably ask you what it is. So…what exactly is it?
Beaujolais is a wine producing region located north of the French city of Lyon. Administratively considered part Burgundy, Beaujolais is a distinct region all its own. Nonetheless due to skyrocketing land prices in Burgundy many producers are turning to Beaujolais to buy land, particularly in the Northern regions of the appellation which feature the 10 Crus.
Producing mainly Chardonnay and Gamay, a red varietal, Beaujolais’ most famous wines are the Beaujolais Nouveau. A light bodied red wine made from the Gamay grape, each new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau is released each year on the third Thursday of November. By law all Beaujolais grapes are hand-harvested and are fermented using carbonic maceration. Whole grape clusters are added to the vat and fermentation begins within the berry. The carbonic gas released as part of this fermentation process forms a cap and prevents oxygenation. And yes in case you were wondering the November release is the current year’s harvest. So yesterday November 20th was the worldwide release of the 2014 Beaujolais Nouveau.
As should be clearly evident based on the release schedule, Beaujolais Nouveau is not a very complex wine. It’s not aged in oak. There is no extended period of maceration. Simple, crisp, clean and light bodied, Beaujolais Nouveau is easy drinking.
Despite the sneers of Fine Wine drinkers in France, I decided to make like the French and attend a Beaujolais Nouveau release party at one of my neighborhood wine bars. And the wine was as promised. Crisp, clean, light, slightly acidic and very easy to drink. And today was followed by a tasting of Beaujolais wines, including a white wine, a village and two crus. The white was crisp and mineral, a truly stunning surprised that reminded me of a Bourgogne blanc. The first red, a Beaujolais Village, was my favorite. Clean, bright with beautiful notes of cherry and spice. The two crus were sadly a little disappointing. But that was my opinion.
So on that note, act a little French and go find yourself a bottle to enjoy!