Tasting the Beaujolais Nouveau
Thursday night was Beaujolais NIGHT! I love to discover new wines and even though the Beaujolais Nouveau hasn’t always got the greatest reputation, it’s a real fun evening to have to celebrate this new wine, every year!
Legend has it that the wine was something of a cult wine in the French bistros, bars, and cafes surrounding Beaujolais and Lyons, produced by the local growers and delivered in barrels. In the 1960s, Nouveau was bottled and marketed outside of France for the first time, and the rest is marketing history.
Bottles of the current year’s Beaujolais Nouveau are officially released on the third Thursday of November. For many years, the official date was November 15th, but in 1985 it was decided that a Thursday release would bring about a more festive celebration, as people tend to party on the weekend. What? you don’t start your weekends on Thursday? Might be time to move to France!!!!
ew other wines are produced, bottled, and released within a few weeks of the harvest. The most strategic way to do this is to employ a winemaking method called carbonic maceration. Without getting too technical, carbonic maceration is essentially the fermentation of grapes occurring inside the skins. Traditionally, the winemaking process begins with the crushing of grapes; the juice of the grapes is pushed out of the skins and gradually ferments. For red wines, this juice is often left to sit with its skins so that tannins are extracted, giving the wine a fuller, more concentrated structure, and often adding some bitter flavors. With carbonic maceration, the grapes are not crushed. Rather, the grapes are piled on top of each other in a sealed container that is filled with carbon dioxide. More CO2 is emitted by the grapes on the bottom of the container, as it is gently crushed by the weight of the top grapes. All this carbon dioxide causes fermentation to take place inside the grape skins (don’t ask why, take a chemistry course!). The resulting wine is fresh, fruity, and very low in tannins.
What Does Beaujolais Nouveau Taste Like?
It’s hard to say, because it tastes different every year. Typically, it’s a lot like a kicked-up grape juice. Nouveau will have very bright, fresh, red fruit flavors, such as cherry, strawberry, and raspberry, and will be delivered to your palate with a distinct zing. Because of the lack of tannins, it should be very soft in the mouth, and easy to drink. Beaujolais Nouveau is not a wine to sniff, swirl, and contemplate; it’s a wine to pour and party with. Consider it a beverage accessory.