It’s nearly that time of year again—time for the release of France’s Beaujolais Nouveau wines and all the fanfare that goes with it. Every year, at exactly one minute past midnight on the third Thursday in November, Beaujolais Nouveau is released to the world in a frenzy of bottling, buying and guzzling. Cases of this young wine are sent by train from warehouses in Beaujolais (a wine-producing region in Burgundy) to Paris bistros, and on to restaurants and stores in North America within hours of their release.
Why all the fuss? Well, to be honest, Beaujolais Nouveau is essentially a pretty slick marketing ploy. But that doesn’t mean it’s not one of autumn’s simple pleasures. Originally, Beaujolais Nouveau was drunk in France to give the public a preview of what the regular Beaujolais wines would taste like for that year. But due to its increasing popularity and wonderful effect on winemakers’ cash flow, about a third of the Beaujolais crop now winds up as Beaujolais Nouveau. The rest goes into making three qualities of Beaujolais wines, which are in ascending order of desirability and price: Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Villages, and “Cru” Beaujolais.
Wines don’t get any younger than Beaujolais Nouveau. The grapes and juice for Beaujolais are picked, fermented, bottled and sold within a matter of weeks. That quick vinification means that this will not be a wine for the ages. It’s not a wine for your cellar. Most Beaujolais Nouveau hits its peak around the Christmas holidays, and it’s pretty much all washed up by Easter. It’s a flimsy little summer cottage of a wine and that’s precisely what we love about it. Beaujolais Nouveau is relatively cheap, fun to drink, and even the most wine-reticent person at your holiday party will love it because it has virtually no discernable tannins and is relatively low in alcohol.
Beaujolais Nouveau is made from Gamay grapes, which produce a lightweight red wine that is acidic, but mostly tannin-free. Its aroma is intensely grapy, though raspberry flavors are also typical. Beaujolais Nouveau is a fruity, juicy, pinkish-purple wine that slides down the palate so effortlessly, it should come in pop-top bottles and probably soon will. It’s not a wine to ponder.
Happily, Beaujolais Nouveau is so flexible that you can eat virtually anything with it. Because of the Gamay grape’s fruity sweetness, it’s a good foil for spicy dishes and even curries. But its lack of tannins also makes Beaujolais Nouveau a fine accompaniment to salads, vegetables and fruits. In Paris bistros, classic food matches for Beaujolais are cold chicken, charcuterie, pÃ¢tÃ© and cheese. It can also be a good choice to go along with turkey, stuffing, gravy and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. Just be sure to serve Beaujolais Nouveau cooler than you would most red wines. In fact, you’ll want to chill it down to about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which will help bring out the fruitiness of young Beaujolais.
Sips: A great way to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau is to attend The Wasatch Food & Wine Society’s 21st annual Nouveau Beaujolais Festival at Deer Valley Resort. This year’s Nouveau Beaujolais Festival takes place on Sunday, Nov. 21, at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. This year, two different French Beaujolais wines will be offered for tasting, a selection from Georges DuBoeuf and one from Laboure-Roi. As always, Deer Valley will also provide a full French cuisine buffet including classic French dishes like escargot, rillete, cassoulet and brioche. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Kris Anderson at 435-645-6640 or by mailing a check for $80 per person to Deer Valley Resort, c/o Kris Anderson, P.O. Box 889, Park City, UT 84060.