Today is the 3rd Thursday in November – which means it’s the worldwide release date for the first bottles of Northern Hemisphere 2013 wine. Beaujolais Nouveau is made using a special process so that it can be fermented and settled quickly, to be available before the end of the year.
Originally, this was a harvest festival wine. The farmers in the Beaujolais region would put part of their wine crop as whole bunches into sealed containers. Then they would ferment the rest of their grapes normally, harvest the wheat and rye, smoke some hams, dig up the turnips, etc. When the bulk of the fall harvest work was done, they could celebrate by opening the first fruits of the vine. It’s no coincidence that Beaujolais Nouveau and our American Thanksgiving occur within a week of each other!
After World War II, Georges DuBoeuf – a major grower in Beaujolais – popularized the Nouveau style throughout France, the rest of Europe, and other parts of the wine-drinking world. There’s a wacky midnight race across the English Channel with outlandish boats, French restaurants in the US stayed open until midnight last night so they could pour the first bottles at 12:01, and lots of wine shops will be featuring Nouveau on tastings and special menus this week.
When it’s done right, Beaujolais Nouveau is an incredibly bright, vibrant, and fruity wine – just perfect for turkey with cranberry sauce! In off years, however, it can sometimes smell like bananas and taste flat and boring. You never know until you crack the bottle – and it’s very hard for producers to be consistent from year to year, so I don’t have a favorite brand. I try a couple, and then stock up on the good ones.
I’ll be out and about this afternoon, and will report on the Nouveau wines tomorrow and Saturday – stay tuned!