I Love French Wine and Food - Beaujolais Nouveau

By: Levi Reiss

This article treats one of the worldís most successful marketing campaigns Ė the French red wine that arrives just in time for Thanksgiving, Beaujolais Nouveau. At one minute past midnight on the third Thursday in November, this wine is released for sale. Talk about market share, in the next 24 hours over one million cases will be sold. During the coming year, consumers all over the world will buy more than 65 million bottles. There will be about 4 million bottles exported to the United States, and 7 million to Japan and to Germany. About seven hundred thousand bottles will be exported to Italy, which makes a similar wine, Vino Novello, reviewed in our article I Love Italian Wine and Food Ė Vino Novello (New Wine).

What is exactly is new wine, whether Beaujolais Nouveau, Vino Novello, or some other, similar product? New wine is the first of the harvest, released in early November. The exact date depends on the country. New wines are produced by a special method, carbonic maceration, in which whole grapes ferment in stainless steel tanks, often reaching a temperature of 25 to 30 degrees Centigrade (77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit). This process lasts for about 5 to 20 days, and may be followed by crushing the grapes, which then undergo traditional fermentation for a few days. The exact procedure varies from one winemaker to another, but the ensuing wine is virtually tannin free. The lack of tannins implies a short shelf life. While you donít have to drink the wine immediately, most people finish the season by Easter. Actually, in the best vintages Beaujolais Nouveau can last until the following yearís crop. In theory you could drink Beaujolais Nouveau all year long. Take my advice, donít.

New wines are usually colored bright red or violet. They tend to be fruity, tasting of cherry, strawberry, raspberry, banana, and freshly squeezed grapes, depending on the grape variety used, the production method, and the area in which the grapes are grown. Detractors talk about bubble gum, lollipops, nail polish, and jello. Many feel that new wine tastes of grape juice with alcohol. One thing is certain, if you donít like a given new wine, donít store it away to try it again in two years. It wonít improve with time.

Let me present a few tidbits of information before reviewing one of the best Beaujolais Nouveau wines. This wine comes from Beaujolais region of southeastern France and is made from the Gamay grape, which was kicked out of the world-famous, neighboring Burgundy region in 1395. By law, all the grapes in the Beaujolais region must be picked by hand. Champagne is the only other region of France that forbids mechanical harvesting. While Beaujolais Nouveau was first regulated in 1938, it dates back to ancient times when a somewhat similar wine was produced for slaves. History does not record their reaction. Letís take a look at mine.

Wine Reviewed Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2006 12.5% about $13

I bought this bottle the day after the release of the 2006 Beaujolais Nouveau (November 16, 2006). It was the most expensive, and presumably the best, of all the new wines available.

Beaujolais Villages Nouveau comes from the Gamay grape variety grown in the Beaujolais region of southwestern France. Gamay grapes contain virtually no tannins, and so many white wine lovers feel at home with them. The wine is considered quite fruity and easy to drink. Unlike some of its inferior competitors, it did not smell of nail polish.

My first pairing of this wine involved chicken in a honey, garlic, and soy sauce. The wine was not very flavorful, but during the course of the meal its flavors increased somewhat. Unfortunately the dominant flavor was bubble gum, but there was a light taste of black fruit.

The next meal involved hamburgers accompanied by potatoes, Moroccan style carrots (spicy, the major spice was cumin), and a spicy tomato and red pepper salsa. The spicy food brought out the wineís fruitiness. In particular, the wineís acidity was a good match for the salsaís acidity.

Then I tried this wine with kube, or kibbe, a Middle-Eastern specialty, balls of ground rice filled with ground meat. They were cooked overnight with potatoes in a somewhat spicy sauce. The wine still smelled of bubble gum after a few days. It didnít add much to the meal, but did get a bit more expressive as it warmed up. (By the way, it was not overchilled.) It went rather well with fresh pineapple, but didnít add anything to the other dessert of thin almond and pistachio biscuits.

I didnít have any French cheeses to accompany the wine, so I had to settle for Italian cheeses. Asiago cheese is nutty-flavored, fairly strong cheese from northeastern Italy. In its presence the wine was moderately fruity. This Beaujolais Nouveau was pleasant but a bit thin in the face of a somewhat overripe Pecorino Toscano from the Tuscany region of Italy.

Final verdict. For many years I have not been a fan of new wines. I taste them every year, and am always willing to change my mind. This overpriced Beaujolais Nouveau gave me no reason to budge an inch. As we said every September (or earlier) when our baseball team was eliminated from the pennant race, wait Ďtil next year.

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Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com .

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