November 24, 2010

The Grape Escape: Dang! I Forgot Beaujolais Nouveau Day

The Beaujolais Nouveau is here — it arrived last Thursday!

Frankly, the not-so-ancient tradition of celebrating the new Beaujolais wine of the current year’s harvest on the third Thursday of November is more about marketing and cash flow than about excellent wine.

Here’s the simple genius of Beaujolais, a concept born of the optimistic years just after World War II: Use wine-making tricks to create a fresh, fruity and simple little wine that can be rushed to market within weeks after picking. Plan a party, promote the new wine heavily, and wait for the bucks to roll in.

The Nouveau craze started in Paris, but it wasn’t long before wine enthusiasts around the world heard about the new wine and wanted to try it. Regulatory authorities played along, allowing the wine to be shipped to international markets before its legal release date so it would be in place and ready to sell on Nouveau Day ... which, you’ll note, falls late in the work week, when restaurant business booms and a party atmosphere prevails.

Party atmosphere? Hold that thought. Beaujolais Nouveau is not about wine-geek tasting notes or point ratings or “connoisseurship.” It’s about fun. Get into the celebration, and enjoy a glass as a last remembrance of the summer just past. But don’t expect a transcendent wine-tasting experience.

Missed out on Nouveau Day this year? I did, too. But here’s a tip: The new wine is affordable and goes well with Thanksgiving turkey. So do its grown-up siblings, Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages, plus a handful of “better” Beaujolais named after the villages where their vineyards grow. Check with local wine shops for advice, or try the reliable producers Louis Jadot or Georges Duboeuf. The 2009 vintage was particularly good.