Beaujolais Nouveau: A November Tradition
While we are busy celebrating and giving thanks on the last Thursday of November others in different countries are playing hosts to their own century old traditions. So it goes every third Thursday in November in France when the latest vintage of Beaujolais called Beaujolais Nouveau is released and ready for immediate enjoyment. “Vins Nouveaux” or young wine is the antithesis of what most of us think of when we think of French wines. Forget barrel aging and long maceration these wines are produced for early drinking.
Beaujolais is one of the few places in the world where the Gamay grape reaches it’s best potential. The wines are produced primarily by a process called carbonic maceration. Whole clusters are placed in a sealed tank allowing the grapes to begin fermenting internally which extracts the fruitiness of the grape while leaving out the harsh tannins and tart acids which can be produced by traditional fermentation. After a few days the grapes are pressed and the wines are fermented to dryness. The wines exhibit aromatic and very juicy red fruit characteristics, which, combined with appetizing acidity, result in a refreshing wine that satisfies the palate and complements a wide variety of food.
Beaujolais is located in east central France, at the southern end of the Burgundy region. The region cover’s a 34-mile stretch beginning with granite-based hills just south of Macon and ending with the flat clay soil plains just northwest of Lyon. There are three major appellation ranks within Beaujolais. The best being labeled Cru Beaujolais followed by Beaujolais-Villages and then simply Beaujolais.
The best vineyards of Beaujolais are found in the north. This area, also known as Haut Beaujolais is further divided into 10 “Crus” or “vineyard areas” and designate the best soils and topography for growing the greatest grapes of the region. Each of these areas will exhibit their own individual flavor profiles and aging potential. The Cru Beaujolais are from north to south, St-Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Moulin-A-Vent. Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Regnie, Brouilly, and Cote de Brouilly. The Cru Beaujolais are labeled by their commune name and are worth looking for. Beaujolais-Villages wine come from 39 approved appellations to the south of Haut Beaujolais and offer good wines at reasonable prices. Wines labeled “Beaujolais” come from anywhere within the designated boundaries of Beaujolais and are normally simple table wines designed to be drunk early. Wines of this class can also be labeled “Beaujolais-Superior” if they achieve a slightly higher alcohol content than the plain “Beaujolais”.