Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! "


When I lived near DC in the mid-80s, Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the third Thursday in November, was a heavily hyped, all-day party across the District, flowing from French bistros and wine bars in Georgetown and Capitol Hill. It really opened my eyes (and my young palate) to how much fun wine could be.
For a little while it was also a popular wine day in Philly, but that seems to have died down. I can remember trolling around town with friends (including wine saveur extraordinaire Katie Loeb!) sampling different Nouveaus on one very cold third Thursday in November, not too long ago. It was one of the most enjoyable wine experiences I've ever had.
Well, today is the day. And I have read in several places that this year's Nouveau may be the best vintage in 50 years. Yeah, I know, hype on top of hype. But I readily admit that I really enjoy this wine, especially on Thanksgiving, when its light, fruity, slightly vegetal taste and lightly fizzy mouthfeel pairs very well with all the foods on Turkey Day. I think of it like this: Session Wine. Light, quaffable, flavorful, bouncy, and very food-friendly, no different than the growing crop of session beers out there. It's a fun drink, nothing more, nothing less.
Now there's a huge history b
ehind all this hype. I found this on a website called IntoWine.com:
At one past midnight on the third Thursday of each November, from little villages and towns like Romanèche-Thorins, over a million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau begin their journey through a sleeping France to Paris for immediate shipment to all parts of the world. Banners proclaim the good news: "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!(The New Beaujolais has arrived!)" One of the most frivolous and animated rituals in the wine world has begun.

By the time it is over, over 65 million bottles, nearly half of the region's total annual production, will be distributed and drunk around the world. It has become a worldwide race to be the first to serve to this new wine of the harvest. In doing so, it has been carried by motorcycle, balloon, truck, helicopter, jet, elephant, runners and rickshaws to get it to its final destination. It is amazing to realize that just weeks before this wine was a cluster of grapes in a growers vineyard. But by an expeditious harvest, a rapid fermentation, and a speedy bottling, all is ready at the midnight hour.
Beaujolais Nouveau began as a local phenomenon in the local bars, cafes, and bistros of Beaujolais and Lyons. Each fall the new Beaujolais would arrive with much fanfare. In pitchers filled from the growers barrels, wine was drunk by an eager population. It was wine made fast to drink while the better Beaujolais was taking a more leisurely course. Eventually, the government stepped into regulate the sale of all this quickly transported, free-flowing wine. In 1938 regulations and restrictions were put in place to restrict the where, when, and how of all this carrying on. After the war years, in 1951, these regulations were revoked by the region's governing body, the Union Interprofessional des Vins de Beaujolais (UIVB), and the Beaujolais Nouveau was officially recognized. The official release date was set for November 15th. Beaujolais Nouveau was officially born. By this time, what was just a local tradition had gained so much popularity that the news of it reached Paris. The race was born. It wasn't long thereafter that the word spilled out of France and around the world. In 1985, the date was again changed, this time to the third Thursday of November tying it to a weekend and making the celebration complete. But wherever the new Beaujolais went, importers had to agree not to sell it before midnight on the third Thursday of November.
I hope you'll grab a bottle or two and post your thoughts on the wine here. I'll be doing that myself as soon as I get it home later today.

1 comment:

Rich said...

Not sure if I like this year's Nouveau, but there's still what you'd expect and a lot of surprises: still a shiny, shimmery garnet red, with tons of raspberres up front, but then--the vines and earth are more noticeable, some leather and smoke in the middle, hints of bitter chocolate and then a DRY finish! DRY!
Reminds me of some of the wild, brash Oregon Syrahs I've had in recent years. Bottom line: it's gonna be great with your turkey.