By Terry Sweeney
On November 15, the third Thursday of this month, that famous fermented French Kool-aid will arrive all over the world with a lot of rooting and tooting of horns and screaming headlines of “Le Beaujolais Est Arrive!” (the Beaujolais has arrived!). Yeah … so what? This time-honored tradition has all the overrated hoopla and forced frivolity of New Year’s Eve, which for me every year sounds celebratory and wildly jubilant but more often than not turns out to be as much fun as watching a TV Land re-run of “Murder She Wrote.” I’ve had more than my share of these over-hyped French fruit-bombs dropped on me. If I’m gonna drink black cherry Jell-o, serve it in a shot glass full of vodka. OK, so what then, you may be wondering, is the big French to-do about this Beaujolais Nouveau that invades our shores about this time every year?
Beaujolais is a region of France just south of Burgundy. Nouveau means “new” wine, which is released to the public just a few weeks after it’s harvested and bottled. Because the red grapes are hardly fermented, they are light and fruity and traditionally must be drunk right away — not stored. This time-honored tradition began back when the local winegrowers drank and happily celebrated the first fruit of their vines they had been carefully tending all year.
But now, due to modern transportation systems that span the globe in a matter of days, the third Thursday in November has been branded “Beaujolais Nouveau Day” with accompanying heavy marketing as this “new” wine is rushed from France by giant conglomerates to markets around the world. The only teensy weeny problem is … most of it is crap. But still every year I say this time will be different. I dream of getting down and dirty in the terroir with my fellow French winos on Beaujolais Day!
Why can’t I be like those drunken French peasants playing a happy-go-lucky game of “boules” and chugging down some cold Beaujolaiskys that have been cooling in a nearby wine barrel? Why am I building such a case against Monsieur Nouveau? What’s Beaujolais ever done to me? Actually nothing. It’s not Beaujolais Nouveau’s fault that it happens to show its adorable French baby face right around Thanksgiving.
It’s just, as usual, I have pre-Thanksgiving jitters. I have friends from out-of-town who announced that they are flying in (surprise!) to spend the holiday with me after I had already accepted someone’s kind Thanksgiving invite here. My gracious Southern hostess of course said, “Please bring them. Just bring more wine!”
That is until my hostess informed me: “I’m not doing a turkey this year … too much trouble … I’m serving capons.”
Capons?! What? The pilgrims didn’t eat capons, lady! They ate a turkey! My out-of-town friend and her husband are confirmed Turkeynistas. They even have a box set of miniature porcelain salt-and-pepper turkey shakers wrapped in tissue paper that they bring out “special” every year. This will surely crush them. I must have gallons of really good Beaujolais Nouveau on hand to distract them. My plan is to get them so drunk that when they wake the next day, Thanksgiving’s a total blank. But where on earth am I going to find a delicious Beaujolais Nouveau to help me pull off this fowl switcheroo?
There’s only one superhero in my wine world. One In-vin-cible Cru-sader who has the power to import a Beaujolais Nouveau the taste of which miraculously reminds one of why this curious French tradition is still alive and well. It it is the venerable, musically-gifted, palate-perfect wine pioneer, Kermit Lynch. His book “Adventures on The Wine Route” changed my life and helped me make the transition from ignorant wine dabbler to enlightened wine guzzler. Importing his tasty gems from small independent wine growers, he inevitably every year sniffs out the perfect French harvest wine to pair with our own American harvest celebration.
Don’t settle for another trashy supermarket Ho-jolais this year when you can taste the kind of Beaujolais Nouveau that can even put a smile on a grumpy old Frenchman’s face. Sure, it’s gonna be a bit more expensive; but isn’t it time you got Beaujolaid by the best?! Oh yes!
Check your local wine stores for Kermit Lynch wines.