The arrival of Nouveau can be a great excuse to celebrate

in Food/Wine & Dine by

By CELIA STRONG

Every year, the Nouveau Beaujolais becomes available on the third Thursday of November, its legal release date, according to French wine laws. 

This red wine, for centuries, was the first wine produced and sold from the newest vintage. The same year the grapes were harvested. 

So, in 2019, it’s the first 2019 wine. Until you remember the availability of wines from the Southern Hemisphere, which changes everything because their harvest is six months ahead of ours. But, let’s not remember that right now.

Beaujolais Nouveau, the more correct name, comes from the Burgundy region of France and is made from 100 percent Gamay grapes. Beaujolais Nouveau was first made about 100 years ago, with its quick fermentation, as a celebratory wine for the harvest workers. 

The first AC laws, written in 1937, for this wine said it couldn’t be sold until after December 15, in the year the grapes grew and were harvested. In 1951, the rules were changed so it could be sold on the third Thursday of November. Probably not because our Thanksgiving holiday is the fourth Thursday, but we can believe what we like.

Depending on what wine circles you travel in, the arrival of Nouveau can be a great excuse to celebrate.

According to the AC laws for Nouveau, all the grapes must be harvested by hand. Production must use carbonic maceration, with whole berries to enhance all the fruit flavors. (Carbonic maceration is a process used almost only in the Beaujolais region. Whole grapes are fermented in a carbon-dioxide rich environment. Most of the juice is actually fermented inside its grape skins. And, consequently, the finished wine has very low tannins.) 

Today, Nouveau wine makes up about 25 percent of the whole production of Beaujolais. From 2,000 producers, 20,000 gallons. With 40 percent exported from France.

Nouveau Beaujolais is a purpley-cherry red wine. A youthful color that comes partly from the fact it is bottled just six to eight weeks after harvest. Because of its lower level of tannins, much of the grapes’ natural acidity is left in the wine. So, even though it’s a red, it tastes much better slightly chilled, 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Fruit flavors dominate the wine, with banana, grape, strawberry, pear flavors and more. Nouveau is meant to be drunk young, but young means up to a year or two after its vintage. In France, they drink most of their Nouveau for Easter dinner. Whether Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter or whenever, this is an easy drinking, user friendly wine.

Like all other wines, and as you would expect from 2,000 producers, there are variations in Nouveau Beaujolais. Between different vintages as well as between different wineries in the same vintage. Some are fruitier, some are heavier, some are better known. Some have special labels every year. (Another collection of things you don’t need?)

A consistently good one is Drouhin. Joseph Drouhin is a Burgundy house with a superb reputation. Founded in 1880, they started out in Chablis, in the northern part of Burgundy. But, they have always been involved in the Beaujolais region. 

In fact, in the early 1950’s, they were the first to bottle and ship Nouveau. Usually, it had been sold in small barrels. 

As in other parts of the Burgundy region, Drouhin’s quality control includes owning vineyards for every appellation the produce. In Beaujolais, their vineyards are pink granite soils. Full bunches of grapes, all biodynamically grown, go through semi-carbonic maceration that takes four to 10 days. Then, the wines rest, quickly, in stainless steel vats.

According to those at Drouhin, the 2019 Nouveau is colorful and concentrated. It has a delicious mix of red and black fruit aromas and flavors. Including black and red cherries, blackberries, blueberries, currants, raspberries, figs, strawberries and more. 

Its texture is clean and fresh, but not light, with good acidity and a concentrated finish. 

The 2019 is a good vintage for Nouveau and this one is a great example. A toast from the Drouhin family: “You should have a lot of fun!.” 

For $11.99. Happy Holidays. Enjoy.