There’s a lot more to Beaujolais than Nouveauby Barry Smith / October 19, 2011 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2011 issue of Prospect Magazine
A fresco depicting winegrowers at the town of Marcy, in Beaujolais
As we enter November, the name of one wine region comes to mind more easily than any other: Beaujolais. The third week of the month is when bottles of young Beaujolais start appearing on shelves less than six weeks after harvest. Le Beaujolais Nouveau is both a wine and a tradition: something of a marketing coup that began when Beaujolais wine makers raced to bring their recently made wines to Paris, and drinkers competed to be the first to taste (and pronounce on) the year’s offering. Simple, fruity and inexpensive, the wines were not meant to be savoured but to be drunk. Quickly. These are wines on which everyone could have a view; part of a true French democracy of wine criticism.
What of the wines themselves? Some Beaujolais Nouveaux are rather good. The fresh fruit flavours of the Gamay grape are saved for early drinking through a process of carbonic maceration. Whole grapes are fermented in their skins through the action of carbon dioxide on a large bunch of un-pressed grapes. Meanwhile, juice from the grapes crushed at the bottom of the vats undergoes normal alcoholic fermentation. The result is fruity, almost jammy wines, low in tannin, high in acidity, that often taste of bubblegum or banana, and are best served chilled. If ever you needed a good example of a quaffing wine, this is it.