Our patterns of wine consumption are tainted by a certain selective streak. Any open-minded wine drinker must navigate between what we enjoy drinking and that hint of prejudice that can potentially box us in. When we are taught to decipher wine labels, we are taught to imagine what they taste like, in theory, based on geographic location and of course appellation. We end up writting off lots of wine. While this approach certainly helps save time, the element of impartiality goes by the wayside.
Hence, Beaujolais Nouveau and the negative reactions it incites amongst wine drinkers. Never has a good dose of open-mindedness been called for as when dealing with a wine that has benefitted from one of the best marketing campaigns ever. I’m referring to the genius of Georges Duboeuf, who popularized the beaujolais nouveau trend, allowing beaujolais to travel the world and for Monsieur Duboeuf to be heralded as the Pope of Beaujolais. Let’s give credity where credit is due, Beaujolais is a household name thanks to his marketing campaign, but when you produce 2,5 million cases annually, we are not talking about terroir wines anymore.
By the way, when was the last time you tried a Beaujolais nouveau? And in case you haven’t heard, the Crus like Morgon, Moulin à Vent and Régnié are fetching prices upwards of 30$ a bottle nowadays. Though we are comparing two very different styles of wine in terms of depth and ageing potential, we are still dealing with the same grape : Gamay.
The younger, more juicy and fresh version of the grape has the ability to charm as well.
A well-made beaujolais nouveau makes you want to have a bottle to yourself. Let’s not underestimate this last point either: young, delcious and easy to drink wine is a style that is immitated everywhere in France. Wines aimed at comforting and at soothing the soul, for 20$ a pop, it’s worth it each and every time. On the other hand, I can understand if you’ve had bad beaujolais nouveau and are forever tainted by it: bad wines stick out like that.
Bojo nouveau : two ways of doing things
Lets just do a brief overview of Beaujolais nouveau, commercialized on the third Thursday of November and its more refined version, commercialized four to five months later. The first type receives as much thought as a microwave dinner : a quickly made wine to be ready for marketing purposes. The timetable requires a speeding up of the alcoholic fermentation. This requires selected yeasts which will transform the sugar quicker and give off that candy banana aroma to boot. I’m talking about good old 71B. Once we go down the path of artificial flavors, well…we’re comparing apples and oranges. Not there is anything at fault with these wines per say. Even a recent panel of New York Times wine writers scored Georges Duboeuf’s Beaujolais Nouveau in the top three of a blind tasting. But his wines lack soul, intrigue, flair.
So what are we left with : a wine that was sped up, shallow, without tannins but full of fruit and that goes down like water. As one French wine critic said : « there’s no time to be disappointed since it’s barely wine. » Does the fact that French law mandates that the grapes be hand-picked afford a saving grace? Nope. The grapes could be organically-grown for all I care, once they reach the chai, its a chemist’s world. Yes, Duboeuf is consistent in his quality. Are the climatic conditions consistent from year to year? Nope.
Good Bojo, why the « nouveau »?
I relearned how great bojo nouveau can be, or rather I enjoy it because it is a wine well made. For this reason, some feel the « nouveau » on the label should be dropped. On the one hand, this could indicate to consummer that they are dealing with a more serious wine. These are wines most definitely have the vintage effect : 2015, such a hot year, gave fruit forward wine that were lush with juicy textures. 2016, more restraint and therefore less exubherant, showing great freshness, with a touch of dark cherry pit rather than jammy fruit. On the other hand, there is something light-hearted about the nouveau, something youthful and beaming with energy. Semantics.
To help guide you into purchashing well-made beaujolais nouveau, remember this : you can always count on the top producers of the crus du beaujolais to make great wine. As the saying goes : « a good winemaker refuses to make a bad wine. » This week’s wine comes from a disciple of Georges Descombes and Jean Foillard. He is a youngman named Anthony Thevenet and his wines are top (represented by Dame Jeanne)