If you go into your local supermarket or wine merchant on Thursday (November 18th) or soon afterwards, you may see some insistent marketing proclaiming that ‘Beaujolais Nouveau is here’. So, what is Beaujolais Nouveau?
It’s a red wine made from the Gamay grape grown in the Beaujolais region in the southern part of Burgundy in France. What’s unusual about Nouveau is that the grapes are picked (generally in late September), quickly fermented and the wine is bottled all within a few weeks so that it can be on sale on the 3rd Thursday of November each year, officially designated ‘Beaujolais Nouveau Day’.
Which brings us to the next obvious question: should you buy it?
The brief timescale in which the wine must be made and bottled to get it on the shelf for the official release day, has a considerable influence on its flavour. Most wines (including Beaujolais not labelled as ‘Nouveau’) take many months, some even years, for the process that, for Beaujolais Nouveau, is carried out within about 6 or 8 weeks. The extended period allows other wines the chance to develop complexity and different flavours, perhaps from lees contact or maturation for a time in oak barrels. None of this development is possible in Nouveau’s abbreviated timeframe, so it can only ever be a simple quaffing wine, at best.
What does it taste like? Well, I haven’t tasted the 2021 vintage yet, of course, but typically it is light-bodied, with refreshing acidity and plenty of juicy, sometimes slightly bitter, fruit. A friend of mine once described it as ‘alcoholic Ribena’ and I don’t think I can improve on that.
It would be a perfect accompaniment to a picnic on a lovely warm summer’s day. Unfortunately, another downside to the speedy production process is that, by the time we get some picnic weather here in the UK, this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau will be past its best!
Do try it if you never have but I suggest you approach it with limited expectations!