I haven’t seen any Beaujolais Nouveau for sale this year. It’s not that I’m a great fan of it, but there’s usually plenty around in the weeks after its official release date, the 3rd Thursday in November. And, it’s a big seller – in supermarkets, especially – so they would normally be keen to put on an eye-catching display. But this year, nothing!
So, what is Beaujolais Nouveau? It’s a red wine made from Gamay grapes grown in France’s Beaujolais region, the southern-most part of Burgundy. The grapes are harvested in late September or early October and then vinified very quickly before being bottled ready for sale just a few weeks later.
I said I’m not a great fan of it; a friend once described it as ‘alcoholic Ribena’ and I can’t better that as a way to explain the taste. For me, the problem is that the whole process is rushed through to meet the key date and there is no time for the flavours to mature and develop.
But, not all Beaujolais is ‘Nouveau’; wines labelled just Beaujolais (without the Nouveau suffix) or, even better, Beaujolais-Villages are often very attractive and refreshing, especially when lightly chilled on a warm summer day. But, to enjoy the best the region has to offer, look to wines labelled with the name of one of the 10 individual villages or ‘crus’ (see below). Despite all being made from the same Gamay grape and from villages just a few miles from each other, each is subtly different from its neighbour and many make really excellent food wines.
The Domaine Crêt des Garanches Brouilly (Grape and Grind, Bristol, £12.50) I opened recently was a good example – quite light and delicate in body but deliciously fresh and full of really intense blackberry flavours. No rush to get this to market – it was from the 2014 harvest; the time it had been given to develop was definitely time well spent.
(The crus are: Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Chenas, Chirouble, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Regnie and Saint-Amour)