Vintage 2005 - Beaujolais Nouveau Arrives
Copyright 2005 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed Nov. 18, 2005. For more information go to wineloverspage.com
Well, the Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived, right on schedule, and of course I had to get into the spirit of the season last night by tasting a couple of the first wines of the recent vintage from France.
Wine snobs tend to look down on Beaujolais Nouveau because the wine - and the festivity surrounding it - is an artificial invention created mostly with marketing (and cash flow) in mind. It's not even a long- lived tradition but a modern custom that began in France after World War II, when the wine makers of Beaujolais started cranking out a simple, fresh wine that could be bottled within a couple of months after the harvest. They built excitement by setting an official release date, and would rush the Nouveau ("new") wine up to Paris on the designated day - now the third Thursday in November - where thirsty crowds would gather at wine bars and bistros to give it a try.
The concept turned out to have "legs," and now it's celebrated worldwide, the wine being shipped to distributors in advance and, at least in theory, held until midnight on Nouveau Day before it can be sold.
Some wine geeks sniff and point out that Beaujolais Nouveau is not great wine. Heck, it's not meant to be! It's all about conviviality and parties and enjoying a last, lingering taste of the summer just past, celebrating the fresh fruit of the new vintage as the autumn winds blow. These are not bad things...but no, a wine made in two months from less-than-stellar grapes isn't going to be great. Sometimes wine is not just about ratings points.
Here's a quick look at two Nouveaus that I picked up yesterday to enjoy with dinner. They made a suprisingly good match with fresh calf's liver and thin-sliced sweet onions sauteed in butter with a squirt of Meyer lemon juice.
BOUCHARD AINE & FILS 2005 BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU
This is a dark-garnet wine with a clear edge, tinged with a bluish- purple color that's typical of very young red wines. Its ripe, simple but very fruit-forward "grapey" aroma is typical of Nouveau, adding an appealing touch of spice. On the palate it's fresh, juicy and tart, ripe strawberry flavors and snappy acidity in balance. It's as one- dimensional as you'd expect of a Nouveau, but also as you'd expect, a merry quaff, with enough style and balance to place it well above the median for the genre. U.S. importer: Boisset America, Sausalito, Calif.
JEAN LAFITTE 2005 BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU
A bit more in the traditional Nouveau style than the comparatively sophisticated Bouchard, this dark reddish-purple wine adds a distinct hint of red-wine vinegar to its overtly grapey and strawberry aromas. Juicy and so strawberry-fruity that it almost seems sweet, but tart acidity and a hint of puckery astringency place it firmly on the "rustic" side. The food match improves it, the robust earthiness of calf's liver bringing up the wine's grapey fruitiness while ameliorating the astringency. U.S. importer: Luneau USA Inc., Westport, Conn.