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Beaujolais Nouveau takes the stage at Thanksgiving

By Dave Buchanan

It’s the third Thursday in November, which means Thanksgiving is near and Beaujolais Nouveau is here.

It’s hard to miss notice of the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, the vin de primeur so renown it has its own release date and coming out parties, sort of a Fat Tuesday (on the third Thursday of November) for wine. Noting the success Beaujolais Nouveau producers have had with their up-front “How do you like me so far?” introduction, other wine regions now have similar introductory celebrations but none have enjoyed the mystique or international popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau.

Much of that you may lay at the feet of one Georges DuBoeuf, the French wine producer whose fertile mind first conceived of selling the mass markets on a young, fruity wine that’s both affordable and fun to drink. DuBoeuf, now 78, is a French farm boy who grew up to be one of his country’s largest producers, annually shipping out to 120 countries about 30 million bottles of wine with his name on them. And while he’s not the only Beaujolais on the market, his is the best-selling brand in the U.S.

And that’s saying a lot, considering it’s estimated 65 million bottles of Nouveau will be consumed this year plus the Beaujolais Crus, which won’t appear for another year. Nouveau means new, which means young, which means these grapes were picked in early September and in your glass by mid-November. Beaujolais Nouveau originally was made to serve the harvest workers at the end of harvest, not simply to celebrate but to give them a literal taste of their efforts. To do so, it had to be made quickly so the grapes are not fermented in the traditional style but rather using whole-berry carbonic maceration.

No crushing; simply pour the grapes into whatever fermenter you’re using and let the juice ferment inside the berries. The juice is put briefly in tanks to finish (today it’s stainless steel, wood is to slow and too costly) and soon you have Beaujolais Nouveau. Light, fruity, simple, with just enough tannic structure to add a comfortable edge to all that fruit.

DuBoeuf says this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau “2011 will be a great millésime in Beaujolais - complex, serious, solid and rich in delicious flavors. There is something divine about it.” He’s said something similar about the last few vintages but he insists this one is better than the previous releases.

“After having tasted several hundred samples of the wine, I am astounded by this terrific vintage,” DuBoeuf said in a statement. “It looks like it will top every excellent year in the Beaujolais wine hall of fame.”

Maybe it’s climate change, maybe it’s just the nature of the Gamay grape, but millions of Beaujolais Nouveau drinkers will again prove him right. The wine is available just about everywhere, and for around $10 it’s a good choice to decorate your Thanksgiving table.




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