Next Thursday, Nov. 21, will mark one of the major events of the wine-drinking year: the release of the first wine of the 2013 harvest, Beaujolais Nouveau.
Early indications are that we are in for another good year, and it’s priced nicely between $9 and $11.
“This is another great vintage,” said Franck Duboeuf, son of the “king of Beaujolais,” Georges Duboeuf. “We are extremely pleased by the samples. We are very pleased at the level of quality. It can be compared to 2011, which was an exceptional vintage in Beaujolais.”
Release of the Beaujolais Nouveau has grown from a simple way to celebrate the end of the harvest in France a century ago to a worldwide party today. This is a fun way to start getting in the holiday spirit.
Beaujolais Nouveau is released at 12:01 a.m. on the third Thursday of November, just a week before Thanksgiving. When Georges Duboeuf started hyping Beaujolais Nouveau in the 1970s, winemakers used to race their barrels to Paris on Nov. 15. The races spread to neighboring European countries in the 1980s, then to North America and now to Asia. In 1985, the release date was changed to the third Thursday in November.
“This is the perfect wine to initiate people to the world of wine” Franck Duboeuf said during a phone interview from France. “You can serve it for any occasion, such as a welcome drink, or pair it with any kind of food. It is a very friendly wine, and it marks the beginning of the holiday season. It goes well with a number of traditional recipes.”
Georges Duboeuf was a pioneer in marketing Beaujolais Nouveau and the company the biggest producer. Though there are other producers, Duboeuf is the one you are most likely to find in the United States.
Local wine shops will have plenty of Beaujolais Nouveau on hand from Duboeuf and others.
The Duboeuf label changes every year and is always modern and distinctive. This year’s label is said to have a Nouveau Retro look, with a nod to the Jazz Age. The Nouveau label is a sharp contrast with the flowers on the labels of regular Duboeuf wine.
The Nouveau wine, made from Gamay grapes, usually is a beautiful bright purple color with tinges of pink. It smells of fresh fruit. The flavors are ripe and juicy fruit, such as strawberry and banana, with a small amount of tannin. The wine should be served slightly chilled.
Beaujolais Nouveau generally is a simpler wine than most. It is picked in September, fermented a few weeks and bottled late in October before its release in November.
Franck Duboeuf said this year’s version will exhibit a good balance between sugar and acidity.
“At the end we had smaller grapes (than usual), but dark red juice and full aromas,” he said. “There is a lot of complexity; it is full-bodied. It is very refreshing, with more concentrated juice this year. There was less juice, but it brought more color and more intense flavor and complexity to the wine.”
Duboeuf said he still gets excited about the Nouveau release.
“It is a great time of the year,” he said. “It means many things for us. Beaujolais Nouveau is our ambassador. We give it a lot of care and attention. It is my passion, if you will. We also pay attention to the other side of the ocean. It is a great time of year to listen to our customers’ reaction. Our wine is under the spotlight. There is no other wine that is so watched.”
Asked whether he ever considered a profession other than wine making, he chuckled and said, “The Duboeuf family are producing wines for four centuries. It will be on my tombstone. The name is important. My father had a great vision of the wine of the region. A great professional vision.”
You can drink Beaujolais Nouveau with a variety of foods, from pizza to burgers to elegant French cuisine. Try it with the Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham. It is great for poached pears or Coq au vin. The pears and the chicken take on a deep purple color.