One of the most famous celebrations (the only one?) of Beaujolais wines takes place in the third Thursday of November since about 30 years. It’s not my favourite style of wine but it’s fun to drink it with everyone to celebrate the ‘Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrive ‘ day.
Briefly about the Beaujolais wine region
- Beaujolais, the southern part of Burgundy, takes its name from the town of Beaujeu which lies in the heart of the countryside to the west of the Autoroute du Soleil.
- The climate is mild tempered by the Atlantic and Mediterranean as well as by continental influences with lots of sun, sudden storms and always a threat of hail;
- Beaujolais is protected by the foothills of the Massif Central to the west and the Saone river to the east.
- The soils consist of granite (north), granitic schist (central) and limestone with sandy soils (south).
- The famous Beaujolais Crus are: (from north to south) Saint Amour AC, Julienas AC, Chenas AC, Moulin-a-Vent AC, Fleurie AC, Chiroubles AC, Morgon AC, Regnie AC, Brouilly AC, Cote de Brouilly AC.
- The red grape variety is Gamay and spur-trained on Bush Vine (in Beaujolais both supported and unsupported methods are reffered to as Gobelet).
- It is said Beaujolais is red wine country but white Chardonnay is also being produced (about 1-2% of the whole wine production)
Briefly about the wine:
- The wine is fresh, simple, fruity and is best consumed young and often served slightly chilled.
- Only some of the wines are full-bodied and powerful and can develop complexity with age (and these are most often from Moulin-a-Vet AC and Morgon AC vineyards)
- Gamay gives wines with light tannins and flavours of raspberry, strawberry and cherry; other flavours (kirsch, banana, bubblegum) come from the carbonic maceration vinification process.
- There are five basic types of Beaujolais: (1) Beaujolais – simple most commonly known, (2) Beaujolais Superieur – with a higher alcohol content, (3) Beaujolais Villages – a superior quality to the simple Beaujolais, (4) Beaujolais Nouveau and (5) Beaujolais Primeur – in both the fermentation is controlled so the wine can be bottled and sold: the first one is released to the customers in the morning of third Thursday in November and can be sold only until 31st August the following year; the primeur can be sold until the following 31st January. Apart from the basic Beaujolais there are the 10 Crus that I have listed above.
Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon
On the third Thursday of November the Beaujolais Nouveau is released to the customer and it means that Thursday (today!) is the first day we can drink the new vintage of Beaujolais and it’s been only about 6 weeks from the harvest!
The tradition of Beaujolais Nouveau in France first took place in the 1950s, but the worldwide craze was largely created by Georges Duboeuf in 1970s, when he started to sell it to Great Britain as the first wine from new vintage to taste. People started to go to France to be the first to taste the new vintage. Since then the Georges Duboeuf’s wines are famous all over the world (especially in the United States, Japan, Great Britain and Germany) and he is called ‘le roi du Beaujolais’ (the king of Beaujolais).
Nowadays people are not as crazy about the Nouveau phenomenon but Beaujolais lovers can buy the Nouveau wine in almost every shop all around the world on the first Thursday of November. Many of the wines are cheap (3 Euro for the cheapest to about 13 Euros for most famous brands) and easy to get hold of.
Carbonic maceration – a term worthwhile remembering
I will try to explain it without being too technical or boring ;) For more detailed information about this fermentation process please look in good wine books and wine encyclopedias or on the good wine websites as it is more complex and more complicated than it looks.
The carbonic maceration is a fermentation technique used for making red wine and helps to produce light fruity wines with very little tannin and commonly used in the production of Beaujolais wines.
A true Carbonic maceration is traditionally made when the whole uncrushed bunches are put into the sealed vat, the grapes at the bottom of the tank are crushed by the weight of the grapes above releasing the juice and a normal fermentation takes place, the intact berries above undergo an internal berry fermentation producing the characteristic soft palate without tannin and bubble gum smell.
However a modern day carbonic maceration can be done in a few different ways and the true 100% carbonic maceration now appears to be quite rare. During a semi-carbonic maceration the grapes go through the carbonic maceration for a short period of time followed by the normal red wine yeast fermentation. Nowadays it is very popular to saturate the tank with carbon dioxide and the whole bunches are placed into this anaerobic environment.
Personally I am not a big fan of Beaujolais wines although I find the tradition of the Nouveau interesting and funny. Today at lunch I had a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 by Jean Lafitte. The wine was simple and fruity with a bubblegum aroma.
Beajolais Nouveau 2014 Jean Lafitte
Fresh and fruity and a very simple wine. Amazing aroma of bubblegum with a hint of cherry and banana. In the mouth the wine wasn’t complex and with black cherry flavours and a, surprisingly long cherry finish with very low alcohol level, no tannin and light body.
– – – Beaujolais Nouveau 2014, Jean Lafite; France, Burgundy, Beaujolais AC; 2014; 12% vol.; 4,5 Eur; – – –
It’s not my style of wine and probably many of you will agree as well as disagree with me. No matter whether you are a Beaujolais lover or not it is good to know this style of wine and to taste from time to time – and the third Thursday of November is a perfect occasion to do so ;)
And what about you, Dear Readers? Do you celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau with a glass of Beaujolais wine?