I will always advocate for people to drink whatever wine it is that they enjoy drinking. If you enjoy drinking Beaujolais Nouveau or already have tickets to attend a paired wine dinner on November 19th, please enjoy yourself. My goal is to help people from getting hopelessly swallowed up in an unjustified consumer frenzy and hypnotized by millions of advertising dollars. The following is one person’s reasoning on why they are choosing not to consume Beaujolais Nouveau this week, and that person is me.
First off, I appreciate the cultural significance behind nouveau or primeur wines. Imagine, your village completes another year with all the hard work and long hours in the vineyard, culminating in the 16+ hour work days of harvesting, crushing, and fermenting the wine. The majority of the labour is done for now and why not celebrate? Let’s drink the simple, light, fruity wine which has just finished its ferment and isn’t destined for further aging. For the farmers in Romanèche-Thorins, that makes complete sense. What doesn’t make sense is why one, sitting in Red Dear, Alberta, or I, in San Francisco or Vancouver, should celebrate and drink this wine with them. Which brings me to my first point:
(Michael Bartier from Road 13)
This whole thing started out with farmers and winemakers drinking their local product. Celebrate your local producers and the hard work they’ve done all year by drinking a bottle of their wine. If it’s a small, family producer and you know the name of person who grew the grapes and the name of the person who made the wine, all the better. Extra points if you know their dog’s name. I recognize that this may be easier to say for folks living in San Francisco or Vancouver, but I feel it shouldn’t be impossible for most people to find a wine they have some connection with. And guess what, if you live in Romanèche-Thorins, then drinking Beaujolais Nouveau is just fine!
Not that a lot of wines aren’t and not that I feel this alone should stop you from drinking it, but it’s the complete opposite mentality shared by many of the top Cru Beaujolais producers who are using low levels or only what is required. In order to make this brand new and freshly fermented wine stable to ship all over the planet via plane, train and automobile, they’re going to make damn certain there’s no microbial activity before it lands in your glass. If you find yourself drinking something bubbly and more akin to Lambrusco, it’s not going to bode well for Nouveau’s image. Also, when you wake up in the early morning on November 20th after having guzzled 6 glasses of Nouveau, you’re probably going to have one killer headache and no one to thank but yourself.
I typically find that if I’ve paid a cover fee and am standing in a bar, shoulder to shoulder with other people, drinking wine from plastic cups, I’m not drinking good wine. Furthermore, if that entrance fee grants me “all I can drink” access, the promised bottomless beverage is usually not very good.
I’m sure you’ve already been bombarded with Thanksgiving suggestions ad nauseum so I’m going to leave that alone, but trust me, there are plenty of other options. (Saignée’s suggestions)
The fact that people scoff at drinking Beaujolais the other 364 days of the year when in actuality there’s brilliant wine being produced in the smaller and quality focused appellations (The 10 Crus of Beaujolais), bothers me. Check out some of my favourites from Morgon such as Marcel Lapierre (in BC @BCLDB or in SF @K&L Wines) or Dominique Piron (in BC @BCLDB), or interesting bottles like the “Horse Wine” which is even accompanied by an awesome story – Fleurie from Clos de la Roilette (In BC @Liberty or in SF @K&L Wines). I’m still eagerly waiting to get a glass of Jean Foillard’s Cuvée 3.14. Granted, these examples are all much more expensive, but they are serious wines that justify the price.
(Georges Duboeuf’s ’09 Label)
The entire event is built on an advertising campaign, albeit a brilliant advertising campaign, and not backed by a high quality product. The region’s largest negociant, Georges Duboeuf, started off one day in the 60s by racing his new wine up to Paris with some media and their cameras in tow. People got excited, the destinations spread, more wine was made, Georges stuck a colourful label on the bottle, advertising cash kept being shoveled in to feed the machine, and TADA! You wake up one day in late November with the strange feeling that you have somewhere to be and something to buy.
Prices in BC and Ontario, range from around $9-$14 with a bottle of Georges Duboeuf going for $7-$12 in the States. If we were talking $2 or $3, you might see me setting up my tent outside the liquor store on Wednesday afternoon, but $14? Forget it.
As Dr. Vino posted last year, up to 1/3 of exported Beaujolais Nouveau (or roughly 1 million cases!!) is shipped via airplane so it can arrive before your release party gets underway. At a time when more and more people are doing as much as they can to reduce their carbon footprint, this seems a little counterintuitive.
I too have heard that the ’09s are supposed to be excellent, but excellent Beaujolais Nouveau is still Beaujolais Nouveau.