Coming up this week is the one day of the year that specifically celebrates wine. It’s not a national holiday, but you wouldn’t know it if you happened to wander into a French bistro—in France or anywhere else in the world. Chalked up on the blackboard or spelled out in a banner festooning the entrance, a sign will proclaim “Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arivée!”
Yes, all over the world, cases of 2008 French red wine one step from grape juice will make the long journey from the vineyards of southern Burgundy to a casual wine bar near you.
Are you elated or embarrassed by this?
True, this is not quite what St. Patrick’s Day is to beer. No one tries to color the wine green, although its natural purple is a fair mixture of the blue, red and white on the French flag. Still, it’s not what most of us think of as wine. The youthful product of the Gamay Noir grape bears little resemblance to the mature, complex stuff we all like to drink.
The fuss over Beaujolais Nouveau isn’t what it used to be. But it’s still the only time when a broad spectrum of the wine world gears up to celebrate something vinous with any kind of unanimity.
It’s also a bit of an anachronism, and on several counts. As I understand it, the original idea was to provide wine drinkers with a preview of the new vintage, combined with the thrill of tasting something from the same year it was produced. Beaujolais was perfect. It was about the only red wine that people actually wanted to drink when it was only a few weeks old. Light and fruity, Beaujolais in all its frivolity made the perfect candidate for such a celebration.
But near-grape juice is hardly a predictor of what serious wine might be. And even if it were, what does the success of Beaujolais say about the rest of Burgundy, or France? As for the thrill of drinking a wine made in the same year, with the southern hemisphere now producing terrific wines in February, March and April (their late summer/autumn), drinking a wine that displays the same vintage as the current year carries less of a charge than it might have in the past. We have our choice of plenty of young wines that actually have enough maturity to be real wines.
In truth, I always thought that nouveau provided the Beaujolais producers an avenue for using up the grapes that weren’t good enough to make something that would taste like much in six months or two years. If you made them into something fresh and lively, and got rid of them early, that’s smart marketing.
And that’s why I haven’t gone out of my way to celebrate the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau in several decades. Am I missing something? Or am I right to choose a 2006 or 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône while others are having ’08 Bojo this week?
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — November 17, 2008 1:39pm ET
Richard Gangel — San Francisco — November 17, 2008 2:13pm ET
James Suckling — — November 17, 2008 2:14pm ET
Paul Rizzo — New Castle, De — November 17, 2008 2:34pm ET
Mr Damian Zaninovich — Bakersfield,Ca — November 17, 2008 6:57pm ET
Howard G Goldberg — New York, N.Y. — November 17, 2008 7:47pm ET
Scott Oneil — UT — November 17, 2008 7:55pm ET
Jim Mcclure — DFW, Texas — November 17, 2008 9:19pm ET
Adam Lee — Santa Rosa, CA — November 18, 2008 8:07am ET
John Shuey — Carrollton, TX — November 18, 2008 9:23am ET
Matt Ferrell — Delaware, OH — November 18, 2008 3:34pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — November 18, 2008 4:04pm ET
James Peterson — San Antonio, Texas — November 18, 2008 7:40pm ET
Tim Long — WI — November 18, 2008 9:32pm ET
Drew Robinson — Colorado Springs,CO — November 19, 2008 1:02am ET
John Valenti — Detroit, Michian, USA — November 19, 2008 10:06am ET
John Osgood — New York, NY — November 19, 2008 11:13am ET
David Cable — Santa Barbara — November 20, 2008 8:52pm ET
David Metz — Atlanta, GA — November 20, 2008 9:41pm ET
David W Cummings — Jacksonville, FL — November 21, 2008 3:50pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — November 21, 2008 7:38pm ET
Matthew Wilson — November 23, 2008 9:32am ET
Mr Damian Zaninovich — Bakersfield,Ca — November 23, 2008 12:45pm ET
Thomas J Pavlik — Bend, OR — November 23, 2008 11:40pm ET
David Cable — Santa Barbara — December 2, 2008 1:31pm ET
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