Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

How can Beaujolais Nouveau be released so much earlier than other wines? I just saw 2011s for sale. How is that even possible?

—Nancy, Newark, N.J.

Dear Nancy,

I know, right? Because it’s still 2011 and the harvest is just barely finished, it’s kind of crazy to be drinking wine just a few weeks old. But Beaujolais Nouveau is a unique scenario, in which the winemaking process is sped up and these wines are released soon after harvest, giving us a sneak peak at a vintage’s potential quality. It’s a pretty savvy marketing phenomenon—the wines can’t be released until the third Thursday in November, known as "Beaujolais Day." It's easy to get caught up in the excitement; even I like to grab a bottle (after reading which ones Wine Spectator senior tasting coordinator Alison Napjus recommends).

Beaujolais Nouveau is made entirely from the Gamay grape, from two appellations south of France’s Burgundy region. The winemakers use a technique called carbonic maceration, in which the whole grape clusters go into a tank, which is then sealed, trapping the carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide blanket displaces oxygen, and the grapes ferment inside their skins, keeping the tannins low and the flavors fruity. After three weeks in the tank, the juice is collected, filtered, bottled and rushed off to be sold.

The result is a light-bodied wine, fresh and fruity. The carbonic maceration emphasizes floral notes, and many folks pick up banana, pear drop or bubble gum aromas as well. Since most of the bottlings cost less than $20, it’s usually pretty fun and inexpensive to get your Beaujolais on and start thinking about the new vintage. As an added bonus, its light body and fruity profile tends to go well with holiday meals like Thanksgiving (or leftover turkey sandwiches).

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.