The third Thursday in November means the annual arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau. And despite the fact that Nouveau is largely just a marketing tool, it shouldn’t be forgotten that at its heart it’s meant to offer consumers their first peek at the potential quality of the 2010 vintage in the northern hemisphere.
This seems all the more relevant with the 2010 vintage, which follows on the heels of the exceptional 2009 vintage—one of the region's best in the last 50 years. For fans of the wine, the news is good, as the Nouveaus in our blind tasting today were easy-drinking and very likable. They showed good balance overall, and a friendly, tangy acidity that enlivened the currant and berry flavors. I didn’t find the concentration of the 2009s among the 2010s, but as Franck Duboeuf of Maison Georges Duboeuf, the region’s largest négociant and the top-scorer of today’s tasting, said, “ is very [typically] ‘Beaujolais’ in style. Of course we like to make comparisons, [but] it simply shows its own personality.”
Initial orders of 2010 Nouveau are up 8 percent from last year, according to Peter Deutsch of W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Duboeuf’s U.S. importer. This may be a sign of some slow improvement in the economy, or perhaps the desire of retailers to meet potential demand after supplies for the touted 2009 vintage sold quickly last year.
The general success of the 2010 vintage can be attributed to fine weather just before and during harvest, which gave the grapes time to mature. Harvest was late this year, with most growers starting in the third week of September, compared to the end of August in 2009. And specific to Nouveau, this year's wines also benefited from the decision by producers to reduce the volumes available for sale as primeurs from 32 hectoliters per hectare to 25 hl/ha, “with a view to ensuring quality and to avoid undue fluctuations in the market during the buying campaign,” said Grégory Barbet of Loron & Fils.
Beaujolais Nouveau sources grapes from the greater Beaujolais appellation, as well as from the slightly smaller Beaujolais-Villages appellation. And while wines from these areas usually offer a good introduction to the region’s style, the best bottlings typically come from one of the area’s 10 named Crus, appellations in their own right within the larger Beaujolais appellation that each show their own distinct style. The 2010 bottlings of the Cru wines will be released next year, and in the interim consumers can look for remaining 2009 Cru Beaujolais in the marketplace.
“We are very confident with 2010," said Duboeuf. "It shows the range and capacity of the Gamay grape from the very aromatic, ready to drink Beaujolais [Nouveau wines], to the more complex Crus.”
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