The release of Beaujolais Nouveau takes place on the third Thursday of November each year. Although largely a PR-driven event, Beaujolais Nouveau gives consumers the opportunity to assess the potential quality of a new vintage from Europe, and it’s also a good introduction to France’s little-known Beaujolais region.
Just south of Burgundy, red wines from Beaujolais are made from the Gamay grape, yielding wines that are typically light- to medium-bodied, with red berry and cherry fruit flavors. Beaujolais Nouveau is made from grapes sourced from anywhere in the region, although most comes from vineyards in the southern part of Beaujolais. Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau is made from grapes sourced from the north of the area, in and around the 10 recognized villages that make up the crus of Beaujolais. The best bottlings from this region typically come from one of these 10 crus, or villages, such as Morgon or Moulin-à-Vent, but wines from these specific areas are not made in the Nouveau style.
Looking at Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau in 2013, Franck Duboeuf, owner of Georges Duboeuf, says, “In the last few vintages, sometimes there was not a big difference between Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, but I think this year, you taste the difference.” Harvest was two to three weeks later in 2013 than in recent years. This was a result of France’s cool and rainy spring, which delayed flowering, one of the initial steps of vine development that typically occurs in late May or early June (versus mid- to late June this year).
Grapes that ultimately went into the Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau were harvested first, under prime conditions in late September and early October, and grapes for Beaujolais Nouveau were harvested a little later, when temperatures were cooler and daily sunlight hours shorter. Because of these and other conditions of the growing season and harvest, Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau seems to have a little bit more grip and length to it than is typical for the wine, recommending it for food as well as for sipping.
Whether you’re enjoying a glass of Beaujolais or Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau in a casual setting, alongside food, or skipping right to the top of the pyramid with cru Beaujolais, these are well-priced wines with crowd-pleasing flavor profiles and structures.