At a time when wine lovers are looking for values, nature has given Beaujolais producers an early Christmas gift—a very good vintage.
Every year, the third Thursday in November marks the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau, and with it consumers around the world get their first glimpse of the potential of the vintage in Europe. And every year, extensive marketing campaigns promote the wines' arrival, regardless of the vintage's quality. But this time, wine lovers truly have something to be excited about: 2009 will likely go down as one of Beaujolais' best vintages on record.
A tasting of this year's Beaujolais Nouveaus at Wine Spectator's New York offices this morning included nine wines, from both the larger Beaujolais appellation as well as the Beaujolais-Villages appellation. Leading the pack was the Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais-Villages from Jean Bererd & Fils (88 points, $13), followed closely by Georges Duboeuf's aromatic Beaujolais-Villages (87, $11) and Joël Rochette's spice-driven Beaujolais-Villages (87, $11).
While those were the top scorers, all of the wines in our tasting showed very well, solidly in the good and very good score ranges, which is not always the case with Nouveau. In general, the wines displayed good concentration, with more strawberry and dark berry and cherry fruit than in past years. Additionally, there was fresh acidity, and it was well-integrated, without rendering the wines too crisp.
Franck Duboeuf, proprietor of Georges Duboeuf, the négociant his father founded, called the vintage superb. "In 2003 and 2005 we thought we were lucky to see such grapes in our lifetimes," he said at a New York promotional event. "But these [vintages] were surpassed in 2009."
Duboeuf said many factors contributed to the success of the vintage, but very dry and warm weather in August was key to promoting fuller physiological maturity in the grapes. He also noted that "fantastic weather conditions" during harvest, which began very early, Aug. 25, afforded growers and pickers lots of time to bring in healthy fruit, without any sorting.
Franck Duboeuf of Georges Duboeuf celebrates the 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau release in the U.S.
The quality bodes well for regular bottlings from the region, which will arrive early next year, as well as for the Cru Beaujolais, which will be released early next fall. Beaujolais Nouveau is typically made in a fruit-forward style, ready to be drunk upon release. This style is accentuated by the use of carbonic maceration during production, in which whole, uncrushed grape clusters are initially fermented in a carbon dioxide atmosphere. This produces aromatic compounds and more floral and fruit characteristics, including a signature banana note.
Cru Beaujolais, which is fermented normally from crushed grapes, is sourced from 10 areas within Beaujolais, each with its own appellation and distinctive style, and here you find more serious wine from Beaujolais. Duboeuf described this year's Crus as "rich and powerful," and Grégory Barbet of Château de la Terrière feels that they "should be able to age very well, and very long."
Beaujolais Nouveau sales have declined in America in recent years, but this year's very good vintage comes at a perfect time. The recession has made wines under $20 the hottest category in the market.