2020 Beaujolais Nouveau: Celebrating Bright Wines in a Dim Year

9 wines reviewed reveal Gamays of lively character with ripe fruit flavors

2020 Beaujolais Nouveau: Celebrating Bright Wines in a Dim Year
The 2020 Georges Duboeuf label features a painting by California-based artist Maeve Croghan. (Courtesy of Georges Duboeuf)
Nov 19, 2020

Celebrations in 2020 are too few and far between, but one wine-filled festivity that can bring us all together, at least in spirit, is Beaujolais Nouveau Day, which celebrates the first wines of the new vintage. The tradition began in the French countryside region of Beaujolais, located just south of Burgundy’s Mâcon region.

Here, vintners make mostly red wines from the region’s star grape, Gamay, which can produce light, refreshing wines that are perfect for enjoying in their youth. This once local tradition expanded to Paris in the mid-20th century, and each year winemakers raced each other to see who could get their Nouveau wines to the city first. The late Georges Duboeuf, one of Beaujolais’ best-known winemakers, elevated Beaujolais Nouveau Day to a worldwide phenomenon in the early 1980s, and in 1985, the third Thursday of November officially became Beaujolais Nouveau Day.

Despite this year's pandemic restrictions, I was able to taste nine Nouveaus in official blind tastings. Overall, the wines showed lively, ripe fruit character and a refreshing acidity. My favorites were the Paul Durdilly Beaujolais Nouveau Les Grandes Coasses 2020 (88 points, $13), the D. Coquelet Beaujolais-Villages New Veau York 2020 (88, $18) and the Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2020 (86, $15). See below for my scores and full tasting notes for nine 2020 Beaujolais Nouveaus.

The hand-harvested Gamay grapes used for Beaujolais Nouveau come from the flat, southern part of the region, and when the grapes arrive at the winery, they undergo carbonic maceration, a technique that yields light-bodied, fruity wines with light tannins. Not intended to age, these wines are best enjoyed within six months of release.

Beaujolais Nouveau may give consumers a glimpse into the quality of the vintage and an idea of what to expect from the more serious Beaujolais wines that will be released in the coming years. According to Franck Duboeuf, who owns and manages his family-owned winery, Georges Duboeuf, the 2020 growing season brought its fair share of challenges.

“It has been hot in Beaujolais, and the vine growth has been ahead of schedule,” explained Duboeuf. “Rainy weather and heat waves in late July accelerated the ripening. We started the harvest Aug. 18, a record since 2003. The harvest got underway underneath a blazing sun. The quality of the grapes improved daily. We could say that the vintage has been marked by persistent dry weather conditions, exceptional sunshine and high temperatures.”

Challenges beyond the vineyards also contributed to the many obstacles Beaujolais producers faced this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has canceled or severely altered many Nouveau celebrations and travel plans. Duboeuf, who is usually in the U.S. on Beaujolais Nouveau Day to attend various events, will be staying in France this year.

In addition, the United States’ 25 percent tariff on wines imported from France with less than 14 percent alcohol has forced many Beaujolais wineries to focus on other markets. According to trade group Inter Beaujolais, the U.S. was the top export market for the region from 2017 to 2019. But in 2020, the U.S. fell behind the U.K., with decreased imports of 4 percent in volume and 21.5 percent in value during the first quarter of this year.

Some wineries, like Louis Tête, aren’t exporting their 2020 Nouveau wines to the U.S. this year. “We only brought Louis Tête Morgon and Brouilly this year because of the U.S. tariff,” explained Meghan Hannequin, who handles marketing and communications for the importer Vintners Alliance, via email. “We hope to have some Beaujolais Nouveau next year.”

Still, there are plenty of food-friendly 2020 Beaujolais Nouveau wines available in the U.S. market, just in time for Thanksgiving. So grab a bottle for your holiday table and toast to the good times. “Beaujolais Nouveau is a good excuse to party, to indulge ourselves with a good, easy glass of wine,” said Dubouef. “I think it’s the perfect antidote for the gray times.”


2020 Beaujolais Nouveau

D. COQUELET

Beaujolais-Villages New Veau York 2020

Score: 88 | $18

WS review: This charming red is marked with aromas of rose petal and anise that give way to bright raspberry and raspberry flavors, with orange peel accents and a smoky finish. Drink now. 130 cases imported.—Gillian Sciaretta


PAUL DURDILLY

Beaujolais Nouveau Les Grandes Coasses 2020

Score: 88 | $13

WS review: This lively, charming version is packed with brambly red fruit flavors that show notes of orange zest, violet and red candy, with light, glossy tannins. Drink now. 1,000 cases imported.—G.S.


JEAN-PAUL BRUN

Beaujolais Nouveau Terres Dorées l'Ancien Vieilles Vignes 2020

Score: 86 | $18

WS review: A peppery, light-bodied red, with bright raspberry and currant notes bound by zesty acidity. Light tannins offer some texture on the finish. Drink now. 700 cases imported.—G.S.


GEORGES DUBOEUF

Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2020

Score: 86 | $15

WS review: Gumdrop-laced blackberry and cherry notes are accented with violet, smoke and herb elements in this creamy, light-bodied red, with a hint of banana lingering on the finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases made.—G.S.


DOMAINE DE LA MADONE

Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2020

Score: 86 | $14

WS review: Creamy black cherry and blackberry notes show hints of mocha, licorice and herb in this supple, light-bodied red, with the light tannins giving a smooth texture throughout. Drink now. 1,000 cases imported.—G.S.


GEORGES DUBOEUF

Beaujolais Nouveau 2020

Score: 85 | $14

WS review: Light-bodied, with smooth tannins and bright acidity supporting the black cherry, blueberry and gumdrop flavors, matched with spice and herb details on the finish. Drink now. 80,000 cases made.—G.S.


GEORGES DUBOEUF

Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé 2020

Score: 85 | $14

WS review: This plump, floral-tinged rosé offers candied cherry, orange zest and licorice drop notes, with white pepper details on the finish. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.—G.S.


JOSEPH DROUHIN

Beaujolais Nouveau 2020

Score: 84 | $14

WS review: Black cherry, smoke and banana flavors linger through this creamy, light-bodied red, with hints of gumdrop and spice supported by light tannins on the refreshing finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases imported.—G.S.


DOMAINE DU CLOS DU FIEF

Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau La Roche 2020

Score: 83 | $16

WS review: Herbaceous aromas mark the bright red berry flavors in this smoky red, infused with white pepper and gumdrop elements. Light tannins show some grip on the finish. Drink now. 200 cases imported.—G.S.

Tasting Reports Red Wines Gamay Beaujolais France 2020

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