2021 Beaujolais Nouveau Is Here—But You Might Have to Work to Find It

A challenging and very late harvest yielded some classic and lively Gamays. Wine Spectator reviewed 6 of the few that made it to U.S. shores this year

2021 Beaujolais Nouveau Is Here—But You Might Have to Work to Find It
The 2021 vintage for Beaujolais Nouveau represents a return to Nouveau's classic, lighter style. (Robert Taylor)
Nov 18, 2021

Americans will be celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau Day with fewer bottles to go around this year. A late and dramatically reduced harvest—like several regions in France, Beaujolais experienced its smallest in decades—combined with shipping delays that made it incredibly difficult to get the wine across the Atlantic in time, resulted in many producers choosing not to send much, or any, Nouveau at all.

Yet the Beaujolais Nouveau fête will go on, as it does every year on the third Thursday of November. What began as a local celebration of the end of harvest in this French region has grown in recent decades to become the world's largest wine party.

For wine drinkers in the U.S. (who consume more Nouveau than any country except Japan) the annual release of the barely two-month-old wine has the added symbolism of ushering in the holiday season, as it arrives just in time for Thanksgiving. Sure, the light, fresh, fruity red pairs well with turkey, but that's never really been the point.

In spite of the challenging growing season, marked by a devastating April frost and a summer of hail and rain, Nouveau fans can expect some charming and classic Gamays. "The 2021 vintage is a return to basics for Beaujolais," said Franck Dubeouf, of family-owned Georges Duboeuf, the largest Nouveau producer.


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Over the past decade, growers had become accustomed to hot summers and early harvests, which yielded fuller-bodied wines with more alcohol. "This vintage brings us back to what makes Beaujolais so special," Duboeuf said. "Wines that are aromatic and pleasant to drink."

The wines are generally lower in alcohol, particularly compared with riper vintages like 2015 and 2020, reports Philippe Bardet, CEO of Maison Jean Loron and vice president of Inter Beaujolais, the Beaujolais Wine Council. "They are showing cherry, flower, raspberry aromas and a touch of spice. It's a lighter style; a classic vintage of the old days," he told Wine Spectator.

While U.S. sales of Nouveau have steadily declined for well over a decade, many producers have seen a renewed appreciation in recent vintages, fueled by a younger generation, and a greater diversity of wines entering the market. "I see a new interest in Beaujolais Nouveau, particularly with more independent wineries creating single-domaine Nouveaus that offer quality and value and something new," said Bardet, whose winery is sending the 2021 Cornillac Beaujolais Nouveau to the U.S., the second vintage in a row. "We have found a real market for our wines."

Duboeuf is witnessing the same surge in interest. "We were surprised by the demand for Nouveau this year. People want to celebrate and a younger generation is discovering Nouveau on social media." While Duboeuf's orders were up, he was unable to meet demand, sending 15 percent less Nouveau to the U.S. than last year. "The very late harvest, in mid-September, did not leave us enough time to get the Nouveau bottled and shipped to every region in the world that wanted it," he explained.

Both producers encourage Beaujolais drinkers to remember that there are more complex wines from the region, and a shortage of Nouveau could mean an opportunity to explore the 2020 Beaujolais Villages and 2018 and 2019 Beaujolais crus. "We have a unique terroir, with the oldest granites in France," Bardet said. "The future for Beaujolais is the Villages and cru wines, which are ideal to appreciate three to five years after the harvest."

Americans have been increasingly embracing these wines. In fact, it may be the popularity of Gamay in these higher-quality expressions that contributed to Nouveau's decline in the first place, argues Michael Skurnik, of Skurnik Wines & Spirits, which imports and distributes many Beaujolais wines. "There's so many great Beaujolais Villages and different crus Beaujolais of great character and quality, that many consumers may be opting for one of those instead of the fresh, young 'first wine' of the vintage," he told Wine Spectator. "There's never been a better time to be a Beaujolais fan in the U.S."

Due to the limited number of producers sending their wines to the U.S., Wine Spectator's annual blind tasting included just six 2021 Beaujolais Nouveaus. Bright and fresh, with pretty floral notes and juicy Gamay character, there are numerous charming bottles to choose from.


2021 Beaujolais Nouveau

 Label

DOMAINE DE CORNILLAC

Beaujolais Nouveau 2021

Score: 88 | $15

WS review: A juicy red, showing lots of blackberry and boysenberry fruit layered with a spiced thread of anise and nutmeg. Round and lightly creamy, with a subtle smoke-tinged finish. Drink now. 2,000 cases made, 500 cases imported.—Alison Napjus


 Label

GEORGES DUBOEUF

Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2021

Score: 87 | $15

WS review: A zesty red, showing floral and white peach aromatics on the nose, which transition to ripe blackberry and pomegranate puree flavors on the palate. The stone-tinged finish features light tannins. Drink now. 5,000 cases made.—A.N.


 Label

DOMAINE DES MARRANS

Beaujolais Nouveau 2021

Score: 87 | $16

WS review: This balanced red is aromatic with cigar box tobacco and spice notes, offering crushed black raspberry and mineral accents backed by tangy acidity. Drink now. 400 cases imported.—A.N.


 Label

DOMAINE DU CLOS DU FIEF

Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau La Roche 2021

Score: 86 | $15

WS review: A bright, minerally red, offering light tannins that frame flavors of crunchy black cherry and black plum fruit, with dried thyme and milled pepper accents playing out on the finish. Drink now. 500 cases imported.—A.N.


 Label

GEORGES DUBOEUF

Beaujolais Nouveau 2021

Score: 85 | $14

WS review: A fresh red, with hints of hot stone and smoke underscoring the juicy blackberry and black plum fruit flavors. Zesty finish. Drink now. 50,000 cases made.—A.N.


 Label

GEORGES DUBOEUF

Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé 2021

Score: 85 | $14

WS review: A tangy rosé, lightly creamy in texture and showing notes of wild strawberry and pink grapefruit peel, with floral and herb accents. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.—A.N.

Tasting Reports Gamay beaujolais France 2021

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