First, the good news: France’s Beaujolais region experienced an outstanding vintage, which means the 2022 Nouveau—available as always on the third Thursday of November, aka Beaujolais Nouveau Day—are some of the best-tasting ever. In Wine Spectator’s blind-tasting, the wines showed especially juicy, fresh and aromatic, with greater density than is typical for these usually light-bodied reds.
“Thanks to the quality of the crop, I believe this is the best Nouveau we’ve ever made,” says Bruno Bererd who runs Domaine de la Madone with his brother, Olivier. “I like the balance: fine tannins, juicy as a Gamay should be, and complex aromas of cherry, violet and peony.”
On the less-bright side, while the Beaujolais region dodged the frost damage that decimated the 2021 crop, a prolonged drought combined with a scorching-hot summer resulted in a very small harvest in 2022. Many producers chose not to make a Nouveau this year, holding back the juice for their regular-release Beaujolais wines to sell throughout the year. Consequently, those that did produce a Nouveau this year are not going to be able to meet the demand—for the second year in a row, there will not be enough Beaujolais Nouveau to go around.
“It was a very small crop for us,” says Mathieu Melinand of Domaine des Marrans, a boutique producer who did send his Nouveau to the U.S. this year despite a drastically reduced crop. First, a hail storm in June took out close to 50 percent of the fruit in his Les Marrans vineyard, and then drought conditions resulted in small, concentrated grapes. “But the wines are beautifully balanced,” he said, “with lovely fruit; a classic, aromatic vintage for Nouveau.”
As the first young wine to be released from Beaujolais, Nouveau is bottled and sent to market just weeks after being harvested. Every year, its November release date is the harvest party that reverberates around the world. Americans may not drink as much Nouveau as we used to (its heyday was the 1990s, and the category has been declining in popularity since) but the U.S. remains the No. 1 market for these fresh, young wines.
Of course, its speedy vinification and rush to market also means the wines don’t offer much more than light, fresh and fruity pleasure. Because there is no time or ability to dress them up in the cellar, they expose all the weaknesses of the vintage. Yet in strong years, they can really sing.
“It is a great, great vintage. I compare it to 2018,” says Maison Duboeuf’s Franck Duboeuf. “We just don’t have enough wine.” He estimates that volumes for the entire Duboeuf line—from the Nouveau to the village and cru wines at the top—are down by more than one-third for the second consecutive year.
It’s forced Duboeuf, whose family has been making wine in this part of the world for four centuries and single-handedly started the international Nouveau phenomenon, to ask hard questions about the future. “We really need to think about what we will do in the next decade, and rethink how we farm. Irrigation is not the only solution for combating drought; we can use cover crops and prune differently to retain more moisture in our soils, and maybe even experiment with new grapes.” Beaujolais beyond Gamay? A radical idea, indeed.
Wine Spectator website members: Looking for more great wines from Beaujolais? Check out our Cru Beaujolais Tasting Highlights, featuring 12 exciting picks from the 2020 and 2019 vintages.
The shipping constraints and supply chain complications that challenged producers in 2021 have not entirely resolved, either, and it’s especially tricky for a wine that is on such a tight time crunch to reach the U.S. market by mid-November.
So why bother? “It’s so important to keep this tradition,” says Bererd. “It’s a bit like a calling card. Nouveau is the first picture of the new vintage; we must put on a good show. And the U.S. is too important to us. Gamay can give fantastic wines for pleasure, even when very young.”
While Domaine des Marrans’ Nouveau is far from best wine that Melinand crafts (his 2020 Cru Beaujolais wines from Morgon and Chiroubles each earned outstanding scores), it’s a wine that represents something very significant for the region, he believes. “All over the world people are drinking Beaujolais at the same moment. It is such an important moment for Beaujolais producers!” says Melinand. “It gives an overview of the style of the vintage.”
Beaujolais Nouveau Day has also come to symbolize an unofficial kick-off to the holiday season, arriving famously just in time for Thanksgiving. But its food versatility makes it a great quaffing wine for every day, especially refreshing when served with a slight chill, Duboeuf advises. His top three pairings? “Roast chicken with herbs, pâté and pizza.”
2022 Beaujolais Nouveau
DOMAINE DU CLOS DU FIEF
Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau La Roche 2022
Score: 89 | $17
WS Review: An impressive, concentrated Nouveau, with ripe, fresh cherry and garrigue flavors that show a salty mineral underpinning and savory acidity. Supple and tangy, with olive tapenade notes and good structure. Drink now. 500 cases imported.—Kristen Bieler
Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau Domaine des 3 Vallons 2022
Score: 88 | $19
WS Review: A cascade of crunchy cherry and black fruit flavors are sleek and smooth in this plush and friendly version, with a kiss of vanilla and a whiff of smoke. Drink now. 300 cases made.—K.B.
DOMAINE DE LA MADONE
Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2022
Score: 88 | $16
WS Review: This well-built version shows impressive concentration and saline minerality for a Nouveau, with sappy blackberry and salted licorice flavors. Savory and silky on the palate. Drink now. 840 cases imported.—K.B.
DOMAINE DES MARRANS
Beaujolais Nouveau 2022
Score: 88 | $20
WS Review: Charming and perfumed, with fresh blackberry, raspberry and candied violet notes dusted liberally with refreshing hints of white pepper. Shows some weight on the palate. Drink now. 400 cases imported.—K.B.
Beaujolais Nouveau Château d'Ouilly 2022
Score: 87 | $18
WS Review: Offering a pure beam of fruit and violet notes, this version has a slight frizzante tingle along with some substance. Snappy acidity and a subtle tug of tannins firm the finish. Drink now. 300 cases made.—K.B.
Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2022
Score: 87 | $16
WS Review: Brambly blackberry and licorice flavors are sweet and bright in this version, which has a subtle frizzante quality and vibrant acidity. Shows good depth and herbal range for a Nouveau, with a chewy finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases made.—K.B.
Beaujolais Nouveau Les Grandes Coasses 2022
Score: 87 | $15
WS Review: This shows winey black currant and plum flavors, backed by a cola note and herbal details. Vibrant and savory, thanks to the salty acidity. Drink now. 800 cases imported.—K.B.
Beaujolais Nouveau 2022
Score: 86 | $15
WS Review: Fresh and racy, with notes of licorice and a whiff of smoke highlighting the core of ripe cherry, licorice and black pepper flavors. Drink now. 50,000 cases made.—K.B.
Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé 2022
Score: 86 | $16
WS Review: Inviting and bright, with fresh watermelon and rose water flavors that are creamy on the palate, with chalky mineral and white pepper notes kicking in on the finish. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.—K.B.