The road to 2019’s Beaujolais Nouveau Day has not been the smoothest, but thanks to the efforts of many—from grapegrowers to importers—fans of the festive wines will not be disappointed.
A French celebration that was once local but now reaches a global audience, Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the third Thursday of November, marks the first wines of the new vintage and gives wine lovers a glimpse into what they should expect from the more serious Beaujolais wines that will be released the following year. The Gamay grapes for Beaujolais Nouveau are typically vinified by carbonic maceration, which accentuates the fruity flavors and light-bodied character of these charming, easygoing bottlings.
In my blind tasting today of Nouveaus imported into the United States, overall, I found lots of classic Gamay character and charm, with a mix of bright red and black fruit flavors accented by herb, white pepper and floral notes. (See below for my scores and tasting notes for a dozen 2019 Beaujolais Nouveaus.)
Leading Beaujolais producer Franck Duboeuf is not hesitant to admit that 2019 was difficult for Beaujolais winemakers and grapegrowers. “It was not an easy growing season," he explained. "After a cool winter, spring arrived early. Unfortunately, the temperature plunged below freezing in April, causing frost in vineyards throughout the region. And then after the frost, we had a heat wave.”
Making matters worse, an intense storm in mid-August brought on harsh winds, heavy rain and hail that destroyed 3,700 acres of crop in the southern part of the region, decreasing total production by as much as 30 percent.
Despite turbulent weather conditions, Duboeuf said that there was still optimism going into harvest, which began Sept. 9, “The weather shaped the vintage," said Duboeuf. "Maybe we started off on the wrong foot in the beginning, but at the end we are extremely pleased with the quality of this vintage. It's very well-balanced.”
For Duboeuf’s team, the first bottling of the Nouveau wines began Oct. 10. It was only a few days into this critical stage of the tight timetable that the U.S. announced a 25 percent tariff on wines from France, Spain, Germany and the U.K., with the exception of sparkling wines, large-format bottles and wines over 14 percent alcohol. There was no question that Beaujolais Nouveau was going to get caught up in the middle of the political crossfire.
“It was a tough moment, the worst moment for us, because we had only 48 hours to really react to the decision,” Duboeuf recalled. “We have contracts and we have also moral obligations with our growers. So there was no questioning that we wouldn’t reduce our volume because of this bad situation. The growers worked hard the whole year; they produced a fantastic vintage of grapes. We needed to find a solution.”
The solution was a team effort between Duboeuf and Steve Kreps Sr., co-owner of Quintessential, Duboeuf’s U.S. importer. “What we agreed to do is help with the pain,” said Kreps. “Quintessential is taking about 33 percent of the loss of the tariff, and the winery has agreed to do that with us. So now you’re looking at about 67 percent of us personally eating that tariff, which amounts to millions of dollars.” Kreps notes that some distributors (not all) agreed to help maintain consistent retail prices and that Quintessential “cannot dictate to distributors what they can sell wine for. So we've eased the pain quite a bit and taken it on personally.”
Other importers and wineries, though, either don’t want to or can’t take on this kind of financial hit. Louis Latour, for example, cancelled their U.S. shipments. However, it’s still too early to understand what impact the tariffs will have on total sales of Beaujolais Nouveau wines in the U.S. this year. For the wines reviewed in my tasting, however, pricing ranged from $11 to $20 per bottle, with an average price of $15.
For Duboeuf, the demand for Nouveau is still strong; he is currently exporting to more than 80 countries, offering a variety of Nouveau cuvées in his lineup, such as the Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé 2019 (86 points, $12), Beaujolais Nouveau 2019 (86, $13) and Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2019 (86, $15).
Other standouts from the tasting include Jean-Paul Brun’s Beaujolais Nouveau Terres Dorées l'Ancien Vieilles Vignes 2019 (88, $17), which offers an appealing rose petal note accenting the medley of bright fruit flavors as well as the Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2019, a great value at $12 and 86 points.
To best enjoy these wines, serve them at a chilled temperature, similar to a white wine. And given the refreshing charm and acidity that these 2019 Nouveau wines offer, these can be paired with a variety of entrées such as roast chicken with herbes de Provence, duck à l’orange or even turkey with cranberry sauce.
Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day!
2019 Beaujolais Nouveau
Beaujolais Nouveau Terres Dorées l'Ancien Vieilles Vignes
Score: 88 | $17
WS review: An appealing rose petal character underpins the charming raspberry, apricot and cherry flavors in this light-bodied red, with subtle, velvety tannins framing the spice and mineral notes on the finish. Very charming. Drink now. 700 cases imported.—G.S.
Beaujolais-Villages New Veau York
Score: 87 | $17
WS review: Fresh and delicate in profile, with floral-tinged notes of raspberry and cherry, interwoven with spice and tangerine details. Offers a lightly candied finish. Drink now. 130 cases imported.—G.S.
Beaujolais Nouveau Château d'Ouilly
Score: 87 | $15
WS review: This charming red offers good focus to the bright cherry and raspberry notes, flanked by white pepper and licorice drop details. Fresh acidity and light tannins offer enough support through the herb-tinged finish. Drink now. 300 cases made.—G.S.
Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau Domaine des 3 Vallons
Score: 87 | $15
WS review: This light-bodied red is focused in profile, with fresh acidity flanking the dark cherry and blackberry fruit flavors, marked by mineral, licorice drop and herb notes that add depth to the firm finish. Drink now. 300 cases made.—G.S.
Score: 87 | $12
WS review: Dark cherry and cassis flavors are matched with refreshing acidity and light tannins, accented by licorice drop, floral and spice notes on the finish. Drink now. 224 cases imported.—G.S.
Score: 86 | $14
WS review: Brimming with raspberry, citrus and cherry notes, interwoven with licorice and spice accents, this refreshing red is structured by light tannins that linger into the juicy finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases imported.—G.S.
Score: 86 | $13
WS review: Undertones of herb and stone mark the bright wild raspberry and dark cherry fruit flavors of this lightly tannic red, with spice and mineral details on the finish. Nice and crisp. Drink now. 80,000 cases made.—G.S.
Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé
Score: 86 | $13
WS review: Plump in texture, with lots of juiciness to the candied cherry and raspberry notes, mixed with tangerine, floral and spice details. A touch of herb shows on the finish. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.—G.S.
Score: 86 | $15
WS review: Nice and focused, with fresh acidity binding the dark cherry and raspberry fruit, mixed with licorice drop, white pepper and herb details. Exhibits light but firm tannins. Drink now. 5,000 cases made.—G.S.
Score: 86 | $20
WS review: Bright cherry and raspberry notes are interwoven with licorice drop, herb and white pepper accents in this light-bodied charmer. Subtle tannins offer some grip on the finish. Drink now. 2,000 cases imported.—G.S.
DOMAINE DE LA MADONE
Score: 86 | $12
WS review: This supple-textured red is packed with cherry, candied raspberry and orange zest notes, interwoven with floral and spice accents. Light, plush tannins show on the mouthwatering finish. Drink now. 500 cases imported.—G.S.
Beaujolais Nouveau Les Grandes Coasses
Score: 83 | $11
WS review: This light-bodied red offers plum, candied cherry and raspberry notes, marked with accents of bubblegum, licorice drop and spice along the herb-tinged finish. Drink now. 500 cases imported.—G.S.