The third Thursday of November isn't just any other Thursday. It’s Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the celebration of France’s first wines of the vintage—les vins de primeur.
Meant for immediate consumption, Beaujolais Nouveau is made from Gamay grapes and typically vinified by carbonic maceration, which gives it its hallmark fresh, fruity flavors and lightly tannic structure.
Leading Beaujolais vintner Franck Duboeuf is excited about the 2018 vintage. Despite a wet start to the growing season, his team mitigated the mildew threat in the vineyards. “Until May, it was tough,” says Duboeuf, “but we managed the situation.”
Spring was followed by a very dry, hot summer. “I believe it was the second-hottest summer for us since World War II,” he notes. But the heat accelerated grape maturation, and the vines weren't stressed thanks to deep water reserves supplied by the spring rains.
Duboeuf's Nouveau harvest began Aug. 27. “We didn’t rush the harvest,” he says. “The first couple of days we had to pick the younger vines, but it was amazing to see how the maturity continued during this period. Very healthy grapes.” For him, 2018 delivers in both quantity and quality, with a slight increase in acidity over 2017.
The Beaujolais region, administratively part of Burgundy, sits just north of Lyon. Here, the red Gamay grape reigns, responsible for 98 percent of wine production. The area’s best and most ageworthy wines come from the 10 cru Beaujolais appellations, but the Nouveau wines serve another purpose: to celebrate the end of harvest and offer wine lovers a glimpse at the quality potential of Beaujolais’ more serious wines still aging in winery cellars.
But the Beaujolais Nouveau celebration has evolved into something far grander than a simple vintage preview. Once a wine created for local enjoyment, the popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau spread to Paris in the mid-20th century. Soon, Beaujolais producers were engaged in a frenzied race each year to see who could get their Nouveaus to the city first.
Franck Duboeuf's father, Georges, is credited as the mastermind behind turning the release of these wines, especially his own, into a global spectacle. The Nouveau craze brought much-needed post-harvest cash flow to this humble region's vintners, but the easy-drinking Nouveau wines soon dominated the region’s winemaking reputation. In the past decade, however, the deserving cru Beaujolais wines from top villages like Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie and others have earned the attention of sommeliers and wine lovers looking for affordable but interesting and serious reds.
Showing a bit of his father's marketing savvy, Duboeuf is debuting a Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé this year, made from Gamay grapes grown on limestone soils. It's sure to find a place alongside the traditional red Nouveaus on many a Thanksgiving table.
JEAN-PAUL BRUN Beaujolais Nouveau Terres Dorées l'Ancien Vieilles Vignes 2018
Well-crafted, with an elegant display of fresh cherry and currant flavors, edged with licorice, floral and herb details, all bound together by tangy, integrated acidity. Light tannins frame the mineral-tinged finish. Drink now. 900 cases imported.
D. COQUELET Beaujolais-Villages New Veau York 2018
Fresh and focused, with light, supple tannins framing the cherry, blackberry and currant notes, underpinned by licorice, floral and mineral accents through the herb-tinged finish. Well-balanced. Drink now. 120 cases imported.
MICHEL & SYLVAIN TÊTE Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau Domaine du Clos du Fief La Roche 2018
Focused and balanced, featuring concentrated cherry and currant flavors, cast with herb, tea and white pepper underpinnings. Tangy, with lightly chewy tannins giving texture to the finish. Drink now. 500 cases made.
GEORGES DUBOEUF Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2018
Herb-tinged currant and cherry flavors are fresh and focused in this light-bodied red, with underpinnings of licorice and pepper echoing on the subtly chewy finish. Drink now. 85,000 cases made.
DOMAINE DUPEUBLE Beaujolais Nouveau 2018
Licorice and floral details edge the bright cherry, red plum and blackberry notes of this light-bodied red, with spice accents highlighting the juicy, lightly tannic finish. Drink now. 3,000 cases imported.
PAUL DURDILLY Beaujolais Nouveau Les Grandes Coasses 2018
This Gamay offers focused cherry and blackberry flavors, edged with floral, licorice drop and berry tea notes. Delivers light, integrated tannins. Drink now. 3,000 cases made.
DOMAINE DE LA MADONE Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2018
Open-knit and packed with ripe flavors of cherry and raspberry that are infused with licorice, violet and spice notes, all bound together by light, plush tannins. Drink now. 6,000 cases made.
JOSEPH DROUHIN Beaujolais Nouveau 2018
Cherry and tangy raspberry notes are plush and concentrated in this light-bodied red, with licorice drop, banana leaf and tea details echoing on the lightly tannic finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases imported.
GEORGES DUBOEUF Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé 2018
Bright and fresh cherry, white raspberry and grapefruit notes are cast with a mineral undertone in this crisp, lightly plump rosé. Floral-tinged finish. Drink now. 20,000 cases made.
DOMAINE ROCHETTE Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2018
Ripe black cherry, currant and juicy red plum notes are plush and concentrated in this light-bodied red, with hints of licorice, herb and spice lingering into the finish. Drink now. 2,500 cases made.
PASCAL CHATELUS Beaujolais Nouveau 2018
Bright and tangy, with dried herb accents to the cherry and currant notes. Hints of licorice drop and pepper show on the finish. Drink now. 3,000 cases made.
GEORGES DUBOEUF Beaujolais Nouveau 2018
Plump, but backed with a refreshing acidity that highlights the crushed cherry, red plum and cassis flavors interwoven with licorice and floral elements. Offers light, plush tannins. Drink now. 375,000 cases made.
LOUIS TÊTE Beaujolais Nouveau Le Pot 2018
Juicy blackberry and currant notes are marked by herb, pepper and licorice drop undertones. Hints of banana leaf echo on the lightly chewy finish. Drink now. 2,000 cases made.
MOMMESSIN Beaujolais Nouveau 2018
Lively acidity supports the blackberry and red currant flavors in this plump, light-bodied red, with herb and licorice drop details marking the lightly chewy finish. Drink now. 1,793 cases imported.