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Beaujolais Nouveau 2014: Previewing Europe's Latest Vintage

A blind tasting of 8 wines turns up good quality among these easy-drinking reds

Alison Napjus
Posted: November 20, 2014

The third Thursday of November each year heralds the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau and the first opportunity for consumers to taste the latest vintage from Europe. But this event has lost steam in recent years, as the hype and festivities surrounding the release of these wines has subsided since their peak in popularity in the 1980s.

Exports of Beaujolais Nouveau to the United States were down almost 20 percent in 2013 from 2012, according to trade figures from Ubifrance. Regardless, Beaujolais Nouveau is a reminder that nature makes a vintage, and the wines serve as a good introduction to the hard-pressed Beaujolais region.

Located just south of Burgundy, Beaujolais experienced the same challenges faced by most wine regions in France and across Europe in 2014, centered around unusually cool and rainy conditions throughout the summer months. "We had very difficult weather in the summer," said Franck Duboeuf of négociant Georges Duboeuf. But the weather was "fantastic" in the first week of September and throughout harvest, he continued. "We got a lot of benefit from this period."

As a result, the bottlings in Wine Spectator's 2014 Nouveau blind tasting today showed good balance, lively acidity and bright fruit flavors, suggesting a solid vintage overall.

Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape variety and can come from vineyards throughout the larger Beaujolais appellation; there's also Nouveau from the Beaujolais-Villages appellation, which can source grapes from 38 villages from around the region.

The crus—including Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent and others—are considered the pinnacle of quality from Beaujolais. While Nouveau exports were down in 2013, exports of cru Beaujolais increased nearly 6 percent. Wine drinkers unfamiliar with Beaujolais can start by trying Nouveau for about $10 to $15 per bottle, but can often upgrade to a cru bottling for not much more, as the bulk of these wines sell for about $15 to $25 a bottle.

Beaujolais' reds are typically light- to medium-bodied, with bright acidity and lots of red and black fruit, ground spices and aromatic herbs. These wines rarely benefit from cellaring, and it's generally best to capture their vibrancy in the first few years of life.

Looking at the 2014 vintage as a whole, this will likely be the case with most of Europe’s reds, as regions better-known for their powerhouse wines will offer easier-drinking examples. This puts Beaujolais in the unique position of leading the pack in 2014, continuing to offer lively reds that bring you back for another sip.

GEORGES DUBOEUF Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2014 Score: 87 | $12
Well-balanced and fresh, with zesty acidity driving the boysenberry, white pepper, spring forest and white peach notes. Creamy. Drink now. 2,600 cases imported. —A.N.

DOMAINE DE LA MADONE Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2014 Score: 87 | $14
Well-balanced, this is creamy on the palate and lightly juicy throughout, with flavors of pureed black raspberry, star anise and fresh, loamy earth. Drink now. 550 cases imported. —A.N.

JEAN-PAUL BRUN Beaujolais Nouveau Terres Dorées l'Ancien Vieilles Vignes 2014 Score: 86 | $15
A light-bodied red, with good focus and balance, featuring a core of wild cherry and strawberry flavors layered with tangy acidity and abundant ground spice accents. Zesty. Drink now. 560 cases imported. —A.N.

JOSEPH DROUHIN Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 Score: 86 | $12
White peach and strawberry notes are framed by tangy acidity and accents of fresh earth and dried herb in this balanced red, with good focus and a hint of tannins on the finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases imported. —A.N.

DOMAINE ROCHETTE Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2014 Score: 86 | $12
A balanced version, with an earthy base note driving the subtle flavors of dried black cherry, leather, spice box and grilled herb. Fresh. Drink now. 270 cases imported. —A.N.

GEORGES DUBOEUF Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 Score: 85 | $11
Bright and well-balanced, with a creamy palate of black raspberry and licorice drop backed by lots of ground pink peppercorn notes. Drink now. 115,000 cases imported. —A.N.

PAUL DURDILLY Beaujolais Nouveau Les Grandes Coasses 2014 Score: 83 | $13
Light-bodied and bright, with pretty notes of wild cherry, orange zest, ground spice and white peach. Drink now. 600 cases imported. —A.N.

PASCAL CHATELUS Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 Score: 82 | $11
A modest red, with a hint of sweet smoke underscoring the fresh flavors of crushed plum and black cherry, grilled herb and spice. Drink now. 480 cases imported. —A.N.

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