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Beaujolais Nouveau

Trusty tasting glass and his morning-after friend the coffee mug

Trusty tasting glass and his morning-after friend the coffee mug

Starting in 2005 a friend of mine has graciously hosted an annual Beaujolais Nouveau party.  This year he took it up a notch and augmented the usual cheese and crackers by inviting us over and cooking dinner.

The idea of BN is that these wines are made quickly from grapes picked in early September and are released on the market on the third Thursday of November.  The mythology is that this was an opportunity for winemakers and vineyard workers to relax after a hectic harvest season but has now grown into the chance for wine collectors to evaluate the quality of a vintage; an excuse for wine novices to have winetasting parties; and a giant marketing campaign that is one of the few things keeping the French wine industry in business.  TasteTO has a good article with more detail on the back story of Beaujolais Nouveau.

I have read comments that this year’s crop is very good but I’m not sure I agree.  The wines I tasted had more traditional and subtle fruit notes–cherry instead of banana and strawberry–and therefore managed to (palely) imitate more expensive, long-matured wines.  But is that really the point of Beaujolais Nouveau?   Sometimes I’d rather take a break from the subtle and be amazed at how boisterous red wine can be if unoaked and only a couple months off the vine.

The star of the night, for me at least, was the Mezzacorona Novio Vino Novello, for its surprisingly strong nose of blueberries and a remarkably smooth finish.  In stark contrast to most BN (this is from Italy so really is only a cousin to BN) Mezzacorona’s offering actually sticks around with a pleasant aftertaste.  At $9.95 this is an amazing deal and I’d grab some more if it weren’t for the LCBO’s uneven stocking which has left Toronto with fewer than ten bottles, a week after the release, while there were over a thousand bottles languishing in Ottawa as of last night’s count.

Other pleasant surprises this year were the Albert Bichot ($12.95) and the JeanJean Syrah Premier ($9.95).  The Bichot had an interesting nose and while it was a bit thin in the mouth I was able to detect some tannins that would make this wine a better match for rich, autumn food than most BNs.  The JeanJean while French is not technically Beaujolais Nouveau because they use syrah grapes grown further to the south.  This wine has an interesting bouquet that pairs cherry and blueberry notes and while not as remarkable as the Mezzacorona is still a great deal at the same price.

I wasn’t really impressed with either of the Duboeuf (George Duboeuf is one of the originators of this marketing blitz) offerings.  The Gamay Nouveau ($8.95) was okay but had a near total lack of scent while the BN-Villages ($14.95) was more interesting on the nose and at the front of the mouth but I couldn’t shake the impression that middle through finish it tastes of apple juice.

Finally, the Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Village Nouveau ($14.95) had an interesting front with a “tingle” that reminded some of us of the slightly fizzy wines of Spain and Portugal but fell off precipitously from there.

None of the examples we sampled this year were at the strikeout level of some previous year’s worst examples–every bottle was drained to the end.  The Mezzacorona, Bichot, and JeanJean offerings are all decent and serviceable and amazing deals if you can still find any in a couple days but nothing was memorably different enough this time that I’ll be waiting for more next year.

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