Michael Nagrant / 01.19.06

I started drinking in elementary school. My tipple of choice was a Beaujolais Nouveau. Unlike most young drinkers, I was lucky enough to avoid the Wild Irish Rose, Mad Dog 20/20, and Boone’s farm, though I would revisit these malted fruity classics in college.

It is not that I was a sullen young drunkard, but that my father, an amateur wine buff, allowed my brother and I a small sampling, usually during Thanksgiving dinner. We would trade our taste impressions across the table. At the ripe age of 10, unaware of phrases like “tannic”, “leathery, or “hint of cassis”, I would usually declare the wine to be “bad grape juice”.

To be fair, most of the French, and the wine snoberati don’t think too differently.

Beaujolais Nouveau, is released, according to French law, a few minutes after midnight on the third Thursday in November. Since the mid 80’s, the release became an international marketing campaign, generally credited to Georges Duboeuf, the largest producer. Ridiculous gimmickry abounded with relay runners, hot air balloons, elephants, and the Concorde employed to deliver the appellation.

Harvest, fermentation, and final bottling of the Nouveau take no more than six weeks. Generally, because of the popularity of the wine, vineyards do not control the yield, and often overgrow the Gamay vines from which the wine is derived. In wine-speak, controlling the yield, means that the concentration of flavor in the grape is higher, because it is not spread out over too many buds. Less is more.

The economically minded wine making practices may also be the reason for the popularity of the wine in the United States. Acidic components don’t have a lot of time to develop, and the dustiness found in big Bourdeauxs doesn’t exist. There are no oak vats of Beaujolais Nouveau in the back of forgotten dank caves.

As a result, you either have a tart thin bodied wine, or, at its best, a super fruity drinkable concoction. Except for Riunite, it’s as close to a white a red can get. On ice! So Nice! Despite the movie Sideways, and the Pinot Noir invasion, Americans still like their whites, and the Beaujolais Nouveau, served lightly chilled, is a white disguised as a red.

That being said, snobs are snobs. The proof is in the bottle. Drink it and make your own decisions. The 2003 was considered one of the best harvests in years. Even Robert Parker, the Bordeaux evangelist, gave the vintage 95 points out of 100. Unfortunately, the wine is expected to be drunk within a year, and probably best in the first few months, so the 2003 won’t be found anywhere. Luckily, the 2005 is considered to be better than 2003, and you should be able to find it on the shelves, especially if you have a Trader Joe’s in your area.

I tasted the 2005 on release, and again a few weeks ago. It is among the best I have had in 19 years, and I have had some tart Beaujolais dogs. There is a lot of fruit, especially strawberry, but also a balance that separates the Nouveau from Boone’s farm.

Consider grabbing a few bottles, think of it as a daily wine for fun and friends. Every year I will grab a bottle. Each November, with a trip to the wine store, I can conjure up 1986, our circular oak laminate dining table, glistening Butterball turkey, and amber goblets filled with Beaujolais Nouveau.

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