Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. It’s the third Thursday in November and wine drinkers will know that means the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau – the first wines of the 2008 season – and the accompanying celebration.
Beaujolais Nouveau is made with the Gamay grape and was first created a hundred years ago in France as a wine to be drunk to celebrate the end of the harvest season. Without the addition of oak barrels and long-term aging, the wines do not have the opportunity to develop more intense characteristics and flavours but tend to be redolent of red fruit and berries – big, juicy and jammy, a wine for gulping rather than sipping, the perfect wine for a party, which is what many people will be doing this weekend with their Beaujolais Nouveau purchases.
Because of the marketing surrounding this style of wine – with it being released world-wide on the same day – it garners some criticism. Regulations require that the wine cannot be bottled more than a week before the release date, so it must be rushed by any means possible to various cities around the world, giving it a particularly large environmental footprint.
One wine offered by the LCBO in this release seeks to soften that impact slightly. Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau, 750 ml, $13.45, is being offered for the first time in a new PET bottle – a bit disconcerting when you grab it (it’s vaguely squishy), but more environmentally friendly and easier to ship. Since Beaujolais Nouveau wines are meant to be consumed shortly after bottling, concerns regarding aging are not an issue.
Also, since there is no tannin development from aging the wine, Beaujolais Nouveau is a good choice for wine lovers who suffer from tannin-induced headaches – again making it a great wine for parties.
Beaujolais Nouveau (or the more correctly termed Beaujolais Primeur) wines also get hit with criticism for being unrefined and immature – depending on that year’s growing conditions they occasionally need to have their alcohol levels boosted with sugar. The JeanJean Syrah Primeur 2008, 750ml, $9.55 that I tried at the LCBO preview tasting gave me very little in the way of red fruit flavour, reminding me mostly of red Kool-Aid.
The LCBO is offering 8 wines in today’s release, with the Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau, 750 ml, $14.95 and the Bichot Beaujolais Nouveau, 750 ml, $13.45 new to their offerings this year.
My personal favourites from the advance tasting on Tuesday included the Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, 750 ml, $15.95, which tends to be the benchmark of the style and the most well-known of the offerings; Georges Duboeuf is a tireless promoter of Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau wines, producing about 4 million bottles annually. It’s full and round, with lots of bright red fruit notes.
I also really liked one of the Italian wines – “novello” rather than “nouveau” – the Mezzacorona Novio Novello, 750 ml, $9.95, had an earthy note (like the forest on a damp fall day) underneath the warm currant and berries that gave it an added dimension beyond just the red fruit.
When the Beaujolais Nouveau season is over, some 65 million bottles of wine will have been bottled, shipped, sold, and consumed, probably within a period of only a few short weeks. They may not be the best wines that come out of the 2008 season, but as a way to celebrate the end of the harvest and the beginning of the holiday party season, Beaujolais Nouveau can’t be beat.
Here’s the full listing of offerings at the LCBO as of today. Stores open at either 9:30 or 10am. As of this writing, these wines are not in the online search system, so it’s impossible to check products and quantities for each store. Go and be surprised.
- Bichot Beaujolais Nouveau, 750 ml, $13.45
- Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau, 750 ml, $13.45
- Duboeuf Gamay Nouveau, 750 ml, $8.95
- Jeanjean Syrah Nouveau VDP d’OC, 750 ml, $9.95
- Mezzacorona Novio Novello, 750 ml, $9.95
- Novello del Veneto IGT, 750 ml, $9.95
- Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau, 750 ml, $14.95
- Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau, 750 ml, $15.95