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Monday, November 19, 2012

2012 Beaujolais Nouveau: Drink it up and drink it fast


Every third Thursday in November one of the greatest undertakings in the world of wine transpires as the year's batch of Beaujolais Nouveau is released worldwide. Which means on Nov. 15, as bottles of Nouveau were released here in Georgia, they became available in California, New York, and London, as well as the wine's home region in France, at the exact same time. The 2012 vintage is even more special because the first of November fell on a Thursday, which made the third Thursday of this November the earliest possible time in the month for Beaujolais Nouveau to be released. (The last time that happened was back in 2007, and 2001 before that.)

Mind not blown? OK, let's back it up.

Beaujolais Nouveau is a fresh wine made by about 40 producers in the Beaujolais region of France. Fresh, as in 6-9 weeks old, which means it's likely that the Gamay grapes in this wine were still hanging on their vines several weeks ago. (CL has written about Beaujolais Nouveau in the past. See here and here for more background on the wine.)

Advanced Sommelier Eric Crane (he's also a certified wine educator and the Director of Training and Development at Empire Distributors Atlanta) is a huge proponent of historic wine styles, including Beaujolais Nouveau:

It's just kind of a unique, really really interesting wine that doesn't have much of a shelf life once it's been bottled. But it's pretty cool stuff. It's got a great tradition. At midnight in Paris there were competitions to see who could drink a bottle of nouveau the fastest, which sommelier could uncork and serve a bottle of wine the fastest to a table of patrons. It's a pretty big party in some parts of the world. But in America, everyone's a critic, people will say horrible things about this wine and act like it's not serious. But it's definitely serious. Anybody can harvest grapes, make a wine, and take their time bottling it. It's only the really zany people that say wow, our entire economy is based off of pulling these grapes off the vine as quickly as possible, making a wine, staging a wine, and selling it globally on this date.

Coincidence or not, Beaujolais Nouveau's current release date (established in 1985) coincides with our own celebration of the harvest here in the United States: Thanksgiving Day. And, as fate would have it, the wine is ideal for the food-centric holiday. With so many competing flavors on one plate, Beaujolais Nouveau has enough acidity and thirst-quenching drinkability to stand-up to the myriad flavors, spices, and textures of a traditional turkey day spread.

Unfortunately, bad weather plagued the growing season in Beaujolais this year leading to extremely low yields. Wine Enthusiast reports that, "nearly 35% of Beaujolais producers have applied for government aid this year, and experts estimate that anywhere between 13 - 20% of the region's growers could go bankrupt." Low yields, however, aren't necessarily bad news for wine drinkers. Producers "claim smaller yields lend more concentrated flavor in the surviving grapes."

So how's the 2012 drinking? According to Crane, "The vintage is gulpable! Lots of fruit and a nice tart finish. Banana. Cranberry. Tastes like it's been plugged into an electrical outlet. Super lively."

Um ... we're sold.

Side note: In Atlanta, you can find bottles of 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau at larger package stores and most grocery stores. Personally, I found one at Tower on Piedmont, the Georges Duboeuf 2012 Nouveau, which scored an 85/100 ranking from Wine Enthusiast.

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