Bottoms Up

11/18/2012

 
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Official Theme for 2012 Beaujolais Nouveau

Bottoms Up Beaujolais Nouveau is for here and now

     If you aren't a fan of red wine, but want to venture beyond white wines, then Beaujolais Nouveau might be the medicine for you.   Lovers of this seasonal wine are on pins and needles each year as they await the new release.  French law dictates that Beaujolais Nouveau cannot be released for sale until the third Thursday in November.  Besides that, it's a wine that should be consumed as soon as possible and usually no later than the following spring.  Beaujolais Nouveau is a very young wine that was fermented under a special process which keeps tannins very low. The grapes are not pressed, but allowed to ferment as  whole grapes. Only some of the grapes in the bottom of the tanks are crushed from the weight of the grapes above. These grapes begin to ferment and aid the remaining grapes to begin fermenting as whole berries. This keeps tannins very low.  Tannins come from the crushed skins of grapes and permit the long storage of wines.  The less tannins, the shorter the shelf life.  A short fermentation period of only a few weeks means a short life on your wine rack. 
     Beaujolais Nouveau is only made from Gamay grapes coming from a very small area of the Beaujolais region. The entire region amounts to an area averaging 8 miles wide and is only about 35 miles long.  Within that small region, there are the appellations of Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages.  Only a third of the Gamay grapes grown in this small area of the beaujolais region are used each year for Beaujolais Nouveau.  The remaining grapes are kept for the production of the regular varietal wines of the region. 
     Champagne and Beaujolais Nouveau have one similarity.  Both wines are produced from grapes which are exclusively picked by hand; no machinery is used in their harvesting.  It's safe to say that Beaujolais Nouveau will never compete with Champagne.  I suspect it may only come close on the third Thursday of each year.  There are people who love Beaujolais Nouveau and don't care for champagne at all, but those people are few.  The Beaujolais Nouveau roll-out is a special event each year, while champagne is for every event all year.  Nevertheless, it's a fun event and a good reason to go out, enjoy the season and get an idea of the depth of flavor in the grapes and how good the regular wines of the year will be when they are finally ready for bottling.  Beaujolais Nouveau wines are softer, fruitier (sometimes flavored with hints of apricots, peaches, pears or even bananas) and like white wines, are best served cool.  While a red wine is preferably served at room temperature and white wines are refrigerated,  a Beaujolais Nouveau tastes best at around 55 degrees and is sweet and mild. 
     This should be an interesting year for the wine and for the vintners specializing in Beaujolais Nouveau.  The past year was hard in the Beaujolais region.  The grapes were hit by severe frost, damaging hail storms and excessive rain which also led to diseases caused by high moisture.  Growers were already battling the decrease in popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau over the past few years, so to control the loss of value, they planted and maintained fewer vines .  The weather this past year has drastically cut more of the already smaller harvest.  I haven't tasted a bottle yet, so I'm not sure if the weather had a good or bad affect on the flavor of the grapes, but hopefully they are great.  There are only 2300 producers of Beaujolais Nouveau. The government of France has given financial aid to a large number of those producers and the french media has estimated that several hundred producers will file for bankruptcy because of crop damage this year.  Perhaps this season's grapes will be exceptionally good and that will lead to increased sales and value. 
     On a lighter note,  the photo above of the wine bottle dressed in haute couture is the official theme for the publicity campaign  of the region and was chosen because of the similarity between fashion and wine.  They each (fashion and wine) suggest glamour and a sense of refinement.  The advertisers also remind buyers that the word robe has two meanings.  In French, robe means color, but it also means dress.  Therefore, they've dressed their bottle of the purple-pink wine called Beaujolais Nouveau for its November debut.
    I will be going for a bottle this week.  I doubt it will make me glamorous or refined, but let's give it a try. At least we will be helping the vintners.  Remember - it's not a wine for collecting.   So bottoms up...
 


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