When most of us think of November in the context of food and drink, Thanksgiving comes immediately to mind. But there is another date – also a Thursday and always one week before Thanksgiving -that should have particular significance for wine lovers.
On November 17, the 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau will be released in France and available in the US- even here West Virginia. Beaujolais Nouveau is a fun sipper full of fresh strawberry and cherry flavors that is the first wine of the 2016 vintage. The Nouveau, produced from the gamay grape, is only two months old when it arrives in wine shops and cafes around the world.
You can expect Beaujolais Nouveau to be a lively, frothy, fruit- forward mouthful of wine. At its best, the wine is a pleasant quaffer that is never meant to be taken too seriously, but rather should be enjoyed in celebration of the new vintage. It would also be a good wine to use as an aperitif before your Thanksgiving dinner.
But there are more serious wines made from the gamay grape in Beaujolais and today I’ll tell you about them. The Beaujolais region lies just south of Burgundy and descends along a 34-mile stretch of rolling hills ending where the Rhone wine appellation begins. Gamay is a lighter pigmented red grape that regularly produces a medium bodied wine similar in texture to pinot noir.
In addition to Nouveau, most of the other wines in the appellation are labeled Beaujolais, Beaujolais Superior or Beaujolais Villages. These wines are all more substantial in texture and flavor than Beaujolais Nouveau. The very best wines of the region, though, are called Cru Beaujolais and they are much more serious and can actually improve in the bottle for many years.
These Cru (which means “growths” in French) wines are named after the villages around which the grapes are grown. The ten Cru Beaujolais wines are: Brouilly, Chenas, Chiroubles, Cote de Brouilly, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin-a-Vent, Regnie and Saint Amour. Each of these Crus produces distinctly different Beaujolais from very light and delicate (i.e., Chiroubles and Fleurie) to fuller-bodied wines (i.e., Moulin a Vent and Morgon).
Like Burgundy, it is very important to select your Beaujolais from reputable producers and shippers. Among the most reputable of these are: Joseph Drouhin, Georges Duboeuf, Louis Jadot, Louis Latour and Domaine Manoir du Carra. And unlike Burgundy, these are wines that are reasonably priced – usually between $15 to $30 a bottle.
In matching these wines to food, I suggest you use the Crus Beaujolais like you would a medium-bodied pinot noir. These Crus show the best qualities of the gamay grape, producing in good years silky smooth wines with cherry and tea flavors and aromas of crushed flowers. I particularly like to pair them with roast pork tenderloin, grilled salmon or Thanksgiving turkey.
So celebrate the first wine of the 2016 vintage by sipping a glass or two of Beaujolais Nouveau. Try it with cheese or as an aperitif and then open a bottle of Beaujolais Villages or Cru Beaujolais to accompany the dinner entree.
A Votre Sante’!