Beaujolais, one of the world’s oldest wine regions, has always produced a share
of unassuming young wines not destined for anyone’s cellar. Of the total output
of its regionally distinctive varietal wines, nearly 30% is exclusively finished and
marketed under the Nouveau designation. They invented the concept; they’re
arguably still the best at making it. Historically, the barely-off-the-vine, bright and
uncomplicated batches of wine were intended to be consumed as a celebration of
the current vintages harvest, Vin de l’année. Following on long summer months
spent waiting and praying for the season to be a bountiful one, came arduous
weeks of picking, hauling, destemming, sorting and a short fermenting period.
For the dedicated labourers, being gifted a few bottles of the freshly made juice
was a small and well-earned reward. The shipping of Beaujolais Nouveau abroad
as a major export, though, is a relatively contemporary concept that only became
widespread in the middle of the 1950’s; hitting its commercial peak around 1980.
This unique timed-release on the 3rd Thursday in November remains celebratory,
but perhaps has become misunderstood or misrepresented over time.
In general, over-production or indiscriminate winemaking by some of the largest
producers have given this specialty wine a mixed reputation; confusing ever-more
discerning drinkers with undue levels of aromatic character such as ‘bubblegum.’
and ‘twizzler’ (red licorice). No doubt, some of the opportunistic bottling that’s on
offer is fairly reflected by these descriptors. However, many of the small, and a
few large producers are capably fashioning a better balance in the quality of the
fruity and charmingly simple wines that are possible with the Gamay grape: the
region’s pleasingly tart, flagship variety also known as Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc.
Among the leading vintners is Joseph Drouhin, originally hailing from yet another
noteworthy wine region, Chablis. With a move to Burgundy in 1880, he founded
his new Maison in the wine capital city of Beaune. Building on his pioneering work,
four succeeding family generations have continued the refinement; progressively
becoming masters of both the Nouveau and regular Beaujolais wine styles.
In order to produce, bottle, and release the wine within a few weeks of picking,
vintners use carbonic maceration as an alternate method to accelerate the
finishing process. Unlike a more traditional practice of crushing the grapes and
allowing the juice to ferment alongside the skins, leeching out a deeper colour
and higher levels of tannin into the mash; in carbonic maceration, the fruit is left
whole, in closed vats that have been flushed with carbon dioxide to purge oxygen.
The grapes begin fermenting inside their skin before the combined pressure of
the fruit’s weight and the released gasses squeezes the alcoholized juice out.
Filtered and briefly aged in stainless steel tanks, the process yields a very lightly pigmented and almost tannin-free Nouveau wine.
For this week’s DéClassé feature Joseph Drouin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau,
note that the Villages designation represents a qualitatively better grade of the
terroir-specific source of the grapes. Along with some added care in processing,
these factors result in slightly higher pricing than the other standard fare. Dare
to invest a few extra dollars, to regain an appreciation for this iconic wine style.
For those that deride Nouveau, generally, as being immature wine lacking depth
and dimension; pay little attention, they’re truly missing the delightful point!
JOSEPH DROUHIN BEAUJOLAIS VILLAGES NOUVEAU
VINTAGES – Product #113266 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
Sugar Content: XD
Made in: Beaujolais, France
By: Joseph Drouhin S.A.
Release Date: November 19, 2015
This light Garnet-coloured, easy drinking wine, has a zingy bouquet and flavours
of cherry and berries. Try serving very lightly chilled as an apéritif with pâté and
savoury hors d’oeuvre, Gruyère cheese and beef fondue or substantial main
dishes such as roasted poultry and herb stuffed pork.