It"s that time of year again. Beaujolais Nouveau, the celebratory wine traditionally released the week before Thanksgiving, is on its way. This vintage was a particularly fine one in the Beaujolais region, with most producers reporting higher than average yields, well-ripened fruit and generally excellent quality. Bad weather to the south caused extensive damage to the harvest in the Rhone Valley, but for the most part Burgundy and Beaujolais were spared. Each year, towards the end of November, many producers release a limited quantity of the current season"s wine as Beaujolais Nouveau. What is now a firmly engrained tradition began decades ago as a way of celebrating the end of the harvest. The vineyard workers would be treated to a post-harvest party, the focus of which was young, frothy wine, barely over its fermentation, served directly from vats. Today, nearly 50% of all grapes harvested in Beaujolais go into the production of Beaujolais Nouveau. Some may argue that this is a waste of good fruit, but to producers and retailers alike, this hyped-up release of liquid bubblegum provides a much needed shot in the arm just before the holiday season.
Even in good vintages, it is hard to predict the quality of Beaujolais Nouveau. Most producers offer different styles, but the continuing tendency towards high yields and accordingly less ripe fruit has adversely affected standards in recent vintages. Sometimes it"s hard to see past the propaganda, especially when every producer is telling you that they, and only they, are producing wines of quality. For that reason, I generally avoid the big producers, and search out wines that I know are made in a responsible manner, from lower-yielding vines, and with minimal intervention from the winemaker.
This year, the usual contenders, including Duboeuf, Drouhin and others will be sending millions of gallons of barely fermented juice to these shores for our enjoyment. Although these will doubtless be most enjoyable, I shall probably hunt down a few bottles from the excellent and reputable importer Kermit Lynch as well. His bottlings over the past five years have been consistently impressive, and I see know reason why this year should be any different. This wine usually sells for a little more than the bigger name brands, but it"s well worth it.
Bistro 936 Beaujolais Dinner
Bistro 936 will be hosting a Beaujolais Nouveau dinner on Nov 21 starting at 5:00. The dinner will feature the Kermit Lynch offering (see above) and Chef Chris is preparing a four course country French dinner. The cost is $50 per person, which includes dinner, wine, tax and gratuity. There will also be live music. Please contact Darren at 822-1188 for more details.