There's no denying that Beaujolais Nouveau has become a commodity. It is bought and sold as a liquid cash crop. And that is exactly what it is. It is new wine, freshly vinified and rushed to market for a fast return on the growing season. Unfortunately, a good deal of it is not the happy wine it was cut out to be.
The nouveau phenomenon took off in the 1950s and rocked the wine world until the year 2000. Even today, a third of Beaujolais' entire production is nouveau.
Most of the wine-consuming public has long shed its love affair with the other wine stars that were ascendant at that time: Lancers, Mateus, Blue Nun and the Chianti Straw Basket. But Nouveau had caché; it was only released once a year and that festive air kept it fresh. Like a comet, it returned year after year to many oohs and aaahs. Still does.
Yet, in a return to terroir, to what made Beaujolais and its gamay grape great, the Beaujolais region is starting to re-focus on the other wine products made within its borders such as the Crus, 10 appellations or growing areas that have historically delivered a superior product within Beaujolais proper.
These wines do not come onto market a scant few months after harvest, one must wait a few years.
For your patience, you get layers of flavor, richness, soft and mellow tannins, perfume, fruit and loads of extract in addition to the minerality and meaty, earthy accents that make you think pinot noir.
Beaujolais Nouveau may make its fanfare appearance the third Thursday of November each year, but Beaujolais itself is not once-a-year drink. The Crus are age-worthy. They "pinote" or become pinot noir-like with a few years (five to 10) of bottle age. They are delicious wines with layers of complexity.
For those who are just delving in to the red wine arena, this is a great place to start because they are "wet" reds. The mouth does not turn to cotton. There is no bitterness from tannin or oak. Instead, the vibrant acidity refreshes and causes an in-rush of saliva.
In short, this is a red wine for white wine lovers, but with enough guts and stuffing to please red wine drinkers also.
How nice to have your cake and eat it too. Beaujolais! Wow!
Dominique Piron Morgon "Cote du Py" 2009, Beaujolais, France, $23:
Stunningly rich with mulberry and pomegranate fruit. There is a touch of earthiness and leather wrapped around a solid core of minerality. The finish is all iris and rose. These layers of flavor are packaged within smooth, satin tannins and the wine walks a tightrope of balance, elegance and unique style. Very impressive. Beaujolais? Wow!
Domaine de la Chapelle des Bois Chiroubles 2009, Beaujolais, France, $24:
Yum. Black raspberries and iris tightly wound within a delicate balance of fruit and perfume. There is a touch of chalkiness in the finish, but the tannins are, yet again, satin. This is a gorgeous glass of wine. Beaujolais? Wow!
Domaine de la Tour du Bief Moulin-A-Vent "Clos de la Tour" 2009, Beaujolais, France, $27:
This wine just explodes with black cherry fruit. The finish hints of iron ore. It is meaty and mineral and finishes with a burst of violet perfume. Yet again, the tannins are satin smooth and mouth-filling. Beaujolais? Wow!