Beaujolais Nouveau

Let’s Make It Nouveau Again

I remember decades ago when those interested in things bibulous would look forward to the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau. It was the young wines that appeared in late November and intended to be consumed within a couple of months or so ideally, versus the established crus of the region. (Beaujolais is one of the four wine regions in Burgundy, not the most renowned).

The history is that a vin ordinaire, or perhaps any surplus to the standard crus sent out, was sold locally and quaffed to end another wine year and the harvest past. In the mid-30s, the law was changed to allow sale of this Beaujolais wine from November 15 vs. December 15 as the general start of sales. Some was sent in barrel to Paris and Lyon and a fashion grew for it. (Today, the release date is the third Thursday of November).

img_20161124_190802_editThis facilitated the nouveau getting known and in the 60s-70s, the bottling of it and export initially to England took off.

It became a thing, the rage. While serious wine fans saw that these wines were something diverting, fun but not to be taken too seriously, the trend caught on with the wine-buying public in general.

Restaurateurs and wine bars competed to get in enough stocks to trumpet the wine to avid patrons. I remember a time when, as today for a choice whisky or beer, LCBO customers would race to the stores to find a bottle of Mommessin or Duboeuf’s nouveau.

Often you couldn’t find any, it was sold out within a day or two of being placed on the floor in cases.

In time, to take advantage of the craze, similar primeur as nouveau is also called was marketed by wine countries other than France, Italy especially, and finally even by new world wineries. There really is no substitute for the best French ones though, at least in my experience

Then the trend dropped off and today the arrival of the wine barely causes a ripple in the drinks scene here (or anywhere), a pity since the wines are as good as ever. To get a sense of the original excitement and interest, read this 1976 report on the wines in New York Magazine.

The big French shippers dominate the business for our market. This year I saw the two mentioned above and Drouhin’s, and bought one of each.

The Mommessin is really good, it has the berry taste Beaujolais usually has but also reminded me of a Morgon, the most Burgundy-like of the Beaujolais. I like it half-chilled.

This is a beer and also a whisky blog, but I drink wine once in a while and nouveau is sympa with the beer world as you drink it in generous swallows, like beer. It can’t be tasted in sips, as Dickens famously wrote of beer.