The Future is Nouveau. . .
Years ago, on a cold and drizzly Wednesday November evening in London, I stumbled across a street lined with luxury British cars from vintage Jaguars to new Aston Martins. Excited drivers milled about jovially talking with great animation. Numbers were draped over the driver side doors in a style reminiscent of rally cars. It took me a moment to add up the math of the situation - it was a Wednesday night in November, the cars were extremely high end, the numbers, and the well healed drivers larking about – this had to be the beginning of the famed Beaujolais Run! I had read an article about this event just a few months prior in Decanter and I was stunned to have randomly stumbled across this precious moment in a city as massive as London! A decades old charity event that raises money for the Royal Airforce Benevolent Fund – it began with two men carrying Beaujolais Nouveau in their trunk and racing to be the first back to London.
Why Beaujolais Nouveau? Arguably a very simple wine, made famous by a stunningly successful marketing campaign. At one point cases were flown on the Concorde for its release as it was so popular. The wine itself is the freshest expression of the vintage – merely two months old – hence “Nouveau” or “New”. Made of gamay grapes from the Beaujolais region in Burgundy – the nouveau may legally be released at the stroke of midnight on the 3rd Thursday in November. A quaffable wine meant to celebrate the end of harvest over plates of charcuterie, steak frites, and roasted chicken.
Hailing from Burgundy, the gamay grape has long been considered the lesser of the grapes used for Burgundy production. The grape was first found in the village of Gamay sometime in the late 1300’s. Most likely a mutation, it provided the local villagers with a reliable grape from which to make wine. Proving to be a favorite of those working harvest, the grape wasn’t considered to be a noble grape and was banned from use by Phillip, the Bold – Duke of Burgundy. He only wanted to have wine produced from fine grapes made within his land – more so, those wines would increase his own wealth. Ordered to be ripped out from the vineyards, gamay fell into disfavor – but never went away. It continued to thrive in the then distant area of Beaujolais, safe from the hold of Phillip the Bold.
Wines from the grape offer charming raspberry and cherry notes with bright acidity. While the nouveau wines are fresh, fruity, and low in tannins, those seeking a more serious expression of the gamy grape can look to the wines from the 10 crus, or delineated wine areas, within Beaujolais. These wines will show a deeper depth of fruit expression, structure, and complexity – stunning with roasts, chicken pot pie (especially those from the Fleurie cru – a personal favorite), and a Thanksgiving feast. So, on the third Thursday of November, you will see these wines pop up around you in stores and feted in French restaurants. Treat yourself to an evening of merriment with fresh wine, French food, and great friends. Or, if so inspired, explore the beautifully food friendly Cru Beaujolais wines and toast to life!