November is Beaujolais Nouveau Month

Every year, the stroke of midnight on the third Thursday of November—this year, November 17—marks the release of the first wine produced from this year’s grape harvest, the Beaujolais Nouveau. This occasion is highly celebrated in France, with packed restaurants and wine bars and events of all kind. While this fantastic marketing scheme has kept this tradition and this wine alive for so many years, the wine should not be taken too seriously.

Beaujolais Nouveau is made up entirely of Gamay grapes (“Gamay Noir au Jus Blanc”, to be precise). The grapes are handpicked—a practice only mandated in the regions of Beaujolais and Champagne. This allows for fermentation of the uncrushed grape, a method called carbonic maceration. Because the grapes are whole, the fruit flavors are released without the bitter tannins from the skins, resulting in a wine that is light and fruity with aromas of berries, cherries, banana, and pear, with very little tannins. The grapes are harvested between late August and early September; accordingly, the Beaujolais Nouveau is bottled and sold at a very young 6 to 8 weeks after harvest, resulting in its relatively high acidity. It is also one of the few red wines that benefit from being served a little chilled. Beaujolais Nouveau is intended for immediate drinking, and only some vintages are good enough to be left to mature.

In the U.S., it is promoted as a Thanksgiving wine because it is released only one week before Thanksgiving. Because it is light and fruity, it is actually a good complement for turkey, and a good alternative to white wine. Its relatively high acidity also balances well with the higher fat content of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner and all of its trimmings.

We can only wait and see if this year’s production is all that it is hoped to be. Just remember to chill it, drink it young, and enjoy its fresh, unassuming simplicity!