Nouveau est Arrivé! Beaujolais Nouveau – by Sara d’Amato

Sara d'Amato

Sara d'Amato

As the clock quickly approaches the stroke of midnight on the third Thursday of November, bars and bistros all over the world prepare to serve the very first wine of this year’s harvest.

It is difficult to believe that mere weeks ago, these grapes were still clinging to the vines and now they find their way, across great oceans, to our dinner tables and into our glasses. This tradition of celebrating the barely fermented first wine of the harvest is an old one but has been more recently commercialized and with great success largely due to the keen marketing of Georges DuBoeuf.

Unfortunately, this celebratory trend is waning here in Canada and there is less and less excitement about this festive time. In recent years the selection available has been pared down and wines take weeks rather than days to fly off the shelves. Has this fad finally gotten the better of us? Has our savvy made us snobs in the face of these sweet, fun and simple little wines?

Perhaps we have lost sight of the fact that these wines are not meant to be scrutinized and held to the standards of more perfected bottles but rather used to make toasts to the new vintage yet upon us and be cause for merriment and relief. So, whether you love them or hate them, they are here and must be enjoyed quickly!

This year’s Nouveau release includes nine wines and, interestingly, only three of them are from Beaujolais, where the tradition began. Two are Italian selections, only one offering is from Ontario this year, hailing from Reif Estates, and the rest are from the Pays d’Oc region of France as well as a Gamay from the Ardèche. At 9:30 am on November 17th, 11,000 cases of these Nouveau wines will be distributed among more than 400 LCBO locations, ready for immediate consumption.

The only question now remaining is out of these nine selections, what to choose? Among the several wine critics who tasted these wines last Tuesday,  only one consensus could be assumed – they were all extremely varied and would appeal to a great range of tastes. What they have in common, though, is what fans have come to love about Nouveau wines – a simple, easy-drinking, un-manipulated style with fresh, fruity flavours and a playful nature.

If you approach with this mindset, you will not be disappointed. Fortunately the prices are still all under $15 and despite the fact that some may argue that even at these prices, they would not touch the stuff, one could conceivably buy a bottle of each and turn this event into a great tasting party. For the large majority of you who would rather discretely enjoy one bottle at home, here are a few highlights:

Joseph Drouhin 2011 Beaujolais Villages Nouveau
Beaujolais, France
Score 89, $14.95, LCBO #113266

The leader of the pack, Drouhin’s Beaujolais Villages Nouveau shows elegance and even mild complexity, which is most definitely to be celebrated in a wine so young.

Duboeuf 2011 Gamay Nouveau
, France,
Score 88, $8.95, LCBO # 891846

The top value pick comes from the iconic Nouveau producer DuBoeuf who uses the grape of Beaujolais, Gamay, but produces this just outside the appellation. Fragrant, lush, fruity and playful this is the quintessential Beaujolais Nouveau (without actually being able to call itself so).

Giocale 2011 Novello
Terre Di Chieti
, Abruzzo, Italy
Score 87, $8.95, LCBO #271759

This well-priced Novello from Abruzzo is a delicious, non-traditionally French example with considerable depth and approachability. I predict this will be the first to sell out of the release.

For a list of the Beaujolais Nouveau wines locally available, click here.

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