Bill’s Best Bets – November 2016
A new respect for Beaujolais Nouveau
by Bill Zacharkiw
Like many, I have been a very vociferous critic of Beaujolais Nouveau. It wasn’t the event itself per se, I think the idea of sitting down with a light, fresh and uncomplicated red wine is a fine idea. My problem has more to do with the quality of the wines.
Drinking nouveau, or Primeur wine, is nothing new in Beaujolais. The tradition goes back to the 19th Century as a way of celebrating the end of harvest. But during the 1970’s, led by powerful negociants like George Duboeuf, drinking this freshly made wine became a marketing venture.
It started as a race between producers to get their wine to Paris on November 15, and gradually spread throughout France. The date was eventually changed to the third week of November in 1985, so that the release date would always be close to a weekend. The rest is history and this thirst for Beaujolais Nouveau spread across the world.
The problem was that the quality of the wine became less of a consideration. Large negociants from all over France began bottling their own Nouveau, at times, wines of dubious quality. Consumers eventually had their say and sales of Beaujolais have plummeted since their height of 12.5 million bottles in 2004.
During a recent visit to the region, I was expecting winemakers to hide their Primeur wines. But no, nearly every winemaker not only makes a Primeur but they were more than happy to pour it. Many of these wines were excellent. Many still believe that the wines are being overly rushed to market. A few said that they prefer to drink them in January or February once they have had time to settle, but I gladly packed them back.
I tasted 10 of the wines that are available at the SAQ as of today, and 5 are very worthy of your time. So get yourself a baguette, some cheese and charcuterie, and join the celebration. This year the wines are worthy.
It should not be a surprise that the best wines were made by smaller, more artisanal wineries. So bravo to the SAQ for making some astute buys and realizing that wine quality is more important than the event.
My favourites were the Vin de France Nouveau from Laurent and Remi Dufaitre and the Beaujolais Nouveau from Jean Paul Brun. The Dufaitre wine was so pretty and delicate while the Brun wine had texture and depth. I would happily drink both year round.
On a similar vein to the Brun wine, Damien Coquelet’s Gamay Nouveau made me want charcuterie and a plate of liver and onions in front of me. Value wise, at $18, Domaine du Vissoux Gamay Nouveau Les Griottes 2016 made an exemplary Vin Nouveaux that showed decent complexity and can be drunk with a certain abandon.
And a nod to the larger producers who also did a good job this year. Mommessin’s Beaujolais Nouveau is the least expensive of my recommendations but it does the job just fine. Delicious fruit. So if you want an inexpensive taste of this year’s Primeurs, this one is highly recommendable.
Happy #BeaujolaisNouveau day!
“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial
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