Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES November 23rd

Ultra-Premium, Nouveau, and an Important Note to our Readers

By John Szabo MS, with notes from David Lawrason, Michael Godel, and Sara d’Amato

This week’s report is literally crammed with great wines. The sheer number of picks from the WineAlign crü – 31 collectively – is testament to the quality of the November 23rd release, featuring “coveted, iconic wines from the world’s top regions”. If you’ve been saving up for some fine bottles, this is the weekend to liquidate (liquify?) your accounts. But top dollar is not essential, as we’ve also found ample sub $30 and $20 options to consider. To simplify your shopping, I’ve broken the recommendations into swallow-able sips. Fans of embryonic, grapey, barely-wines should read Sara’s brief history of the Beaujolais Nouveau craze and our buyer’s guide to the best of the release.  Risk-averse shoppers should head straight to the Double Alignment section featuring wines recommended by at least two WineAlign critics. Or, if you already feel comfortable your most trusted WineAlign critic, align yourself directly with the picks of David Lawrason, Michael Godel, Sara D’Amato, or John Szabo. But first, under the guise of complete transparency, read on for an important notice explaining a recent change to how we receive, process, and review samples sent to the WineAlign World Headquarters in Etobicoke, Canada.

To All Our Readers,

WineAlign has recently introduced an optional administrative fee to allow wineries and importers to gain priority access to timely, multiple and objective reviews by the WineAlign critics. It is a new approach in Canada, prompted by the increasing number of samples sent to our office, and the growing administrative costs associated with processing and reviewing them. As the critics who are paid by WineAlign, we want to assure you that this in no way creates a conflict of interest for us, nor affects our impressions of wines in any way, positively or negatively. We write for you.

Universally the wine industry has supported wine media through tastings, travel and advertising for decades, and continues to do so. We critics have always appreciated the much greater access to wines this permits, which is all the better for our readers, without feeling it must influence our opinion of individual wines offered. This new administrative fee is no different. We will review and rate, and publish, all wines submitted, from “not recommended” to “outstanding”, and winemakers will be informed of our opinions, as has always been the case.

We will continue to accept unpaid, unsolicited samples but we will not guarantee timely tasting – the sheer number of samples makes some form of prioritization both fair and necessary. We will invite other professional (paid) wine reviewers to our tastings to render the process more efficient and cost-effective for wine suppliers, actually saving them money with a one-stop, multiple reviews option. With the demise of advertising revenue in the online era, along with a huge increase in the number of wines seeking reviews from objective, experienced critics, we feel this fee is entirely warranted to cover the costs of administering and holding large tastings, and to support our livelihood and expertise. And it should elevate consumer confidence in the objectivity of reviews at the same time, while also guaranteeing that our recommendations are selected from the broadest range of wines possible. We trust you will agree, and we welcome any comments or questions.

The WineAlign crü, David, Sara, Michael, Steve and John.

Spanish Masterclass-in-a-Box 

Le nouveau est arrivé!

The third Thursday of November is upon us requiring merchants worldwide to make way for the arrival of the 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau’s. The success of “Beaujolais Nouveau Day” has become a trade bandwagon for other regions to market their freshly fermented wines. By definition, “Nouveau” is a young wine that is bottled 6 to 8 weeks after harvest. A process of semi-carbonic maceration is used to create this style of Beaujolais which begins with uncrushed grapes placed in a sealed tank filled with carbon dioxide to create an anaerobic environment. The individual berries begin to spontaneously ferment from within creating a uniquely aromatic and fruity wine that is low in tannins.

Historically, the wine was bottled as a means to celebrate the harvest. The intention was to revel in the wake of the arduous harvest season with some of the fruits of labour. Nouveau was a simple, swig-worthy sipper that locals would pair with seasonal street food like boudin blanc, sausages and roasted chestnuts. However uncomplicated the wine may be, it is big business in Beaujolais, making up half of the region’s production — about 65 million bottles.

Beginning in 1951, it became legislated that November 15th was to be the day of the release of Beaujolais Nouveau. This launched a competition among producers of who could deliver most quickly their bottles to the bistros of Paris. In the 1970s, the celebrated winemaker and entrepreneur, Georges Duboeuf, launched a publicity campaign to heighten the excitement surrounding the wine. Soon, the slogan “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé” was being trumpeted around the world. The clever marketing skyrocketed this simple wine to fame and had mixed consequences for this southern Burgundian region. It was in 1985 that Beaujolais established that the 3rd Thursday of November would be the date of release, a jumpstart to a weekend of festivities. Given that American Thanksgiving tends to coincide with the date, it has also become a staple on holiday tables making an ideal match for turkey.

The Nouveau party begins at 12:01 on Thursday, November 21st and will continue throughout the weekend. Whether you hope to attend one yourself or throw one of your own, remember to be spirited, not stodgy! Our top picks to help you celebrate at home:

Buyer’s Guide November 23rd: 2019 Nouveau

Duboeuf Gamay Nouveau 2019, Vin de Pays de L’Ardèche, France ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – A leading force in the Beaujolais Nouveau movement, Duboeuf has here branched out to the neighbouring Archèche region with a fun-loving, peppery, young gamay. Dry with red flower and juniper on the nose and an almost soft, syrah-like character. Super crushable, uncomplicated and a widely appealing.
Michael Godel – Perfectly juicy and lightly peppery young gamay with a minor amount of chalky structure to take this deep, six to 10 months easy. Lovely and useful 2019. …

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That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.
John’s Top Picks
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Sommeliers Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview