The only date on the entire wine calendar that is consistent from year to year is the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau. By French law, the wine cannot be released until the third Thursday in November. This year the date is Nov. 21.
Okay, I can hear that sniggering out there. Your big “so what?” attitude is noted. And let me give you a big “why not?” right back.
We’ll get back to our spat in just a moment. But first some background. Beaujolais is a wine region in the eastern part of France, adjoining Burgundy and north of the Rhone so Beaujolais as a spot on the map has some really great neighbors. The main red grape of Beaujolais is Gamay, in truth a purple-colored grape (pause a moment and let that sink in), which produces light-style wines, meant to be drunk young.
And with Beaujolais Nouveau, “young” means wine grapes that were harvested in mid-August to early September. Yes, this year, 2013. The wines are barely 60 days old. Okay, you don’t see what the "Big Deal" is. The wines are brand new, barely through a rudimentary fermentation, and now the French have imposed a regulation that you can’t drink them until the third Thursday of November. What’s the difference if you drink them on the third Tuesday of November? None, except that it is against French law to have them before the third Thursday, etc.
Keep in mind that this makes very good sense to the French and we play along. Sort of like those “play like” games your previous girlfriend enjoyed. No harm and often together with your willing attitude it was a great result.
Anyway there is a thought going around that Beaujolais Nouveau has to be consumed very soon after its release. Not really. It’s not meant to age, but it won’t spoil by Easter.
Then there are those no-fun wine drinkers who turn up their nose at this little pageant played out right before Thanksgiving every year. They claim the wines are simple and don’t possess great body. The wines sometimes touch on the sweet side, and they have no staying power.
Yes on all counts. So what’s your point?
It’s fun. The wine usually pairs perfectly with the lighter part of Thanksgiving dinner. It’s good for quaffing. And it’s just fine with a little chill. The low alcohol levels mean the wine will not fill you up and it will take a bit more to make you even feel the effects. All good.
To those wine geeks out there, and some of them may be your friends (I’m sure you are not one, are you?), lighten up. Every wine does not have to be an adventure into complicated, big berry, concentrated, ultra-tannic, heavy Wine Land. Sometimes a little playfulness works. Besides, Beaujolais Nouveau usually sells for less than $12. In this price range, expectations have to be tempered.
Beaujolais Nouveau will be available at all the usual outlets, including many restaurants, on Nov. 21. If you want to be the first one on your block to check it out, the French American Chamber of Commerce has an annual party welcoming the Nouveau to New Orleans. This year’s affair, the first planned opportunity to try the wine, will be from 7-10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, at the J.W. Marriott on Canal Street. There will be lots of food (plenty of restaurants serving), music (The Yat Pack, how about that?), good company, an auction, and all the Nouveau you want. Tickets are $70 for non FACC members, in advance. Visit the Chamber's website for more info. For tickets, call (504) 458-3528 or purchase them online. See if the Nouveau is worth the hoopla or not, then let me know what you think.