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The Thin Red Line
Most of us spend a large part of the day in so many activities that we don’t even keep track. The diversity of diversions in a modern life is staggering.
And there is one thing we share in common: constantly making judgments. If there is anything we all do with gusto, it is forming opinions. We don’t like a particular activity, or a person, or a food item, or we do. We are either up for a second helping or we will never try that ever again.
New Orleanians, in particular, are attuned to dining and drinking, and we have hard, usually correct, opinions about the values of what goes into our mouths. Forming those opinions comes with the territory of being “local.” We like our momma’s cooking but maybe don’t have a high opinion of your momma’s. Those truisms, at least in our individual minds, are real, and demand some level of respect.
When it comes to adult beverages, we are just as judgmental. Some of us don’t like gin, or absinthe, or Champagne, or whatever. Those conclusions are reached for a wide variety of reasons. It may be that in a prior circumstance, we had someone we respected and they did not like a particular wine or spirit, so we adopted that feeling. They probably adopted it from someone they respected.
Or it may be that we overdosed on something, it made us sick and from then on, we were not ever going to touch that stuff ever again. Or it may just simply be, don’t like the taste, the smell, the look. But, in the end, we simply don’t like it.
Which brings us to Beaujolais. Oh, wow, how did that line of thinking bring us to a wine-growing region of France?
Beaujolais, the wine not the region, is an interesting case study in possibilities and potential. In an era that glorifies well-defined wines that possess structure and balance, Beaujolais has failed to deliver the goods on so many levels. The wines can be thin, with short finishes and almost-artificial bouquets.
Try as the producers may, in many years (yes, vintages are still important) the wines have come up lacking when compared to all of its neighbors, particularly the mighty and respected wines of Burgundy and the bold, solid-to-the-core wines of the Rhone Valley.
Rather than toss in the towel, Beaujolais, with great fanfare and more than a little chutzpah, created an entirely new category of fermented grape juice. If thin is the finest that can be done, then brag about thin to the heavens.
Beaujolais Nouveau is the first wine to store shelves each year in the northern hemisphere. Nouveau “beats” all other wines to the public’s palate. Remember these are grapes picked off the vine in August or even early September, made into wine immediately then by law and practice, released world-wide on the third Thursday of every November.
No time here for barrel aging. Hell, there is no time for a barrel at all.
The Beaujolais Nouveau wines are by definition fresh, bright and brimming with ripe fruit, full of bold aromas, and relatively low in alcohol. No matter how judgmental we usually are about wine, with Nouveau we cross a line that says, “Lighten up. Just have a good time.”
The 2017 release date for these wines is Nov. 16 and New Orleans with a true French heritage is not about to miss the opportunity for a legal French party. There will be tastings all over town and on the following evening, Friday, Nov. 17, the French-American Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Coast Chapter, will feature Beaujolais Nouveau wine along with New Orleans treats such as breads, culinary specialties, other wines, sweet treats, and spirits,
Here is a chance to really test-drive Beaujolais Nouveau. See if it lands in your wheel-house and if there may even be a place for a bottle or two on your Thanksgiving table. There usually is on mine. Advance tickets are $85 for non-FACC-GC members and are available here.
There is no other time during the year when one date defines whether you can have a wine or not. That’s part of the fun of Beaujolais Nouveau. The other part of the fun is that this is truly not serious stuff. Just enjoy it and keep your inner geek bottled up.
Read Happy Hour here on myneworleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed as well as stored (podcast), at www.wgso.com. Also, check out Last Call, Tim’s photo-feature every month in New Orleans Magazine.