Located at the southern end of Burgundy in Southeastern France. The majority of the wines made in Beaujolais are from the Gamay grape variety. These wines are generally very fruity and have light tannins. Nearly all of them are ready for consumption on release and will not benefit from additional aging.
Beaujolais wines are made by a process called carbonic maceration. This lets winemakers extract the juice with a minimum of tannin; it is this lack of tannin that makes Beaujolais wines so easy to drink.
French laws require all Beaujolais grapes to be picked by hand. Beaujolais and Champagne are the only two regions subject to this unique requirement.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a young red wine made from Gamay grapes from the Beaujolais region, where this wine accounts for about half of the region’s production. While most red wines improve with age, Beaujolais Nouveau is all about freshness and is ready to drink right away.
Every year, about a week before Thanksgiving, a strange thing happens in the wine world. The winemakers of Beaujolais are ready to release the newest vintage, and at the stroke of midnight, the race is off to see who can get the wine to Paris and the rest of the world first. Restaurants celebrate the arrival of the new wine, festivals are held, and terrible hangovers are had. By law, the Beaujolais producers cannot start selling until midnight on the third Thursday of November, to ensure a more level playing field for this madness.
What is the reason for this absurd silliness? It’s an odd tradition that started the way traditions do – that is, nobody remembers. But it’s a good excuse to throw parties to celebrate the arrival of the new Beaujolais – Beaujolais Nouveau.
1. Beaujolais [BOE-zjoh-lay] Nouveau is always released the third Thursday of November, regardless of the start of the harvest.
2. The region of Beaujolais is 34 miles long from north to south and 7 to 9 miles wide. There are nearly 4,000 grape growers who make their living in this picturesque region just north of France’s third largest city, Lyon.
3. All the grapes in the Beaujolais region must be picked by hand. These are the only vineyards, along with Champagne, where hand harvesting is mandatory.
4. Gamay (Gamay noir Jus Blanc) is the only grape permitted for Beaujolais. While certain California wineries may label their wine “Gamay Beaujolais” this is not the same grape variety as what is grown in France, and is quite different in taste and growing habits.
5. Beaujolais Nouveau cannot be made from grapes grown in the 10 crus (great growths) of Beaujolais-only from grapes coming from the appellations of Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages.
6. Beaujolais Nouveau owes its easy drinkability to a winemaking process called carbonic maceration, also called whole berry fermentation. This technique preserves the fresh, fruity quality of the wine, without extracting bitter tannins from the grape skins.
7. Beaujolais Nouveau is meant to be drunk young-in average vintages it should be consumed by the following May after its release. However, in excellent vintages (such as 2000) the wine can live much longer and can be enjoyed until the next harvest rolls around.
8. Serve Beaujolais Nouveau slightly cool, at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit-the wine is more refreshing and its forward fruit more apparent than if you serve it at room temperature.
9. Approximately 1/3 of the entire crop of the Beaujolais region is sold as Beaujolais Nouveau.
10. The region of Beaujolais is known for its fabulous food. The famed Paul Bocuse Restaurant is just minutes from the heart of Beaujolais, as is Georges Blanc’s eponymous culinary temple. These great restaurants have plenty of Beaujolais on their wine lists. This quintessential food wine goes well with either haute cuisine or Tuesday night’s meat loaf.