the third Thursday of November, I tend to lurk in wine stores. I do
that often, of course, but this day is different. This is when le Beaujolais Nouveau est arriv√©.
Nouveau is wine‚€™s celebration of the harvest just completed. It is
infantile juice, grapey, unfocused, barely fermented, with all the
exuberance of youth unencumbered by maturity and society‚€™s
expectations. It is our chance to taste the vintage before wine writers
and other experts make up our minds about it. Years from now, we will
enjoy wines from 2008 and reminisce about vacations spent in wine
country, at the beach, or hiking the mountains. This is our chance to
savor those experiences while they are still raw memories unaltered by
the selective filter of time.
Nouveau is also wine‚€™s crassest marketing gimmick. (Or at least it
was, until the advent of critter wines and labels such as ‚€œOld
Fart,‚€ ‚€œFat Bastard,‚€ “Bitch” and ‚€œMommy‚€™s Time Out.‚€) The
wine is released each year with great hoopla and celebration,
air-freighted around the globe so wine bibbers can enjoy it on this
special Thursday, a day decreed not by the natural rhythms of harvest in
the Beaujolais but by the wisdom of French regulators squirreling away
in cubes overlooking the Seine.
you might imagine, Bacchanalian Cynics (the most numerous sect of this
devoted and fanatical following) rail against Nouveau. Tyler Colman, one
of blogdom‚€™s most influential writers as Dr. Vino,
has called for a nationwide boycott of Beaujolais Nouveau to protest
its carbon footprint ‚€“ much higher than normal because of air shipment
rather than by surface ship, he argues. Dr. Vino would have us drink a
local wine instead of Beaujolais Nouveau this year. Many of his readers
jumped on board the bandwagon, denouncing Nouveau as inferior wine not
Dr. Vino‚€™s argument was undermined when he learned that Georges Duboeuf, producer of
99.9999999% of all Beaujolais Nouveau, had received special
dispensation this year to ship his wine by sea in order to cut costs. He
feared that American consumers might not buy the wine with the extra $2
per bottle for air freight if the unfavorable exchange rate already
raised the price. And another producer, Boisset, announced they are
packaging their nouveau from Mommessin and Bouchard Aine & Fils in
eco-friendly (or at least lighter) plastic bottles – making a case of
wine 16 pounds lighter.
with these exceptions to the rule, Dr. Vino and the Nattering Nabobs of
Nouveau Negativism miss the point. Beaujolais Nouveau is not about
carbon footprint. (Though I am all for drinking local wine!)
Nor is it about quality. It‚€™s one bottle a year, for goodness sake
‚€“ does anyone really buy a case of this stuff? It‚€™s fun. It‚€™s
joyful. It‚€™s a harbinger of another year nearing an end, a marker of
time about to pass, a leaf we snatch out of the air before it hits the
ground. Harvest. Autumn. Winter on the way.
The perfect Thanksgiving wine ‚€“ and always among the many on my family table.