Beaujolais – Everything Old is Nouveau Again

Today is the third Thursday of November – which for wine lovers is a
day to stay inside and avoid the hype of “Le Beaujolais nouveau est
arrivee”. But I’ve always loved nouveau, and I wrote about it in
November 1999, in my second e-mail newsletter, Dave McIntyre’s WineLine.
Someone recently said WineLine was one of the first wine blogs; I
dunno, no one had invented the word “blog” then, and it took me years to
put it on a website. I still don’t post as regularly as I should, or
would like to. That’s because I have deadlines for articles that people
pay me for, and well, I have a life. But here’s what I wrote about
Beaujolais Nouveau back in 1999, to the few people who had given me
their e-mail addresses and said they would like to read my writings. I
offer it now to the few subscribers of this blog, or whatever it should
be called. Cheers!


Thursday around noon I’ll be standing in a wine shop
awaiting a special delivery. This is always a tricky business, as wine
shops can be cramped and delivery men take sport in weaving dolleys
loaded with liquor or beer swiftly through the aisles, jostling the
displays and clipping the ankles of unsuspecting customers.

But this is the third Thursday of November, so I’ll take that risk because le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé.

Wine snobs look askance at Beaujolais nouveau. We
like to dust off a forgotten bottle of five-dollar spaghetti red that’s
been boiling to vinegar in our garages, then rave about the marvels of
age. It’s reassuring, after all, to think that a nectar we identify so
closely with life itself gets better with time; we’d like to think
we’ll age so gracefully. Something so new, so fresh out of the press,
something that actually tastes of fruit instead of macho tannins is
naturally considered inferior, worthy only of ignorant neophytes who
describe wines with meaningless mush words like “dry” or “smooth.”
Pablum for soda drinkers.

Another reason wine snobs hate nouveau is that it is
heavily marketed and has made one man, Georges Duboeuf, fantastically
rich. Having spent ourselves into near-penury stocking up on our fave
Barolos and late harvest Zinfandels, we resent anyone who is living
royally off our hard-earned dollars. Someone that successful should have
given us a snobbier wine, one that would receive at least 90 points
from Robert Parker. We prefer wines made by mythical “artisans” who
sacrifice all for quality and therefore earn mere pennies per bottle of
their exorbitantly priced and never-to-be-found Cabernet.

Beaujolais nouveau, on the other hand, is mass
produced and shipped out in truck convoys on the stroke of midnight the
third Thursday of November to be air-freighted around the world. Or so
the marketing types say. It may have been resting in our warehouses
for weeks, so far as we know. If a wine snob is somehow forced to drink
a glass of nouveau, he will invariably complain that it doesn’t taste
as “banana-y” as the 1996.

Who cares? Beyond the hype, Beaujolais nouveau is a
celebration of the harvest just completed. By pulling that cork this
Thursday, we can join in with French vignerons as they commemorate a
global Thanksgiving of sorts, the unofficial start to the wine lover’s
holiday season. And with our own national harvest celebration only a
week away, it’s noteworthy that nouveau’s grapey sweetness pairs
beautifully with turkey and all the trimmings €“ both in symbolism and

In fact, Beaujolais €“ nouveau or not €“ is one of
the most food-friendly of wines, even though it is under-represented in
our wine stores because of the bad image nouveau has given the lot. Or
because the French, who aren’t given to snobbishness when no Americans
are around, want to keep it for themselves.

Nouveau is no longer the first wine with this year’s
vintage, like the shiny new penny you find in your change drawer each
January. Some 1999 Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand have already
reached our shelves, and some U.S. wineries, most notably Beringer,
produce some nouveau from near-forgotten plots of Gamay and rush it to
market unencumbered by artificial deadlines such as the “third Thursday
of November.” And no, it is not the best wine for the price; but that
misses the point.

Wine is the bottled memories of summers past, and
there is no reason to wait to celebrate the most recent. So let’s
strike a blow against snobbery and in favor of sentimentality Thursday
as we pull that brand new, unstained cork from a bottle of Beaujolais
nouveau and raise a toast to all within earshot in honor of the final
vintage of the millennium.    

Let the holidays begin!

 Early issues of Dave McIntyre’s WineLine are archived on Robin Garr’s WineLover’s Page.

This entry was posted in Beaujolais, Weblogs, Wine and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Beaujolais – Everything Old is Nouveau Again

  1. Jeff Siegel says:

    Well done, Dave, as always. I miss that Beringer gamay.

  2. Jim Dolphin says:

    Thanks, Dave, for the reminder of days gone by when it was a tradition
    (in my group, at least) to drink the newly released BNouveau from
    release day through Thanksgiving weekend…sort of a kickoff to the

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