These days, Beaujolais Nouveau is everywhere but in my glass. It’s 10 a.m. and I’m dashing to get this post up before you head to the grocery store with your mile-long Thanksgiving dinner list.
Unless you’ve been laser-focused on Black Friday hype, you’ve probably noticed a surge of advertising space dedicated to the arrival of France’s Beaujolais Nouveau. Much like a visit from a favorite tía or cousin, the landing of this colorfully packaged wine on our shores is heralded with fanfare and buzz. Tens of thousands of dollars go into marketing campaigns and fancy grocery store displays. Why all the fuss? One word: Timing.
Unlike most wines, Beaujolais Nouveau is ready to drink almost immediately after fermentation. You may recall that fermentation is the process by which the sugar in the grape juice is gobbled up by hungry yeast organisms, resulting in…alcohol! Without fermentation, all we’d have is grape juice. A huge volume of Beaujolais is bottled weeks after fermentation, exported from France et voilà, on grocery store shelves starting, like clockwork, the third Thursday in November.
Before we go any further, I should note that red Beaujolais Nouveau is the wine that triggers all the excitement this time of year. Beaujolais (sans the Nouveau) is a red or white wine, also from the Beaujolais region of France, that you can find year-round.
Red Beaujolais wines are generally made from the Gamay grape using a technique called carbonic maceration. I’ll explain: Carbonic maceration is a type of fermentation that happens inside an individual, unbroken grape, with no help from yeast or bacteria. All you need to know about carbonic maceration is that it gives wine a tropical fruit aroma, which can be a blessing or a curse.
For a while, Beaujolais got a bad rap from the wine community. It was considered too fruity, too thin, too mass-produced, too unsophisticated, and on and on…In fact, some folks still feel that way.
One of the great things about Beaujolais, however, is that you can serve it with various kinds of food, especially at Thanksgiving. Since the wine is not aged in wood, there are barely any tannins to overpower your turkey (the lack of tannins, by the way, is one reason the wine won’t age well). Also, the alcohol content is light to moderate, so the wine pairs well with spicier foods (hello, Thanksgiving tamales!).
And for you budding Julia Childs and Jacques Pepins out there, you can cook with it. Use it to make anything from poached pears to chicken wings. Talk about versatility! And versatility is what brings me to shut down the computer and drive 40 miles south to assume the role of sous chef to my father’s phenomenal Thanksgiving feast.
May you enjoy a flavorful, fun, fantástico Thanksgiving, and raise a glass of [fill in your favorite wine here] in gratitude for all of the blessings in your life. ¡Salud!