This Thursday is the 3rd Thursday of November. Not a big thing for most people but for promoters of Beaujolais, it’s a huge money day.
That’s the day that the Nouveau Beaujolais is released. What started by some smart marketing winemakers as a race to be the first person to bring their wine to Paris became a worldwide phenomenon. Shipments of new Beaujolais are put on jets and whisked to every corner of the world where stores are proud to display the sign :Le Nouveau Beaujolais est Arrivé.
For many wine lovers (myself included) it’s much ado about nothing. Beaujolais Nouveau is scarcely better than grape juice. It’s wine that’s quickly fermented, then bottled and shipped out. It’s intended to be consumed within the year, or maybe you can take a bath in it.
What it does is give Beaujolais a bad name. It’s like eating ravioli for the first time out of a can and commenting that it’s not that good. Beaujolais needs to be judged not by its lowest denominator but rather by the apogee. And that high point are the cru Beaujolais.
Cru Beaujolais is what is produced in the 10 different designated villages. The grape is still the Gamay Noir but the attention to terroir is paramount and in the hands of a good knowledgeable winemaker, wonderful wines can be produced.
I recently conducted a tasting of cru Beaujolais for our local wine club. We had 6 different examples of what good, even great, Beaujolais taste like. We started with a Beaujolais Blanc for the aperitif. Made from the Chardonnay, it could pass for a white Burgundy from nearby Macon or Pouilly-Fuissée.
Good cru Beaujolais is not inexpensive; they range from $20 to over $40, but that’s relatively inexpensive if you compare with nearby Burgundy.It’s a completely different taste experience with a different grape, but a good cru Beaujolais can provide immense satisfaction. Very fruit forward, top cru Beaujolais have structure with a backbone of acidity and soft tannins.
The top 2 wines at the tasting were the 2017 Domaine des Marrans Fleury ($26) and the 2018 Lapierre Morgon. Of all the cru Beaujolais, Morgon has the most body, color and structure. The Lapierre was a fine example of what the Gamy Noir can attain, and would benefit from some aging. The average age of the vines is 70 years, grown in granite soil, it underwent semi-carbonic maceration and was barrel-aged for 9 months. It had delightful aromas of cherry, licorice and violets.
So this Thursday, instead of rushing to your wineshop for a bottle of the ubiquitous Beaujolais Nouveau, ask for a cru Beaujolais from any of the 10 villages.