In a few weeks, Beaujolais Nouveau is going to hit the shelves. It may or may not be your cup of tea — or more aptly, glass of wine — but I always welcome its arrival for the single reason that it reintroduces Beaujolais into people’s wine psyches.
Beaujolais Nouveau is light and fruity and will age, at best, only a few weeks beyond the new year. Introduced on the third Thursday of November, it celebrates the end of the harvest and is made from grapes picked that fall. Good producers make better versions than lesser makers but as any vintner will tell you in Beaujolais, it is not made from top tier fruit, and one of its original purposes was to get rid of excess grapes not used for other wines.
So, what is made from the better fruit?
Made from gamay noir, Beaujolais is capable of making complex and nuanced wines. Some can age a bit, but the spicy, vibrant quality of gamay shines through when the wine is just a few years old. That said, some wines — especially from the communes of Morgon and Moulin A Vent — could age longer.
Beaujolais is a great wine to drink at this time of year as it is a superb match with seasonal produce such as pumpkin, winter squash and cranberries. Here are three great examples:
Trenel Juliénas ‘L’esprit de Marius Sangouard,’ 2005: Even though this appellation has 60 producers, the wines from Juliénas are relatively hard to find in the U.S. Trenel was founded in 1928 and has since become a mini empire with holdings in most of the Beaujolais crus and parts of Burgundy. Brimming over with fresh cherries and floral overtones, this is a tasty treat. Suggested retail: $18
Pavillon de Chavannes Cöte de Brouilly, ‘Cuvée des Ambassades,’ 2008: Paul Jambon was one of the heirs to the Pavillon de Chavannes estate, having received two-thirds of the original property and half of the additional land that was purchased over time. This Côtes de Brouilly has a lovely assortment of raspberry, strawberry, watermelon and pomegranate flavors but never comes off as sweet or overly fruity. Superbly balanced, it is a pleasure to drink. Suggested retail: $21
Paul Janin et Fils Moulin-A-Vent, ‘Clos du Tremblay,’ 2006: Le Domaine des Vignes du Tremblay was founded by Paul Janin’s grandparents and the vines they planted 60 years ago are used to make this gorgeous Moulin-A-Vent. Full-bodied with a core of black cherry fruit, floral overtones, a little spice and a dirtlike earthy base — meet the antithesis of Beaujolais Nouveau. Suggested retail: $22
Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.