Every year on the third Thursday of November the historical Province of Beaujolais, a French wine producing region, releases its seasonal Beaujolais Nouveau that finds itself to the lips of most wine drinkers during the holiday season.This tradition dates to the 1980s when Georges Duboeuf, the founder of France’s Les Vins Georges Duboeuf, began a marketing campaign that popularized its production.
“Duboeuf came up with the idea to have the first wine of the harvest on the entire planet,” said Bryan Della Volpe, the wine and cigar manager at The Gourmet Shop in Five Points. “So Beaujolais Nouveau is the first grapes that they harvest. They turn it into wine as fast as they can and get it out.”The “hero” of Beaujolais is the Gamay grape, which Della Volpe likens to pinot noir. “So if people enjoy pinot noir then Beaujolais is a very easy transition for them to make,” he said.Della Volpe describes the flavor of the Beaujolais Nouveau as a light, fruit forward wine.“You get aromas of strawberry, sometimes banana even,” he said. “It’s a very uncomplicated red. It’s a red wine that appeals to many different types of drinkers.”
As far as the wine’s popularity, Della Volpe has seen a dip in sales from the days when people would throw Beaujolais Nouveau events the day the wine came out each year. But he said there are people who still look forward to the release, buying a case so they can give out bottles for the holidays.“They make a great gift,” he said, noting that the Gourmet Shop – one of many retailers around the Columbia area that sells the wine – bought 10 cases of this year’s product. “It’s a kick off to the holiday season. It’s released just before Thanksgiving so people are thinking about going to holiday parties. What better to bring than a bottle of wine? It makes a very easy gift. It’s a social wine.”And just to be clear, the Beaujolais wine region in France produces more than just the Nouveau. Just south of Burgundy – another historically famous French wine growing region – yearly produced Beaujolais wines are very similar, given that they share a climate and soil types. Della Volpe notes that the Gourmet Shop carries eight Beaujolais offerings year around: six reds and two whites.“They’re produced in the traditional wine-making method where they’re aged a little longer and there’s more (grape) skin contact so they’re more serious, a little more complex,” he said. “But very comparable to a really nice pinot noir.”His favorite year-around Beaujolais is the Lucien Lardy, “Moulin-A-Vent” which he describes as being “more muscular, more full-bodied. You get some smokiness, a little earthiness along with that black cherry fruit that you expect from pinot noir’s and burgundy’s.”So what can you expect from this year’s Nouveau if you haven’t tried it already?“This year it was a nice finish,” said Della Volpe. “It has a little more structure than some other years but is still very light. With Nouveau you get more red cherry and almost strawberry. So think light red fruit.”