At one past midnight on the third Thursday of each November, from little villages and towns like Romanche-Thorins, over a million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau begin their journey through a sleeping France to Paris for immediate shipment to all parts of the world. Banners proclaim the good news: Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arriv! "The New Beaujolais has arrived!" One of the most frivolous and animated rituals in the wine world has begun.
By the time it is over, over 65 million bottles, nearly half of the region's total annual production, will be distributed and drunk around the world. It has become a worldwide race to be the first to serve to this new wine of the harvest. In doing so, it has been carried by motorcycle, balloon, truck, helicopter, Concorde jet, elephant, runners and rickshaws to get it to its final destination. It is amazing to realize that just weeks before this wine was a cluster of grapes in a growers vineyard. But by an expeditious harvest, a rapid fermentation, and a speedy bottling, all is ready at the midnight hour. By French law, Beaujolais Nouveau is to be released no earlier than the third Thursday of November.
Well, we aren't exactly doing a Beaujolais Nouveau, but "Nouveau" we are doing. When referring to wine, it just means "new", as in young, not aged. It's quite a tradition in France, so Jeff thought he'd try it. It's actually made in a different wine-making process than traditional wines that are made to be aged. The process is called "carbonic maceration".
Basically, rather than crush the grapes and start the fermentation in the juice (or juice and skins for red wine), you allow fermentation to happen to full clusters. The grapes basically ferment inside their skins, then burst when the carbon dioxide builds up enough. It is intended to leave lots of fruit flavors, and the wine is meant to be drunk young, while the "better" wine is aging. Thus "nouveau".
I'm not sure why they refer to the aging wine as "better" - I've had some really wonderful Nouveau's. I suppose they're referring to fact that properly aged wines will last longer in the bottle, and can be "cellared", where the shelf life of a Nouveau wine is relatively short.
So when you buy a bottle of our Nouveau, drink up! It's meant for the "now".
We'll have a Nouveau tasting and release when Jeff deems it to be ready, but not before the Third Thursday in November - don't want to break any laws!!
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For more information: dwinchell@OhioWines.org
About the author:
Donniella Winchell, Executive Director
Ohio Wine Producers Association