Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrive!

Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived!

The annual celebration kicked off in Miami Beach yesterday with a bang — the revving of motorcycle engines. The Beaujolais Biker Brigade, made up of some of Miami’s best chefs and led by a man dressed up as the Georges Duboeuf bottle, escorted the 2008 vintage to the swanky Casa Casuarina for an uncorking ceremony with winemaker Stéphane Queralt.

According to French law, Beaujolais Nouveau may be released at 12:01am on the third Thursday in November. This year the red wine is green; instead of arriving by air freight, the wine was shipped earlier by boat, to help offset the wine’s carbon footprint.

Beaujolais Nouveau is made in the Burgundy region in France from 100% Gamay grapes that are picked by hand. It’s made to be drunk within 12 months of bottling. The price of a bottle is $10 to $12.

If you think Beaujolais Nouveau is too sweet and fruity, you may want to try this year’s vintage. I was pleasantly surprised with my first taste. There is more black fruit with flavors of red currants, wild strawberries and some peach, with a hint of spice. A nice amount of tannins to give it a fuller mouth feel. I spoke with Stéphane who told me the more complex taste is the result of a difficult growing season.

AG: How is the 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau different than the 2007 vintage?

SQ: I think this year was quite different compared to last year. We had a difficult spring and summertime and were lucky at the end because we had 20 beautiful days just before the harvest. We harvested quite late compared to the other years, just because of the bad weather. That gave us the possibility to have a beautiful balance for the Gamay grape, with good acidity and sugar and with a good maturity.

Because the vintage wasn’t so easy at the beginning we had low yields. I think it’s the lowest yield since 1975. It gave us a wine which is darker and which has more concentration. We have more of the black fruits – black currant, blueberry – and the tannins are tannins of a serious wine.

AG: What do you think of the response to this year’s wine?

SQ: I noticed that people were a little bit surprised by the quality of the wine because they noticed that compared to ‘07, ‘06, it was not a candy wine. This year it may be a little bit more serious with more of the black fruit and the good tannins.

AG: What would you recommend pairing with Beaujolais Nouveau?

SQ: For me, Nouveau is first a wine for a party. That’s why it’s fun for me to come to Miami and party with this wine because that’s a perfect match! The good thing with the Beaujolais Nouveau is that it’s versatile. It’s a wine that smells like white wine and can taste like red wine. It’s a red wine which you can chill and is perfect for fish. It’s good for white meat, like turkey for Thanksgiving, for example. It’s good to taste the other wines of Beaujolais because Beaujolais is not only Nouveau, Beaujolais can be as a serious cru, like Moulin-á-Vent or Morgon.

AG: What do you think makes a good wine?

SQ: First you have to be in a good condition, a good place, good friends, good ambiance, no worries, and that makes already 50% of the quality of the wine. After that you have of course the quality of the wine itself. For me, it is its elegance and fruit. A good wine is a wine that you want to drink again shortly after your first glass. I know some people think that a very strong, heavy, big wine is also very good wine, but for me the quality of a good wine is to be drinkable and to make you want a second glass.

AG: Have you already started looking ahead to next year?

SQ: It’s early but it’s very important to look ahead. We were lucky to have the leaves on the vines a long time after the harvest because the leaves can give us a lot of energy for the spring, when the vines wake up and go to produce the new cycle of the vine. This year we noticed that the leaves stayed a long time after the harvest, so that’s a good first sign for the next year.

AG: Will you try to have these black fruit flavors in next year’s Beaujolais Nouveau?

SQ: It depends on the crop and the maturity of the grape. Those are things that you cannot control. You’ll have to wait to see what the weather is and every year in our country is different. That’s why it’s interesting because you have to adjust your winemaking and the harvest, looking at what you have in your vineyard. It’s a full time job from spring until now.