Peace, Love and Beaujolais Nouveau

At a celebration filled with flowers, tie-dye and a whole lot of groovyness and love, the 2009 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau was uncorked Thursday in Miami Beach.

Au Pied de Cochon was the setting for this year’s 60’s themed uncorking ceremony.  The wine was brought to the restaurant in a VW van, escorted by a brigade of tie-dye clad chefs on motorcycles.

Beaujolais Nouveau comes from the Burgundy region of France.  It is made with 100% Gamay, a thin skinned grape that makes a red wine with lower tannin levels.

This year’s vintage is being heralded as the best vintage in the last 50 years, thanks to perfect weather and growing conditions.  It was a welcome change from the 2008 growing season, during which bad weather forced a later harvest and resulted in the lowest yield in more than 30 years.

Decked out in a long wig and purple sunglasses, winemaker Stéphane Queralt opened the first bottle. 

Watch the uncorking ceremony below

My first taste of the 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau came from that big bottle, and I can definitely say it is the best vintage I’ve tasted.  Other wine afficionados at the uncorking ceremony, many with several more years of wine experience than me, agreed that this is truly a special vintage.

The 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau is bursting with flavor.  The wine is deep purple-red in color, closer to a Malbec or Syrah rather than the typically strawberry-red Gamay.  Unlike previous vintages which have been candy sweet, this vintage has more substance with juicy raspberry, blueberry and cherry notes and a hint of spice on the finish.  The tannins are intense for Gamay but still soft, balanced out by good acidity.

Released each year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, the Beaujolais Nouveau is an ideal pairing for turkey; this year’s vintage can stand up to more hearty meats like lamb or beef.  Best of all, it’s an affordable accompaniment at $9 a bottle.

I spoke with winemaker Stéphane Queralt who was thrilled to be able to share what he calls a “dream vintage.”

The Amateur Gastronomer: Why is the 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau being called the best vintage in the last 50 years?

Stéphane Queralt: It’s very exceptional when you work in wine to have 100% of the grapes be totally perfect.  And when you have this perfect maturity you know just before you make the wine that it will be an outstanding vintage.

Georges Duboeuf who is 76 years old says this is the best vintage he’s ever seen.  In Beaujolais, people who are 90 years old told me that they only tasted wine like this in 1947.  If this kind of vintage happens every 60 years, you can imagine that we will not see it again in our life.  So I’m very proud to see this beautiful wine today and have people discover this beautiful vintage.

AG: Last year you told me about 2008 being a particularly difficult year for Beaujolais.  Was this year a relief in comparison?

SQ: Yes of course!  It’s a holiday making wine with this kind of vintage.  When you make wine, 80% comes from the vineyard, 10% comes from the winemaker and 10% is something you cannot control.  So when you have good grapes it’s very difficult to make a bad wine.

AG: How does the 60’s theme tie in with the Beaujolais Nouveau?

SQ: Peace, love, sharing, happiness — for me this is the definition of wine.  I don’t like the people who make wine seem complicated.  Wine must be something very simple.

This kind of wine is fantastic because it’s the wine for parties, the wine for friendship, the wine to share with family.  It’s a fantastic way to make people happier and to share good times in their lives.

AG: It’s an extraordinary achievement to have a wine that’s being called the best vintage in 50 years.  But what does that mean for next year’s Beaujolais Nouveau?

SQ: That’s always the problem with outstanding vintages.  I say you can die now after drinking the wine because you don’t know what will happen.  It’s like a lottery, you cannot predict nature.  Maybe we can have a better wine next year, you never know!

By French law, Beaujolais Nouveau is always released on the third Thursday of November all over the world.  It is meant to be drunk young, within 12 months of bottling, and should be served slightly cool (about 55º F), to enhance the fruit flavors.

Click here for the 2008 Beaujolais Nouveau uncorking ceremony