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'tis the season
Louis Jadot 2001 Beaujolais-Villages
Salmon Run 2001 New York Johannisberg Riesling
California Wine Club makes your holiday shopping easy!
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No, despite all the Santas and snowmen that are turning up in advertising everywhere, it's not yet time to deck the halls with boughs of holly. But it IS the season for Beaujolais Nouveau, followed a week later by Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. So let's devote today's article to a quick wine lover's look at both these traditions.
Beaujolais Nouveau - This topic comes up every year around this time, as one of the few occasions when wine breaks into the general news media. Over the past generation, the wine makers of Beaujolais in France have taken advantage of a once-obscure tradition to speed their cash flow: By rushing through an accelerated wine-making process, they can get the first wine of the new vintage to market as soon as six weeks after the grapes are picked. Most new wines aren't available until spring at the earliest, and some of the finest wines take much longer.
Beaujolais Nouveau ("Boe-zho-lay Noo-voe") goes on sale on the third Thursday of November (this year, that's Nov. 21, this coming Thursday), but it is actually shipped to distributors around the world in advance of that date, poised for uncorking promptly at midnight.
What should you expect of Beaujolais Nouveau? Don't count on a wine worthy of contemplation. When things go well and the fruit of the vintage is ripe, Nouveau can be fresh and light. In less favorable years, it may be thin, tart and sour. It really doesn't matter! It's a good excuse for a party, one last taste of summer and a symbolic preview of wines to come.
Have fun, enjoy the first taste of Europe's new vintage, and if you like, take advantage of the opportunity to order Nouveau by the glass so you can try two similar labels side-by-side and pick out their similarities and differences. But don't take it all too seriously, because this quick-to-market wine isn't really meant for that.
For more on Beaujolais, you might enjoy an online visit to Beaujolais Wines, the official website of the Beaujolais region:
Thanksgiving - Every year about this time I start getting hundreds of E-mail questions asking what wines to serve with the Thanksgiving feast (and with winter-holiday feasts around the world). And every year I take a fresh look at the question but usually come back to the basics.
First, bear in mind that festive meals can be difficult to match with wine because so many flavors must compete for the diner's attention. And turkey, the traditional Thanksgiving bird, can be problematic because it has both light breast meat and dark thigh and leg meat, each of which works differently with wine.
A lot of people forget seeking the perfect match and simply open something exceptional to celebrate the occasion. As I wrote last year at this time, "If you have a fine Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne or other special treasure that you've been saving for just the right time, this may be that time. Enjoy the meal. Enjoy the wine. Enjoy your family. There is no test, and scores will not be taken."
But if you prefer to make the effort to come up with a match that will truly complement the bird, allow me to repeat my annual "Cranberry Sauce Principle:" Just as cranberry sauce tames the slightly oily, slightly gamey flavors of turkey dark meat, so will a wine that offers a similar fruity-tart (and possibly barely sweet) flavor profile.
If you want a red, consider the Beaujolais that we've been discussing today. I recommend a quality Beaujolais-Villages or even one of the "Cru" Beaujolais that bear a specific village name like Morgon, Brouilly, Moulin-a-Vent, Fleurie and more; but a Nouveau is certainly seasonal and should work with the holiday bird.
If you prefer a white, I suggest an off-dry but acidic selection with plenty of fruit: A Vouvray from the Loire, a Gewurztraminer or perhaps best of all with the feast, a Riesling of good quality.
Today's tastings feature two tasty and affordable options that would do well: A Beaujolais-Villages from a respected Burgundian proprietor, and a Riesling from New York State. In my opinion, the cold but lake-protected regions of the Northeastern U.S., from New York's Finger Lakes across to Michigan, are much more suited to quality Riesling than the usual West Coast wine regions.Louis Jadot 2001 Beaujolais-Villages ($7.99)
Dark ruby color. Pure strawberry aromas, ripe and full, present a beautiful expression of the Gamay grape without the intrusive yeast-influenced "banana" aromas that afflict some producers' Beaujolais. Fresh and juicy strawberries and light, crisp acidity on the palate, simple but appealing, with faint earthy notes adding a hint of complexity. Widely available at low cost from a large producer, this remains a benchmark Beaujolais, good to have around to keep your bearings during Nouveau season - or to serve with Thanksgiving turkey. U.S. importer: Kobrand Corp., NYC. (Nov. 17, 2002)
FOOD MATCH: Too early in the season for roast turkey here, but it went spectacularly with farfalle (bowtie pasta) tossed with diced leftover roast pork and sliced olives in a mild and creamy goat cheese sauce.
VALUE: A good value in its usual $10 retail range, top value when discounted as it was here this week.
WEB LINKS: To visit the Louis Jadot Website, click to
The U.S. importer's site is at
where you can work down to a fact sheet on Jadot Beaujolais-Villages by clicking "Product Line," then "Jadot" under "Wine Brands," and finally "Beaujolais/Maconnais."
"Johannisberg Riesling," a term that's gradually being phased out under U.S. law, is simply another name for true Riesling (also sometimes labeled "White Riesling"). This one from the respected Dr. Konstantin Frank winery offers an excellent introduction to the grape and to the wines of New York State, showing real Riesling character in a simple but balanced wine. A clear, pale brass color, it offers light fruit and floral scents, peaches and a whiff of mango and white flowers. Soft fresh-fruit sweetness is well balanced with firm, crisp acidity in an appealing wine that could pass as a ringer in a tasting of German Rieslings. (Nov. 16, 2002)
FOOD MATCH: Riesling may be the ultimate food wine, marrying happily with a broad range of foods and flavors. It was very fine indeed with a simple autumn dinner of pork loin roasted with sauerkraut.
VALUE: Riesling in general remains a reliable value, and this one is appropriately priced in the $10 range.
WEB LINKS: You'll find the winery Website at
For an excellent overview of the New York State wine regions, visit "Uncork New York," Website of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation,
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The Wine Advisor's daily edition is currently distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
More GSM (Nov. 15)
Sincerest form of flattery (Nov. 13)
WT101: 2001 German Riesling (Nov. 11)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Porcini-rubbed mini-roast (Nov. 14)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Monday, Nov. 18, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.