[Image: Bunch of Grapes]
Today's Wine Tasting Note

© Copyright 1997 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.


Two Nouveau Beaujolais
Nouveau
Bouchard Nouveau label from the Paris Kiosque page.

All the excitement and news coverage about the annual release of the Nouveau Beaujolais every November might mislead the unwary into thinking that it's a great wine. It's not, of course. Rushed from harvest to the winery to bottles so it can be put on the market only six weeks or so after the grapes are picked, it's generally a fruity, frothy and light potion that's no better than it should be. Intended to be drunk up immediately, it's best consumed within a few months of bottling, at the most; and if you ever see a bottle of the last year's vintage (or older) still on sale, pass it by -- with a mental note that the retailer who'd attempt such a scam is not to be trusted.

Although nouveau or primeur wine making -- wines produced quickly for early sale -- is an old practice in France, the commercial marketing of the Nouveau Beaujolais is a relatively new phenomenon, having grown up mostly in the past 20 years or so. In the early days, the new wine was literally held in the wineries by law until Nov. 21, when, amid great publicity, trucks would race from Beajolais north to Paris, competing for the "honor" of being the first to reach the city to slake the thirst of eager wine lovers waiting for a taste of it.

Nowadays, though, the market is much larger and more commercial, and the wines are shipped around the world a week or more in advance of the official release date (which has been moved from Nov. 21 to the third Thursday) and held "in bond," not legally available for sale, until the official day.

Being in New York City on Nouveau Day this year, I had access to an unusual selection of labels, so I decided to bypass the major, widely available brands like Duboeuf, Bouchard and Mommessin in favor of a couple of tiny, limited-production labels. I'm glad I did. Both of these proved unusually tasty, more full-bodied and structured than the usual run-of-the-Nouveau:

Jean-Jacques et Sylvaine Martin 1997 Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau ($8.99)
Very dark reddish-purple, almost inky. Grapey scent with a whiff of cotton candy but none of the typical Nouveau "banana" aroma. Full, peppery fruit, dry and tart, surprising structure. More of a "real" wine than you'd expect in a Nouveau, and a good value. No importer's label. (Nov. 20, 1997)

Pierre et Paul Durdill 1997 Beaujolais Nouveau "Les Grandes Coassis" ($7.99)
Bright reddish-purple, almost a day-glo color. Delicate aroma, a whiff of fresh strawberries. Ripe strawberries and, yes, banana, in a tart, dry flavor, fruity and delicious. Importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, N.Y. (Nov. 20, 1997)

All my wine-tasting reports 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.

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