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 A taste of Nouveau (and more)

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A taste of Nouveau (and more)

For all of my trash-talking commentary about Beaujolais Nouveau in Monday's edition, my true colors emerged last night when, bellying up to a brand-new wine bar in my neighborhood, I spotted a just-arrived Nouveau on the by-the-glass list.

Naturally, I couldn't resist giving it a try.

And if the truth be told, the stuff wasn't bad. The fiery summer of 2003 in Europe appears to have been a good thing in the vineyards, at least as far as Beaujolais Nouveau is concerned. In contrast with cooler, damper seasons, this year's heat fostered full ripening and an early harvest, which offered the Beaujolais producers two advantages: Luscious fruit and a little extra time between picking the grapes and moving out the bottles.

While Nouveau is often thin and sour, my first sample of this year's crop - the standard offering from Georges Duboeuf, whose massive production has earned him the nickname "King of Beaujolais" - rose well above my diminished expectations for the genre. Here's a brief tasting report:

Georges Duboeuf 2003 Beaujolais Nouveau ($5/glass restaurant price)
Clear cherry-red, it shows characteristic Beaujolais aromas of ripe wine grapes, a whiff of volatile acidity and a hint of spice. Surprisingly full and ripe; juicy and almost sweet strawberry fruit is well balanced with tart, zingy acidity.

Its simple, fruit-forward ripeness made it a better candidate for a pre-dinner quaff than a serious companion with food, but it made a nice salute to the summer just past. With dinner, though, our party moved on to other wines, taking advantage of the tasting-bar setting to sample single glasses and half-size tasting portions of three other reds on the list, all from the U.S. West Coast. I'll round out today's article with a quick tasting report:

Powers 2001 Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon ($5.25/glass)
Blackish-purple in the glass. Black-fruit and pleasant leathery aromas carry over to the palate in a fresh and balanced flavor, ripe black plums and "sweet" leather, faint smooth tannins becoming a little more pronounced in the finish. Good food wine, the consensus pick as best of the evening by our group of four. First-rate match with a rich veal stew with a red-wine and tomato base.

Leaping Lizard 2001 Napa Valley Merlot ($6/glass)
Black, opaque. Deep plum aromas framed by a pleasantly herbaceous "leafy" character. Ripe tart-cherry fruit, with a bit of herbaceousness catching up with plummy fruit as the wine crosses the palate. Worked well with medium-rare steak Bordelaise.

Rabbit Ridge 2001 Paso Robles Primitivo ($6.50/glass)
No explanation why this California item uses the Italian varietal name for Zinfandel, but whatever its ethnic origin, while it may have been the priciest of the evening's four wines it was also the most disappointing. Overwhelming oak juice, vanilla and dill, overwhelms any hint of fruit.

(For the benefit of any of you who live in or are traveling through my part of the world, by the way, the wine bar I mentioned is the brand-new L&N Wine Bar and Bistro in Louisville, an attractive new spot in a historic 1850s house at 1765 Mellwood Ave., where the Clifton neighborhood segues into Butchertown. Last night's dinner was a "soft" opening for practice; the wine-bar/restaurant opens to the public on Monday.)

If you took advantage of the opportunity to try one or more of the Beaujolais Nouveau last night or today, I hope you'll share your impressions. Feel free to join in a round-table online conversation on today's article in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group.
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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.

Friday, Nov. 21, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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