Beaujolais Has Arrived

The 2005 French Beaujolais Nouveau wines have landed in the U.S.


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Although the first wines from the 2005 vintage arrived on U.S. soil months ago, they were from the southern hemisphere, and arrived without fanfare. But on Thursday, November 17, the first French wines from the new vintage went on sale in markets all over the world.

At New York's Restaurant Daniel, a trio of dancing girls waggled their skirts for the assembled trade and press to herald the new vintage of George Duboeuf's Beaujolais Nouveau. Once evening fell, Les Compagnons du Beaujolais, an order of Beaujolais supporters, traveled from bistro to bistro, singing and pouring wine for interested onlookers.

But marketing hijinks aside, Nouveau seems to have become less of an event over the past several years. Sales have been declining, merchants aren't floor-stacking it as much, and it no longer seems to turn up on every Thanksgiving table. For the past five years, Germany and Japan have easily surpassed the U.S. in Nouveau consumption. On the other hand, Michael Aaron of Sherry-Lehmann Wine and Spirits reports that sales this year are up 50 percent over last year.

Franck Duboeuf describes the 2005 nouveau as "very generous, well balanced, with rich structure." It was by all accounts a beneficent year, with warm, dry weather for much of the summer. Yields are lower than in 2004, but not as low, nor are the grapes as ripe, as in the almost unnatural 2003s. Because of the fine weather, Duboeuf suggests that consumers try several different producers' wines, as "almost everyone's is good or excellent." Just in case you don't have time to try a dozen for yourself, we've done the heavy lifting for you. Here are our impressions.

86 Georges Duboeuf 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau; $10. Shows more weight and structure than most, with scents of dark berries, followed by a mélange of ripe fruit flavors. Dry and silky on the finish. Best Buy.

85 Jean-Paul Brun 2005 Terres Dorées L'Ancien Beaujolais Nouveau; $12. Briary and more complex than most, with mixed berry flavors that finish tart and refreshing.

85 Mommessin 2005 Beaujolais Villages Nouveau; $13. A bit lean and tart, but with a sinewy strength and great freshness to the crisp cherry flavors.

84 Joseph Drouhin 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau; $13. Floral on the nose, then adds pear and cherry flavors. In keeping with the house style, this is light yet flavorful.

84 Louis Tête 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau; $11. Mixed berries on the nose, accented by cocoa. Flavors turn a bit sappy and resinous, finishing with fresh touches of mint.

83 Bouchard Aîné & Fils 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau; $11. Subdued on the nose, with slightly raisiny fruit but a full, slightly creamy mouthfeel.

83 Jean-Paul Brun 2005 Terres Dorées L'Ancien Vieilles Vignes Beaujolais Nouveau; $13. A bit different, with complex aromas of herb, tea and leather that didn't appeal to all tasters. Cherry, herb and strawberry fruit on the palate finish on a herbal note.

83 Le Petit Coq 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau; $15. Fresh and grapy, with hints of banana and raspberries that finish a bit hard and drying.

82 Mommessin 2005 Beaujolais Nouveau; $11. Earthy and herbal, with less fruit than we'd like and a tart finish. Pleasantly plump, but that's where its charms end.

And an Italian "ringer:"

85 Mionetto 2005 Vino Novello (Marca Trevigiana); $10. This blend of Corvina (the main grape in Valpolicella) and Merlot is a nice variation on the Nouveau theme. Hints of coffee and bubble gum add nuance to juicy cherry and plum flavors. Best Buy.


What is Beaujolais Nouveau?

Beaujolais Nouveau is made from the same Gamay grape as regular Beaujolais, but vinified using a method called carbonic maceration. The grapes aren't crushed, but instead ferment under a blanket of carbon dioxide for several days, after which the juice is pressed off and fermentation finished. The result is a light, fruity wine best enjoyed young.

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