European Editor Roger Voss weighs in on the 2009 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau.
The Beaujolais village of Theize.
Retro, nostalgic, or passé? Just what is Beaujolais Nouveau?
The Beaujolais producers, who officially launch the 2009 vintage at 12:01 a.m. Thursday November 19, aren't sure.
For casual social soirees, it's great: inexpensive and accompanied by its own long party history (read further down). A serious wine, though, this is not and even the producers think America's love for France's fun, light-bodied red has run its course.
We have, indeed, become increasingly disinterested, more blasé perhaps, by the Beaujolais Nouveau hype.
It started as a way for the locals to celebrate the end of the harvest; it went viral and moved to Paris for a chic moment, then London, then to us. And, onward, around the world. We have passed the midnight moment to Japan, China and other Asian countries. That's where most of this wine, that sometimes tastes great and sometimes tastes like banana, now goes.
Georges Duboeuf, the icon of Beaujolais and leader in the Nouveau stakes, spotted the trend. This year, the focus of his promotion in the United States will be on sponsoring food drives in Miami and New York. He's also going retro, back to the 1960s—when the New World was infatuated with Nouveau—invoking old VW "love" buses, flower power, hot pants and bikers.
But now a pause for the wine itself: Beaujolais's 2009 vintage is, according to some growers in the region just south of Burgundy, the best in 50 years. Certainly this year's crop of Nouveau has more weight than usual, more fruit and tannin. The quality is definitely higher. There is even the possibility of aging. (See tasting notes).
Still, buy it to drink now—any left by next week will surely be discounted in the stores. And before you Twitter a yawn, let's raise at least one glass to the fun, inexpensive side of wine.
Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé
84 Paul Beaudet 2009 Domaine Romy Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé (Beaujolais); $10. A real alternative to red Beaujolais Nouveau. An intense strawberry-flavored wine, with acidity and freshness. It has some weight as well, but mainly it is bright and lively. Imported by Ruby Wines Inc.
Beaujolais Nouveau Red
86 Louis Tête 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais); $15. Initially this one seems very dry, then richer black fruits come through, providing some weight. It finishes deliciously fruity. Imported by Bercut-Vandervoort & Co.
85 Albert Bichot 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais); $13. Crisply fresh, this shows some of the weight of 2009. It's a wine that has attractive red fruits, acidity and a good depth of bright tannins. The aftertaste features banana and spice. Imported by Eagle Eye Imports.
85 Joseph Drouhin 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais); $10. On the dry side, showing some lean tannins with the fruit and banana. There's a serious side to this wine and it needs a few minutes to breathe before offering up its ripe fruits and final jammy sweetness. Imported by Dreyfus Ashby & Co. Best Buy.
85 Mommessin 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais); $13. A fat style with good berry fruits and tannins. The fresh acidity is of course present, but fits well with the raspberry and cherry flavors. Screwcap. Imported by Boisset Family Estates.
85 Pierre Dupond 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais); $8. Light and fruity, this is a wine that flows easily and softly. Bright acidity and some weight broaden out the red plum and raspberry fruits. Imported by Exclusive Imports. Best Buy.
84 Georges Duboeuf 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais); $10. A wine that has some weight and good berry fruits. There is some concentration of red plums and strawberries, and the tannins and acidity are well under control. Banana comes through in the aftertaste. Imported by W.J. Deutsch & Sons.
84 Domaine du Vissoux 2009 Pierre Chermette Beaujolais Primeur (Beaujolais); $NA. For Primeur, read Nouveau in this wine that starts with a barnyard character, but that then turns into richness, a sign of the vintage. There is easy ripe cherry with a light touch of tannin. Bananas and acidity are there to finish. Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.
83 Paul Beaudet 2009 Domaine Romy Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais); $10. As with many Beaujolais Nouveau in 2009, the color here is dark, a bubbly purple. The fruit though is somewhat lean, the acidity too prominent. The wine has a deal of banana and redcurrant fruits. Imported by Ruby Wines Inc.
83 Bouchard Aîné et Fils 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais); $13. Strawberry flavors dominate the intense acidity and fresh fruit. There is a banana flavor that gives it sweetness, the light tannins just offering some contrast. Imported by Boisset Family Estates.
82 Labouré-Roi 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais); $10. A total bubble gum wine, from the first aromas right through the palate. That character gives sweetness to the acidity, and less obvious redcurrant flavors. Imported by Palm Bay International.
Beaujolais Villages Nouveau Red
87 Domaine de la Madone 2009 Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Beaujolais Villages); $12. A well-made, tightly structured wine emphasizing tannins and berry fruits. It would almost be worth aging, with its weight and dry texture. The fruit is solid and firm. Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Best Buy.
87 Louis Tête 2009 Le Pot Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Beaujolais Villages); $16. A relatively full-bodied wine, ripe and smothered in raspberry jam. It has a layer of banana flavor, acidity and even some tannins. Like drinking red berry juice. Imported by Bercut-Vandervoort & Co.
86 Domaine du Vissoux 2009 Cuvée Vieilles Vignes Primeur (Beaujolais Villages); $NA. A wine that brings out all the richness of 2009. It has great plum and red cherry flavors, touched with spice, then finished with sweet acidity. The concentration is there, along with final acidity. Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.
85 Albert Bichot 2009 Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Beaujolais Villages); $13. A wine that shows perhaps too much tannin for a Nouveau, and will probably be more accessible next year. It has a tight side, with the acidity fitting well into the ripe plum flavors. Imported by Eagle Eye Imports.
85 Georges Duboeuf 2009 Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Beaujolais Villages); $11. This has weight and some rich fruit. On top of this are ripe tannins, bananas and black cherry flavors. The acidity is present but balanced. Imported by W.J. Deutsch & Sons.
84 Paul Beaudet 2009 Château de Maladrets Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Beaujolais Villages); $12. The tannins and acidity complement each other well but the ensemble is overly influenced by the strong banana flavor. The berry acidity and the concentration help restore the balance. Imported by Gabriella Importers Inc.