Thursday November 19, 2009 is Beaujolais Nouveau day, the day when France's wine laws allow the vin de primeur to be rushed out to the waiting masses.
The wine of the Gamay grape barely has a chance get a cork put in it before being hurled out of the wineries at the stroke of midnight on the third Thursday of November. There is only time for six weeks of fermentation, so if you've ever related to the Steve Martin line from The Jerk - "Bring us some fresh wine." - this may be for you. Beloved by many as an unpretentious and easy-to-drink wine, it is also frowned upon by some as an immature, not-ready-for-prime-time player.
I spoke with wine expert Nicolas Soufflet to get a real Frenchman's perspective.
RF: First, is this a wine we should be looking forward to at all?
NS: "Due to the nature of Beaujolais Nouveau, it is obviously a very simple wine. This does not necessary mean that it's a bad wine. The marketing of it these past few years has brought a lot of pretty insipid juice to the forefront, your typical hangover wine if you ask me. There are still a few who make pleasurable Beaujolais Nouveau, among them a small producer, Pierre-Marie Chermette Domaine du Vissoux. He's one of those guys people have started relying on for a decent bottle."
RF: What about a mature Beaujolais? What do you like?
NS: "I personally like the Beaujolais Crus. My favorites are from the Morgon appellation, possibly the darkest of them. They are evidence that when treated and aged properly, Gamay can be an elegant grape and deliver good complexity and personality. The number of Beaujolais Crus are up to ten now, with Régnié having been promoted from its previous Beaujolais-Villages status in 1988."
RF: How important an event is Beaujolais Nouveau in France? Is it really a big deal?
NS: "In France, the Beaujolais Nouveau Day is a pretty big thing. Mostly, it provides the French people with exactly what they want - an excuse to go to the cafe or bistro around the corner and mingle while enjoying a glass of wine. Or two. Or five. I think the tradition goes back to the 1950's. The style became very popular in the 1960s and in 1985 the third Thursday of November was established by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine as the national release date. The funny thing is, out of my own experience, the last time I did it I started with a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau and spent the rest of the evening drinking something else - to spare my stomach and my head, mainly. You see, when a wine is as young as a Beaujolais Nouveau - even when it is good - it is usually very acidic. You tend to feel it in the morning. "
Beaujolais Nouveau is obviously a tradition in France, but there are a few opportunities for Southern California Gamay lovers to get their grape on.
WineVineandDine and Victors Square Restaurant have a Beaujolais Nouveau dinner planned for November 19th at 7 p.m. with food prepared by chef Luis Pimienta. Five different Beaujolais Nouveau wines will be served, along with a six-course dinner. The price is $80 per person, which includes food, wine, tax and tip. Victors Square Restaurant is located at 1917 N. Bronson Avenue, north of Franklin. Call to make reservations - they are a must. 818.429.6770.
Beaujolais Nouveau will be paired with some crepes or escargots at one of four Creme de la Crepe locations in the South Bay. It's November 19th from 6 to 9 p.m., and costs $25.
Rosso Wine Shop in Glendale has a November 19th celebration featuring Louis Tete's 2009 offering and some Franco-inspired food. It's a $10 party and runs from 5 p.m. until closing.
Beaujolais Passions will be at the Petersen Automotive Museum this year. The 7 p.m. - midnight event will feature tastes of the 2009 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau along with other wines and food. Dancing, fun and networking are promised, along with the displays of the museum. Admission is $20 advance, $30 at the door, and that includes one glass of the 2009 release. Additional wine and culinary treats will be available for purchase.
Francophone Fest uses the day as a good excuse to bring together the French, French speakers or France lovers in an event that is presented "under the auspices of the consuls of France, Belgium, Lebanon and Quebec." It may sound like you need consulate license plates on your car to get in, but it's actually open to all who have $20, $30 at the door. Franophone Fest will be at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel November 19th from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Entertainment by French Tuesdays.
Fancifull Gift Baskets will bring an old-school celebration to Los Angeles. November 20th (a day after the actual celebration day) from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Fancifull will pour a handcrafted wine from a small producer as well as other wines from their winter list. They will also share samples from L'Artisan du Chocolat truffles, Maya Olive Oil, Soledad Goat Cheese, Nutland Nuts and John Kelly Chocolates. All this for $10 in Los Angeles means you get the crowd without the papparrazi. Reservations are a must. Visit Fancifull Gift Baskets to do so.
If you will be in Las Vegas for Beaujolais Nouveau day, or that weekend, Paris Las Vegas has plans to celebrate at their various restaurants through Sunday, November 22nd.