- 01 Nov 2018
- Camilla Wood
The Conduit Magazine - November Article
by Camilla Wood, Owner/MD The Somerset Wine Company
“Remember, Remember the 15th of November!”
As nations we harbour a wealth of curious traditions… take Spain’s Tomatino Festival in late August where locals find sport in pelting each other with 120 tons of ripe tomatoes; Indians use the Hindu Spring Festival off Holi to do much the same with paint pigments, unleashing their joy for the new season by firing water guns, adding to the riot of colours and chaos. Here in the UK the tradition of burning a home-made effigy, to recall Mr Fawkes, on a bonfire sends a covert message to anyone considering overthrowing Parliament. And don’t get me started on American Halloween, the most unnecessary annual display of goulish and gruesome bad taste.
Which brings me aptly on to Beaujolais Nouveau! November is the month which marks the release of this famously young wine, light and fruity, but more often thin, acidic and bubble-gum (even banana) flavoured, an inspired marketing exercise to alleviate the region of its excess grapes. It is released to a strict embargo on the third Thursday of November, on the stroke of midnight. The uncorking of bottles in France is marked by parties, fireworks, the rolling of barrels through the centre of Lyon and other festivities neatly timed to encourage a long weekend of vinous celebration.
Beaujolais Nouveau belongs to a category of wines called ‘vins primeurs’ meaning any wine sold in the same year it is harvested, soon after fermentation is completed. This also explains the term ‘en primeur’, loosely translated as ‘wine futures’ - a method of purchasing wines early whilst still in barrel, particularly prevalent in premium regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy, where a customer seeks an opportunity to invest in fine wine before it is bottled.
Beaujolais Nouveau, made from the Gamay grape widely grown in the Beaujolais region, has an easy ‘buvabilité’, due largely to a process called carbonic maceration, or whole berry fermentation, which allows the juice to be extracted from the grapes with a minimum of tannins. The resulting wine is light bodied, zesty, with flavours of red fruits and hints of bubble-gum - best drunk chilled, it is eminently more quaffable on a hot summer’s day than in mid November.
According to The Oxford Wine Encyclopedia, the tradition of drinking Beaujolais so young dates from the 19th century, when “the year’s wine would complete its fermentation in cask while en route to nearby Lyon, where the new wine provided a direct link with village life in the Beaujolais hills”.
In the 1970s and 80s, ‘the Beaujolais Nouveau' became hugely popular outside France, with canny marketeers turning the race to export the newly bottled wine into a hotly contested event itself. Means of transport for the bottles allegedly included elephant, Concorde, and a hot-air balloon. Leading producer Georges Dubeouf added to the excitement with his bottle tagline “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!”.
Over half of the 28 million bottles produced are consumed in France, but other big markets include Japan (where they bathe in it!), Germany and the US. Here in the UK the stampede to sample this rather uninteresting wine in bars and pubs across the country on the 3rd Thursday in November has dwindled dramatically with around 750,000 bottles imported in 1999 to around 100,000. Well, with all the variety of wines on offer now in the UK, who wouldn’t prefer a glass of full-bodied, structured Malbec on a chilly November night?
In the shop you won’t find any Beaujolais Nouveau but try instead better quality organic Beaujolais Villages (Domaine de la Couvette) or if your pocket allows, one of the wonderful Beaujolais Crus (highest quality vineyards named for the village of origin) such as Morgon (Cote de Py by Jean Fouillard - great rival to a double-the-price Burgundy), Fleurie (Gry-Sablon), Chiroubles (Domaine des Marrans) and newly arrived Régnié (Domaine de la Colette on special at £14) perfect with a plate of roast turkey and stuffing - but more on that next month!
TEL: 01963 548228
email@example.comThe Somerset Wine Company Ltd.
The Deli Castle Cary
Pitchings House, Market Place,
Castle Cary, Somerset BA7 7AL
Mob: 07717 396635 Shop: 01963 548228
Opening Hours: Mon - Sat 9am - 6pm
All other times by appointment
LUX Guide 2017 'Best West Country Wine & Spirits Purveyor'
Runner Up as 'Newcomer of The Year' in the Drinks Retailing Awards 2016
Finalist in Muddy Stilettos 'Best Somerset Wine Merchant' 2016 & 2017