Beaujolais Nouveau 2011—A Citywide Celebration! (Plus Free Tickets to the Poshest Nouveau Party)

It’s here, it’s here! Well, almost. The first wine of the 2011 harvest, the Beaujolais Nouveau, will be here Thursday. There are a rash of parties to celebrate it, and we’re giving away two sets of tickets to the poshest party here on Dara & Co.

As soon as we discuss the backlash, that is.

What? How could a party to celebrate a harvest have a backlash? These are divisive times, I guess.

Here’s the story on the Beaujolais Nouveau: Beaujolais is a region in France—they don’t have states, but you could say that as Iowa is a region in the U.S., Beaujolais is a region in France. Just like Iowa, Beaujolais is a farming region, but what they farm is grapes, specifically wine grapes, Gamay wine grapes. These grapes grow fast, typically they need only 100 days from their spring flowering till they’re ready for harvest, and one of the most amusing harvest rituals in France is when they get those grapes, make them into wine in the most rapid way possible, and open the bottles on the third Thursday of November.

So these bottles, which will be appearing everywhere next week, they were grapes when you were reading advance State Fair coverage, they were being picked and crushed when you were at the State Fair, and now they’re here. Think of this wine as the French equivalent of an Iowa corn-feed. As far as seasonal rituals, I love the Nouveau Beaujolais. To me it goes right into the pantheon of seasonal joys alongside spring asparagus, summer tomatoes, fall caramel-apples, and winter yule-log cakes.

And a lot of people agree with me: Some 65 million bottles of Nouveau are expected to sell this fall, representing about half of Beaujolais’ entire harvest.

So who’s leading the backlash? Fans of the other half of Beaujolais’ harvest—like the folks at W.A. Frost in St. Paul, who will be leading a $35-a-person “Anti-Nouveau Beaujolais Tasting” from 6 to 9 p.m. on the 17th, showcasing Villages and Cru wines from Beaujolais, and offering hors d’oeuvres.

“Nouveaux are wines that are too young to have really developed any nuance or character, and they’ve hurt the reputation of the more serious wines from Beaujolais,” said Ryan Huseby, beverage director at W. A. Frost, who did not add an emphatic “bah-humbug” after his statement, followed by a shriek of “you kids get off my lawn!” while he waved his cane around. I repeat, he did not shriek that while waving his cane around. I have to agree with him that Beaujolais wines are underappreciated, and if you can find any 2009’s kicking around when you’re in your wine shop, grab them, they’re across-the-board excellent.

Still, there’s no chance on earth I’ll be there. I’ll be celebrating the Nouveau with one of those 65 million bottles, because… drumroll please… because it’s fun! It’s fun to celebrate the harvest, it’s fun to mark the year, it’s fun to remember wine’s agricultural roots, it’s fun to be grateful to the farmers and farms that make all our lives possible. I’m grateful for turnips, I’m grateful for chestnut crab apples, I’m grateful for harvest, and I’m grateful that there are so many excellent Nouveau parties coming up this Thursday, like:

Fete du Vin
Hosted by the French-American Chamber of Commerce, this will be a blow-out. Food will come from eight of our top French-influenced restaurants, including HauteDish, Café Barbette, Vincent Restaurant, and Minneapolis’ Grand Café. Music will be by Davina and the Vagabonds, there will be silent auctions, raffles for plane tickets to France, hotel stays, cases of wine, and more. And of course, the Nouveau will flow like grape juice. Tickets are $35 for members, $45 for non-members, and the event will be held at Théâtre de la Jeune Lune (the location of last night’s Best of the Cities party) at 105 First Street N, Minneapolis.

But that’s not all! We’re giving away two pairs of tickets. Add a comment below naming something you love about the fall harvest, here, in France, or anywhere, and we’ll pick two winners at random on Monday afternoon and get your name on the list at the door for a pair of tickets. Must be 21 or over to get in, d’accord.

Café Barbette
Barbette will be offering a Nouveau meal all weekend, kicking-off Thursday night. It’s a four-course prix-fixe for $32, and will pair with Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau for $9.50 a glass or $36 a bottle. The menu is mouth-watering—a Brie tarlet with Beaujolais-poached dried fruits, Lake Superior whitefish with apple, turnip, celery and truffle sauce, coq au vin rouge, and beignets with caramel (there is also a vegetarian menu).

Chez Collette
The Hotel Sofitel’s Chez Collette will be offering a $48 three-course meal paired with Georges Duboeuf’s Nouveau, as well as free Nouveau tastings starting at noon in the restaurant’s bar.

The Better Wine Shops
Of course, a lot of local wine shops will be offering tastings, and buyings, of the Nouveau. Look for it at Haskell’s, Surdyk’s, Zips, Thomas Liquors, Solo Vino, and France 44, among many many others. Be on the lookout for the Terres Dorees “L’Ancien” Beaujolais Nouveau Vielles Vignes—it’s all estate-grown from a small 40-acre family estate and is generally regarded as one of the best instances of the Nouveau.

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