Celebrating The Nouveau Beaujolais!

Welcome to Friday, the second day of the Nouveau Beaujolais, the biggest wine harvest holiday in the world.

If you’re not familiar with the Nouveau Beaujolais, it’s: The new Beaujolais. Every year the winemakers of the southern French region of Beaujolais (where they grow wine grapes the way Iowa grows corn, in both quantity and quality) send forth to the world a super-young, super-fruity wine to celebrate the harvest. The Nouveau Beaujolais started as a winemakers in-the-field ritual, by and for the people who harvest and make the wine, but later got picked up by the company Georges Duboeuf as a marketing plan.

(This marketing angle has made it a little controversial—but it never bothered me; Santa Claus has some marketing roots too, who cares? I also don’t care that some wine folks don’t like the Nouveau Beaujolais because it’s typically young, juicy, and grapey—I like all the harvest foods, candy apples, pumpkin pie, and fresh table grapes too. At its best, the Nouveau Beaujolais puts you in touch with everything elemental and agricultural about wine: The best ones are rustic and vital, vibrating with the energy of fresh fruit, in the same way that fresh-squeezed orange juice seems more electric than the stuff pasteurized on a shelf.)

Anyway, I feel like I’m maybe damning the wine by defending it. I love going into liquor stores this weekend and seeing the Nouveau Beaujolais stacked up; it makes me as happy as a kid-made Thanksgiving turkey fashioned from popsicle sticks and egg-carton pieces.

I think a lot of people are agreeing with me, because the Nouveau Beaujolais seems to be a much bigger deal this year than usual, and is being welcomed by a bunch of local Minnesota events, including… I can’t believe this is really happening. Friday night, the French American Chamber of Commerce is putting on a huge gala ball at the Marquette hotel. They’re making a French village at the top of the IDS tower; there will be dancers and clowns and flowers and the mayor of the village of Beaujolais will be here! Not kidding. Tickets are a hundred and ten bucks at the door, and if you can’t afford to go, I think everyone around the city should make an effort to glance up at the IDS tower Friday night and murmur Wow, there’s a French village up there tonight.

Lots of local restaurants are having special wine-pairing meals:

Grand Café Minneapolis is having a celebration four-course dinner all weekend.

Sofitel in Bloomington is offering a special three-course dinner, and will have various Nouveau Beaujolais in their bar to sample.

Café Barbette in Uptown, one of my favorite restaurants of the year, is offering a four-course dinner all weekend by new chef Kevin Kathmann, longtime French Laundry veteran. Perhaps you will enjoy French onion soup, beignets, and coq au vin with your new wine?

It’s also just nice to drink some Nouveau Beaujolais on your own. Make a nice French dinner, or just rent a French movie and grab some brie to pair with a glass of wine and your couch.

If you’re feeling nervous about a wine often described as being too much like Welch’s grape juice, or if you’ve been one of the wine people pooh-poohing the Nouveau Beaujolais, I implore you to give the wine another chance. I tried one 2010 Beaujolais Nouveau which was an absolute stunner: L’Ancien Beaujolais from Terres Dorrees. It’s a small French estate producer that only uses wild yeasts—this is a big deal in wine circles, sort of the difference between making bread from a sourdough starter or from store-bought yeast; one makes a deeper tasting bread, one a sweeter bread. I just love it. The juicy freshness of the wine is balanced by a roast game and dry coffee quality; it tastes as alive as a carrot and wheatgrass juice straight from the juicer, vital and fresh, but in a red-wine, dark-flavored way. This Terres Dorrees costs a little more than most, $16 versus the $10 that most Beaujolais Nouveau run, but that’s how it goes. I also think this wine will be a fun one to bring out for Thanksgiving, because it’s so juicy it will go pretty well with all the sweet foods, like cranberry sauce, and the bland foods like mashed potatoes and turkey.

Try a bottle! Most good wine shops should stock some Nouveau Beaujolais, but shops with Terres Dorrees on hand should include: St. Paul’s Solo Vino; Minneapolis’ Zipp’s; North Oaks’ Wine Street Spirits; South Minneapolis’ France 44; St. Paul’s Thomas Liquors; South Minneapolis’ South Lyndale Liquors; the new Minneapolis Lake Street Wine & Cheese; Minnetonka’s Lakeside Wine & Spirits; Minneapolis’ Cork Dork; the main Big Top in St. Paul; and North St. Paul’s Bright Wines.