Each year, on the third Thursday in November — as in today — a million cases of wine are poised for release to eager and awaiting glasses all around world. Always cause for celebration, Beaujolais Nouveau marks the end of the exhausting harvest season while providing the first taste of this year’s vintage. Beaujolais Nouveau, translated as “newly arrived Beaujolais,” is the lightest and fruitiest style of Gamay Noir. Released as young as possible (often just weeks after bottling), it’s not meant to be aged. The wines are intentionally approachable, affordably priced and far from fancy.
Nouveau wines, which have long been a tradition in the Beaujolais region of France, are made utilizing a unique process called carbonic maceration. In this style, whole cluster grapes are placed in sealed containers filled with carbon dioxide, which allows a chemical transformation to begin inside of the grape. The result is a whole host of exotic compounds leading to an array of enticing aromas and flavors. Basically, a party in your glass.
Brandborg 2019 Nouveau Pinot Noir, Umpqua Valley
Gamay is practically nonexistent in the Umpqua, so Brandborg uses Pinot Noir grapes. Bright and vibrant with a light sparkling burgundy color and a nose of candied cherries, raspberries, tropical fruit notes and pie spices. The mouthfeel is sprightly, while the acidity is crisp, tangy and refreshing. A great complement to the foods and celebrations of the season.
Division 2019 Nouveau Nouveau Gamay Noir, Columbia Valley
This year marks the eighth vintage of Division‘s Beaujolais-inspired Nouveau made with 100% Gamay Noir from the Yakima Valley. Picked in September, the wine completed primary fermentation in October and was bottled in early November in advance of Nouveau Day. Unfined, unfiltered, and unpretentiously fun. Like the best Nouveau, Division’s is fresh, fruity and easy drinking. It is best served with a light chill, and in the company of good friends and family.
Ruby Vineyard & Winery 2019 Nouveau of Gamay Noir, Willamette Valley
While Ruby has been making a Nouveau of Pinot noir for five years, this is the first year they’re using the traditional Gamay grapes with fruit from an older vineyard outside Amity. Picked on October 1, seven weeks ago, it was bottled last Wednesday, in time for the wine club release and the Beaujolais Nouveau Fete. This wine demonstrates that we can feel enthusiastic about the 2019 vintage — beautiful wines, with moderate alcohols and balanced flavors and aromas.
Underwood 2019 Nouveau Pinot Noir
As unsnobby as it gets, somehow Underwood takes it to the next level. This canned Pinot Noir is uncomplicated, perfect for adding a bit of spice to November’s cooling nights. Flavors of sweet dark cherry cordials and juicy black plums dominate, with a savory undertone that’s like a welcome party guest.
Elaborate and festive Beaujolais celebrations will be taking place all over. Here are a few to get on your radar:
Party Portland-style at the Heathman Hotel on Friday, November 22. James Beard award-winning chef Vitaly Paley will provide a gourmet buffet with wines from Georges Duboeuf, WillaKenzie Estate, Pacific Rim, Ruby Vineyard, Anne Amie, Terroirs Originels and Division Winemaking Co., and spirits including Hardy Cognac and Balinoff Vodka.
Seattle festivities on Friday, November 22 will go down at the Columbia Tower Club will include Beaujolais wine, fine French food and entertainment. While at the Bastille Café and Bar, francophiles will enjoy wines from the Gang of Four and producers of Cru Beaujolais and Gamay-tailored tapas like salted cod cakes and beef tartare.