Saturday, 22 November 2014

Beaujolais Nouveau 2014

Back in the nineteen eighties and nineties, the Legatus remembers all the wine bars and off licences in the City celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau Day in November and it was traditional to go out and drink what was, at best, a rather peculiar-tasting wine on the day. All the supermarkets would have big piles of the wine on sale the following weekend and the newspapers would be full of comparative reviews of the different growers' wines (Beaujolais has always suffered from too many very small winemakers).

A marketing device more that a proper wine, Beaujolais Nouveau is unusual in that it is bottled and released for sale very shortly after harvest (six to eight weeks), originally, since 1951 when it was first created, on November 15th and now, since 1985 on the third Thursday of November.  It makes up slightly less than a third of the total wine production of Beaujolais.

The tradition, in the UK, seems to have lapsed now and I can't remember seeing it for sale in a supermarket for some time but I spotted some in Waitrose yesterday and as it was from the usually reliable (if controversial - the company was fined in 2006 for mixing grapes from other regions into their Beaujolais) Georges Duboeuf I picked up a bottle to take to my particular friend A's, yesterday.

In the US they market it as a Thanksgiving wine and it is the second biggest foreign market for the wine (the French drink more than half of the production).  The biggest foreign market is Japan.  The Japanese love it; importing nearly 8 million bottles last year but then they also enjoy murdering dolphins, buying beetles for pets from vending machines and making dubious films involving women dressed as schoolgirls being tied up and tortured, so their taste is suspect.

Having been in decline since the end of the eighties (1985 saw the peak production of 67 million bottles - the annual total is less than half that today) there are signs of something of a comeback for a wine that the Legatus remembers removing the enamel off his teeth, more often than not.  The Beaujolais region has been trying to improve the quality of the wine over the last decade and has reduced the number of vineyards producing it by over a third to help in this.

SA, A fast lady in every way

I had a girlfriend back in the eighties who took part in the annual Beaujolais Nouveau Run, once.  In 1970 London restaurant owner Marcus Berkmann and TV presenter, writer, Member of Parliament and London Playboy Club director Clement Freud (who we once chatted to about this in the first class carriage of an InterCity 125 train between Bath and London a few years ago) were having a dinner of coq-au-vin at the Hotel Marittones in the Beaujolais region of France. During the course of the dinner they evolved the idea of racing back to London to see who could get a case of the newly bottled Beaujolais Nouveau back home first. They did the same the following year (Berkmann won both times) but then Fleet Street got involved through The Sunday Times and the larger Beaujolais Run took off involving, more often than not, a number of classic British sports cars. People started to get it on to aircraft, including using Concorde, to get the fastest time. Eventually, the Royal Air Force entered and took the record for the run by using a Hawker Harrier jump jet, which was rather unsporting of them.

The Beaujolais Nouveau run still happens although, oddly, it now starts in the UK (including, in 2009, from the Brooklands old motor racing circuit which is just a few miles from where I live) and finishes in Beaujolais.

Anyway, this year's vintage was much better than all of the ones I remember from the past; much more full bodied and fruity but with that typical gamay whiff.  The mouth-puckering acidity had gone and so had the nail polish smell.  Not bad at all!  Probably not worth £7.99 a bottle though!


  1. Legatus - the Beaujolais Run and fuss in the City largely died out because the wine was so God-awful. "Vin de Merde" was the term used by one French producer well before the 2006 scandals. Whilst I wouldn't touch Beaujolais Nouveau with a bargepole, I'm quite happy to give some of the village wines (Brouilly, Fleurie etc) a go. They are made with better quality grapes and are aged for about four or five months (usually being released in the March / April following the harvest. Well worth a shot.

    1. Yes, I quite like Brouilly but I have to say that if I was going to go for a light French red I would probably go for a red Loire. This year's Nouveau was OK just not worth £7.99!

  2. Beaujoias is a perfect summer wine up here in Hyperborea, though we only get two producers in our state-run Systembolag. Thank you for this tip for trips to "the continent".

    One of the B.:s here is undrinkable and the other is fine (from Georges Duboeuf). Around 8-9 GBP and well worth the humble sum. Though, without the extreme taxation up here it would be closer to 4 GBP without VAT and extra-spirit-taxation, which makes one wonder on the quality... An expensive wine isn't always good, but a cheap wine rarely tastes well: An experience which have turned into a lesson from our state-run monolopy.

    1. Yes we find the same here as our tax on alcohol is quite high (not as high as yours). So the cheaper the bottle the less value the actual wine has and the greater proportion is tax.