Beaujolais Nouveau is good. Many a wine lovers and critics would frown and stop reading any further upon my slightest praise for this wine or gimmick, as some like to put it. I still maintain that Beaujolais Nouveau is good.
Okay, so now you have your wine critic cap on and want to punch me in the face. Please go ahead. But let me talk to you as a fellow wine lover who has sniffed his way through a decent number of wines (modesty you see is no more a virtue these days); and I shall reiterate until you’ve heard me enough and understood where my view is coming from.
As some of us would already know, Nouveau made inroads into Lyon during the 19th century but not exactly in its present form. With the stabilising of the conditions post World War 2, it started travelling beyond Lyon and had earned a fine reputation in various Parisian bars by mid 20th century. What really clicked for it is still unclear but in my opinion, its success can be attributed to the ‘celebration’ factor, something that I feel that the wine epitomises in a mystical way and even after so many years, its arrival makes it an event followed by many in anticipation.
With time, the release of this young, fruity (mostly red) wine on the 3rd Thursday of November, has evolved into a big marketing exercise, believed to be pioneered by Georges Duboeuf, who almost single-handedly made it what it is today. Other producers followed suit and were rightly awarded, even in far-fetched territories.
My support for such an event comes from the fact that it is a great platform for a region that has either lived under the shadows of haloed Burgundy, or has long been rubbished as an inferior, wine producing land. So in such a pitiable state, what else do you expect those winemakers to do? Perhaps you’ll suggest draining down their wines along the canals or distilling it into alcohol! It is here that Beaujolais Nouveau comes to their rescue.
From another perspective, if someone had to make wine entertaining on a big scale, especially in the “Old World”, it is Beaujolais Nouveau that has led the way. Why do we forget that a large audience still enjoys such a wine? It’s affordable, its fun and its French! When was the last time you found all these three elements so harmoniously integrated into a bottle?
From a marketing & communications angle, there aren’t many wines (or wine regions) that speak directly to an ordinary consumer and entice them to drink their wines the way Beaujolais Nouveau does. With their ever so creative campaigns, the anticipation levels only get higher every year.
Defending Nouveau’s palatability, I feel it is a great starting point to determine what a novice drinker likes or dislikes and what they should avoid in the future. Agreed, not all Nouveau is pleasant. For that matter, any other 3 month old wine produced anywhere else in the world, would have its set of inconsistencies. Some will actually be unbearable. So why hate only a Beaujolais Nouveau? Even in wine markets currently in their infancy, there seem to be takers for a wine like the Nouveau. Here in India, a great wine hotel such as The Imperial still celebrates this wine’s arrival, year after year, maybe for a reason? It is perhaps following the footsteps of a Japan, now somewhat mature, which embraced the concept in the 80s.
Last but not least, would Beaujolais have ever got such attention if it was not for this event? Only when you get bored and bothered by Nouveau and its yearly hullabaloo, will you appreciate the beauty of Gamay and its colourful tones across the 10 crus of Beaujolais, each with its individual, characteristic style.
Like it or not, I feel that Beaujolais Nouveau is here to stay. It’ll only spread further as new geographies get exposed to wines and when all they want is a good time with a glass of wine in their hands. After all, who minds celebrating for no reason? Condemn it if you want, but don’t take away the fun of welcoming the Beaujolais Nouveau next year. Enjoy it while stocks last!