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Beaujolais wines hail from central France, with the Gamay grape responsible for almost all Beaujolais wines (though a little white Beaujolais is made too, from Chardonnay).
The region makes all sorts of wines including serious reds made in a traditional way including long ageing in oak barrels. But perhaps the most famous wine of the region is the Beaujolais Nouveau, or 'New' Beaujolais.
Nouveau is a highly unusual wine in that it is made, bottled and released within just a few weeks of the grapes being picked from the vine.
Strangely, Beaujolais Nouveau is always released on the third Thursday of November, and a special type of fermentation called Carbonic Maceration means a fresh, fruity wine with very little tannin is possible in just a few weeks.
A tradition of racing to be the first get Beaujolais Nouveau onto restaurant tables each November started in the Bistros of Paris began in the 1960s, and soon spread to the UK.
The annual campaign of “Le Beaujolais Nouveau est Arrive!" ran for decades, with all sorts of fun and games to get the first bottles into UK restaurants and wine shops – such as this precious wine being driven over in vintage Rolls Royce's, flown in small planes, a case or two strapped onto the pillion seat of a fast motorbike! Yes, really!
In recent years, there has been far less fuss about the Nouveau, but many people still look forward to trying one of these fresh, fruity young wines as soon as they appear on the shelves.
Here are Tom’s top picks of this type of wine.
1. Georges DuBoeuf, Beaujolais Nouveau 2009 from France, priced at £5.99 from Majestic
Georges DuBeouf is one of the best producers in Beaujolais, and his 'Nouveau' is always reliable. This is classic Gamay with this bright, tight kirsch-like aromas and flavours, and a dry finish with almost no tannic edge.
With flavours of currants, cherries and watercolour paints, this wine goes nicely with dishes including fondue, macaroni cheese and sausages and mash.
2. Terrazze Della Luna, Novello di Teroldego 2009 from Italy, priced at £6.50, WoodWinters (Bridge of Allan) or £6.99 from Aitken Wines (Dundee)
Terdoldego is a speciality grape from the very far north of Italy, right up in the Dolomites near the Austrian border. Here it is made in the Beaujolais Nouveau style, using carbonic maceration.
It is a distinctly fruity wine, released at the same time as the Beaujolais Nouveau each year, as a rather cheeky Italian riposte to the French!
With flavours of red cherries, raspberries, red liquorice and lipstick, this pick suits pasta served with mushrooms, mature cheeses and anything with chestnuts.
3. Château La Forêt, Beaujolais 2008 from France, priced at £5.99 from Waitrose
A more serious Beaujolais, this one a full year older than the Nouveau and with a much darker, meatier character in a wine with some tannin and a more serious style. It is made from 50-year-old vines.
Flavours of plums and raspberries give this wine a lovely rich taste, suited to charcuterie, cold chicken or other roast meats, and maybe poached salmon.