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Red wine normally takes at least six months to make, but the Beaujolais Nouveau variety, which comes from the Beaujolais region in France, is the first to be released from the annual French harvest.
The third Thursday of November, which we passed yesterday, is a big date in the annual wine diary, as it is the day when the Beaujolais Nouveau is released.
Due to a special method of fermenting, this type of wine is ready to drink after just two months of harvest.
Beaujolais Nouveau is not meant to be a ‘serious’ wine, but a very fruity, light wine for quaffing and celebrating the new harvest. The best Beaujolais should have a juicy, fresh, cherry-ish quality with plenty of fruit, though it has to be said that quality can be variable.
It’s worth keeping in mind that ‘Nouveau’ is only one minor part of the Beaujolais story: the same grape, Gamay, is also used in the much more serious Beaujolais wines (note, ‘Nouveau’ does not appear on the label).
These are not made by the express method, and so appear only several months later. Whilst the 2010 harvest ‘Nouveau’ is just hitting the shelves, you will find regular Beaujolais from the 2009 harvest on sale, and the good news is that was a superb one: almost any bottle of 2009 is worth trying.
If you want to try some of the ‘Nouveau’ varieties that are hitting the shelves just now but don’t know where to start, here is wine connoisseur Tom Cannavan’s top three selections.
1. M&S Beaujolais Nouveau 2010, £6.99 from Marks & Spencer
This selection is typically cherry and watercolour paint-box scented stuff, with a sappy freshness. On the palate it is juicy, racy and filled with easy cherry and berry fruit for glugging, without too much concern over the ultimate seriousness of the wine.
Lovely fruity flavours of cherries and raspberries make this a perfect wine to serve with smoked meats and dishes such as duck breast in cherry sauce.
2. Asda Beaujolais 2009, £4.47 from Asda
Beaujolais had one of its greatest ever vintages in 2009 (in other words, the weather was perfect for producing lots of very ripe, healthy grapes). As with the ‘Nouveau’ this is made from the Gamay grape, but notches up the ripeness and smoothness of the cherry and blueberry fruit.
Tastes of blueberries and cherries make this an excellent wine for risottos or an Indian curry that isn’t too spicy.
3. Château de Chénas Moulin à Vent 2009, £10.99 from Waitrose
This third pick is a much more serious Beaujolais from one of the top villages, Moulin à Vent, which are allowed to put their name on the label.
Darker, deeper, and much more perfumed, it has super rich black cherry fruit that also has mouth-watering juiciness and lovely acidity to balance. This is another 2009 star.
Tastes of raspberries and cherries, as well as herbs, make this a good selection to serve with pasta dishes, duck or roast chicken.