Beaujolais Nouveau 2010 Release

Upcoming this week is the release of the 2010 vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau.  It's the first wine released yearly from the Northern Hemisphere grape harvest.  The wine is always released on the 3rd Thursday of November at 12:01 am Central European Time (CET) which means it's available for Thursday parties and events! 

The wine is made from the Gamay varietal in the southern portion of Burgundy.  It is meant to be drunk young while it's fresh, lively and fruity, so they employ a rapid means of fermentation called carbonic maceration, which also eases the normally acidic nature of the grape.  I recently received a sample of 2010 Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais Nouveau and was eager to taste and share the notes with you.  The wine is full of strawberry and ripe cherry along with cinnamon hints, a touch of minerality, smooth tannins and high acidity.  It's very light and not lengthy on the finish, but a good wine to share with friends and even try with your Thanksgiving turkey.  (84 WG)

If you're planning on going out to celebrate the release, here's a few local spots to try:

  • Vertigo Sky Lounge.  Hosting a "midnight" release party on Wednesday 10pm-1:30am to unveil 2010 Georges Duboeuf.  Reservations are required.
  • Whole Foods-Lincoln Park.  Join them for free samples in the wine department.  12pm-9pm.
  • Union League Club.  $50 in advance will get you: tastes of Beaujolais Nouveau and more French wine, food & spirits, souvenir photos, chance to win a trip for 2 to Paris, and a 2010 commemorative wine glass.  6pm-9pm.
  • Chicago French Market.  Come in for free samples of Beaujolais Nouveau.  4pm-7pm.
  • Bistrot Zinc.  Join them for a three-course meal and a glass of Beaujolais Nouveau for $29.95.  Reservations recommended.
  • Bistrot 110.  A $25 tasting of Beaujolais wine and seasonal samples.  6-8:30pm.  Reservations recommended.

Whether you are go out or stay in, I hope you enjoy some Beaujolais Nouveau friends and family!

Beaujolais AOC and its Wines

So after the awesome tasting I attended of the 2009 vintage Beaujolais wines, I thought it would be a great idea to tell a little about the region the wines come from.  There are many people who like these light and fruity wines, but there's alot more to learn about them- first of all, it's not all Nouveau!  The Gamay grapes used to make Beajolais Nouveau are grown on the high alkaline clay-lime soils of southern Beaujolais.  Just to the north there are 38 villages which make up the Beaujolais-Villages AOC where the grapes are grown on schist, sandy loam and granite.  Finally, you have the ten different "Crus".  They are able to produce higher quality wines which can age anywhere from 3-10 years.  Also, a very small percentage of white wine from Aligote and Chardonnay, while Pinot Noir and rosé wines are produced as well.

The Gamay Noir varietal is a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais, which was introduced to French soil by the Romans, who started wine production in the region, later to be carried out by the Benedictine Monks.  Gamay was grown all throughout Burgundy and was a huge asset around the time of the Black Plague, as it was easy to cultivate and ripened earlier, giving more and faster fruit to many starving people.  However, due to it's extremely thin skin and harsh acidity, it was not seen as being noble like Pinot Noir, and was eventually pushed out of most of Burgundy to the south, where it flourished on granite soil. 

The name "Beaujolais" hails from the 9th century and a village called Bogenis, a Celt word meaning "fine white bull".  That named was later Latinized, first to Bellibocus, and later to Beaujeu, before it finally became Beaujolais.  In the 19th century, it grew in fame with the expansion of the railroad, and became known for making lower priced wines which required less aging.

Wine production in the area is very unique, as grape clusters are picked by hand and put through carbonic maceration.  The clusters are placed in stainless steel tanks, the bottom third grapes are crushed by the weight of the grapes on top of them, releasing juices which are fermented by native yeasts on their skins.  This releases CO2, which pushes O2 out the top, creating an anaerobic environment.  This triggers fermentation inside the other grapes at an intracellular level.  The grapes are all later crushed, but this process changes the wine's profile: malic acid is significantly decreased, pH is increased, glycerol levels increase ten-fold which brings up the potential alcohol, tropical flavors like banana become highly detectable.  This produces wines are ready to drink, low in tannins and very fruity.

Church of RégniéBeaujolais Nouveau is a very basic red wine, fruity, light bodied and made to drink chilled.  Beaujolais-Villages can be had for a few dollars more (around $10) and while it is very drinkable, it has more body and some darker fruit flavor.  The Crus each have their own character, are available around $12-20, and are much more complex:

  • Régnié.  This region is named after the Roman nobleman Reginus who formerly owned much of the commune.  The grapes are grown on pink granite sand and small amounts of clay.  It's the newest addition to Cru status (1988) and is renowned for it's floral, fruity scents and cherry flavor.  Normally ages up to three years.
  • Chiroubles.  It's the highest in altitude of all the Crus with soil comprised of granite and recognized for violet aroma.  Normally ages up to three years.
  • Brouilly.  This is the largest Cru, accounting for 20% of all Cru wine, and located at the foot of Mont Brouilly.  Silky tannins, plum and minerality highlight the wines, which age up to three years.
  • Côte de Brouilly.  Grown on soils made by the extinct volcano Mont Brouilly, the wines made here are more complex, balanced with minerality and fruit.  Normally ages up to four years.
  • Chénas.  Named for the Roman nobleman Canus, this is the rarest Cru with only 270 hectares of vineyard.  It has tremendous amount of black fruits and is so floral, it's said to be "a bouquet of flowers in a velvet basket".  Renowned for rose scents.  Normally ages up to ten years but can last fifteen.
  • Fleurie.  Ideally backed onto a chain of peaks, this Cru is known as the "Queen of Beaujolais" for it's refinement and nobility.  It produces wines with silky tannins and velvety texture.  Normally ages up to ten years but can last sixteen.
  • Saint-Amour.  Graduated up to Cru status in 1946 thanks to a self taught shepherd-turned-winegrower named Louis Dailly.  The grapes are grown on granite and flint and make wines with aromas of peach and red fruit.  Normally ages up to ten years but can last twelve.
  • Juliénas.  Named for Julias Caesar who once passed through, the grapes are grown on pink granite and schist.  The wines have spice and pepper with loads of fruit and aroma of peonies.  These wines easily age up to ten years.
  • Morgon.  The wine made here is such a great expression of its terroir that the French sometimes describe it as "morgonne".  They stress the "rotten rock" soil (decomposed granite), its exposures and location.  Cherries, kirsch and an earthiness rivaling red Burgundy are present in the wine and easily age up to ten years.
  • Moulin-à-Vent.  This Cru takes its name from an old windmill which was used to mill grain up until the 19th century.  The soil contains a perfect amount of manganese, which normally is harmful to vines, but in this case controls yields.  The wines are normally aged in oak and are easily the longest aged- anywhere from 6-20 years.

90% of the wine produced is made by 30 different négociants like Louis Jadot, Bouchard Pére et Fils and Georges DuBoeuf.  The rest is made up of 20 different co-operative producers and estate bottlers, though both are very hard to find.

The wines are known to be "the only white wine that happens to be red" and is the perfect picnic wine.  They are also easily pairable with dishes many would only drink whites with like appetizers, fish and poultry.  Make sure to try these amazing wines and the value that they bring!

Georges DuBoeuf 2009 Vintage Beaujolais Lunch at Blackbird

The amazing 2009 vintage of Beaujolais wines are about to hit Chicagoland and I was fortunate enough to taste them at a Blackbird Restaurant wine luncheon.  For this event, Chef Paul Kahan would be pairing dishes with '09 Georges DuBoeuf selections: Beajolais-Villages, Morgon, Fleurie, Julienas and Moulin-a-Vent.

Beaujolais wines come from southern Burgundy, just north of Lyon.  They're made from the Gamay varietal which is known for it's thin skin, low tannins, high acidity and loads of fruit flavor.  Be sure to watch for my upcoming post about the different growing regions and production.

We started with the '09 DuBoeuf Beajolais-Villages ($10), made from grapes grown in the northern half of Beajolais.  The higher tannins in this wine is the highlight of the vintage and was quite surprising- it makes an interesting combination of not just being extremely drinkable, but also great with food.  It's total harmony of ripe acidity, full fruit, fresh herbs and the 2009 vintage tannins.  Here's a bit more about the vintage from winemaker Emeric Gaucher:

Emeric and I also talked about what some of his favorite wines are and he really loves Syrah/Shiraz, especially from Côte-Rôtie and Barossa.  He gets chances to visit many vineyards throughout the world and is really looking forward to an Australian trip.

CharcuterieAs far as the lunch went, everything went well with the wines due to both the '09Pork Loin & Belly vintage character and Chef Khan's vision.  We started out with Duck Sausage and Mortadella with Almond Yogurt, Fennel and Smoked Almonds and continued on to Grilled Pork Loin and Pork Belly with Royal Trumpet Mushrooms, Melted Leeks, Pickled Tumeric and Chorizo Broth.  The fruity nature of the wines along with their minerality, acidity and tannins complemented the richness and saltiness of the pork.  The earth and licorice of the mushrooms, leeks and fennel matched well with the Cru Beaujolais, especially Moulin-a-Vent. 

Each wine exhibited the unique character of their growing region's soil through their aroma and flavor profile.  The Beaujolais-Villages had the most jammy fruit, while each Cru wine was typical but with the added strength and tannin of the vintage.  We also tried a couple of special wines from DuBoeuf: the Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents ($16), which was an extremely pretty wine full of cherry and violet, and the Moulin-a-Vent Domaine de la Tour du Bief ($18), which was strong with black fruits, spice and licorice. 

I not only recommend purchasing Beaujolais-Villages and Cru wines for their tremendous value and versatility, but also the 2009 vintage for it's amazing quality, tannin and power.  Make sure to take advantage of the value these wines bring and let me know how you liked them!

Beaujolais Nouveau Hits Chicago

The 3rd Thursday of November is arriving, so that means it is time for Beaujolais Nouveau 2009!  We went over this phenonmenon last year, but millions of cases of this wine will be released to the world this Thursday at 12:01am, with a bunch coming right here to Chicago.  Not only will the wine be available for purchase, but the city will be partying down with this tasty, easy drinking wine.  Here is a list of specials and events:

Bistro 110: Burgundy/Beaujolais Tasting.  Head to this Magnificent Mile bistro at 6pm this Thursday for a 6 wine tasting paired with offerings from Chef Dominique Tougne which include cheese, charcuterie, garlic sausage, veal blanquette, poached salmon, and dessert.  $25.

Brasserie Jo: This Friday, enjoy Beaujolais Nouveau by the glass ($8) or bottle ($39) with a la carte pairings of escargots, saucisson, and beef bourguignon.

Cafe des Architectes: Head to the Sofitel Water Tower for a Four Course Prix Fixe.  This menu features French dishes made with local ingredients such as Swan Creek Farm pork belly and chicken, Nichols Farm cippolini onions, and Fayette Creamery camembert.  This menu will be featured Thursday-Saturday.  $45.

French-American Chamber of Commerce: 25th Annual Passport to France.  Enjoy French cuisine from local restaurants paired with 2009 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau along with other French wines and spirits.  There will also be a silent auction and chances to win a trip to France.  At the Union League Club of Chicago.  $50 in advance, $60 at the door.

Kiki's Bistro: Pairing Beaujolais Nouveau with regular menu items.  Wines from Montes Vineyards of Chile will also be featured.

La Sardine: If you're hanging around Harpo Studios, stop in to enjoy Beaujolais Nouveau paired with a Four Course Prix Fixe retro menu.  Seafood gratin, duck consumme, monkfish, and dessert.  $35.

L'Eiffel Bistro & Creperie: If you're out near South Barrington, head to this lively little bistro for the festivities.  Live music, Beaujolais Nouveau, and a Three Course Prix Fixe.  $35.50.

Mon Ami Gabi: Live music, prizes, 2009 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, and hors d'oeuvres at both the Lincoln Park and Oak Brook locations.  $35.