Think Pink for Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

If it’s snowing outside your window, join the club – but tonight, instead of warming up with a glass of BigSexyRed, I’m switching gears and pouring some refreshing rosé. It’s light and floral, the low alcohol level won’t make me drowsy, and the sunshine-rosy-pink tone tells me spring is right around the corner. (It is, right?)

But don’t look at your rosé through rose-colored glasses. Go to a tasting and you’ll see what I mean: not all rosé is a deep pink, or salmon, or whatever color you’re expecting. I took this photo at a tasting recently, and some of the rosés could easily have passed for a Chardonnay or, at the other end of the rosé palette, a Pinot Noir:

Rose colors

That makes sense if you know how winemakers make rosé pink: the color comes from the grape skins. The intensity of the color is the winemaker’s choice: for darker wine, the grapes are gently crushed and the juice sits with the skins, macerating, for three days or more. For a pale wine, the winemaker might drain off the juice after just a few hours, at which point the juice (“must”) will ferment in a separate vat, away from the skins.

If you see the words “carbonic maceration” on the label, that means there is no deliberate crushing of the grapes to extract the juice. The winemaker simply loads whole clusters of grapes into a vat and the weight of the grapes on top slowly crushes those below. Instead of adding yeast to start converting the sugar into alcohol, the grapes themselves produce enzymes that function just as yeast would – they start converting sugar into alcohol. Winemakers in the French village of Tavel use this method to make the rosé that made the region famous.

Some rosé producers take a shortcut: they simply blend finished white wine with a  finished red until the wine is exactly the color and taste they prefer. It sounds like cheating, but some respected French producers use this approach.

The delectable result is a delicate, fruity wine with enough acidity to make it crisp and lively in your mouth. The Guardian in the U.K. calls it, “the booze of choice for millennials.” If your rosé was produced in Europe, chances are it’s on the drier side than if it were from, say, Australia.

Here’s why I’m writing about (and drinking) rosé: yesterday was Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the day winemakers in the French region of Beaujolais traditionally release “the first wine of the harvest.” For the first time, producer Les Vins Georges Duboeuf also released a Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé. Like their Beaujolais Nouveau 2018 (and every vintage), the rosé is made with 100 percent Gamay grapes.

I cracked my bottle and will buy more for Thanksgiving. Beaujolais Nouveau, as you know, doesn’t age well, so we’ll drink it next week. You should be able to find the rosé, reviewed below, at wine shops and supermarkets in time for the holiday. And be sure to read the label – don’t buy a “blush” wine or White Zinfandel unless you like to pair cotton candy with your turkey.

Wine Lingo:  Rosado = in France, the clear, pink color of rosé. Italians use a similar term: rosato.

BN Rose med

[This bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé was sent to BigSexyReds for review.]

Vino ‘View: Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau Rosé 2018 (12.5 percent alcohol, $13.99). This affordable, hand-harvested, lipstick-pink wine is as vibrant as the label design implies, and it’s fruit-forward all the way. Stone fruit and strawberry aromas hit you first, quieting down to soft, tangy red raspberries on the palate with a touch of lime. Expect strong acidity. This light wine will pair nicely with your turkey, even better with pumpkin pie. It’s a safe bet with the slight sweetness of jellied cranberry sauce, too.

Cheers!

Mary

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It’s Not Thanksgiving Without Beaujolais Nouveau!

It’s the most festive wine ever created, and at 12:01 a.m. on the third Thursday each November, French wineries celebrate the new vintage with the release of their Beaujolais Nouveau. Never mind that it’s also the most blatant marketing ploy in the history of wine, or that it brings in some 20 percent of the Beaujolais district’s entire wine revenues each year. Beaujolais Nouveau in your glass says, let’s get this party started!

Beaujolais mural

[Photo of wall mural in Beaujolais courtesy of Mark Goebel via Flickr.]

It’s the first wine released every season, young and fresh, often as strawberry-red as in the mural above, and can wake up your winter palate with flavors of the tropical fruits you see – pineapple, citrus, banana, melon – unusual tastes for red wine.

But Beaujolais Nouveau isn’t just any red. For starters, it isn’t aged: just six to eight weeks before you pour the wine, the Gamay grapes it’s made from were still hanging on the vine. And all Beaujolais wine, Nouveau or not, is produced in the Beaujolais district of France, north of Lyon and south of Burgundy, and the grapes must be harvested by hand.

Beaujolais Nouveau is produced so quickly, in fact, that WineFolly.com calls it “the world’s fastest wine.” It’s fermented with a technique called carbonic maceration, meaning that the instead of crushing the grapes so the juices will flow, whole grapes are loaded into a massive container full of carbon dioxide and they ferment while most of the juice is still inside the skins. The weight of the grapes on top gently crushes those below, releasing the juice. The container is sealed and more CO² is added, resulting in “anaerobic fermentation” – so called because the fermenting grapes aren’t exposed to oxygen – and winemakers add special yeasts to speed up the fermentation. The outcome is the fresh, fruity taste we look for in Beaujolais Nouveau.

In the early 1970s, the race to get the wine fermented and bottled became an actual race event: winemakers sprinted to Paris, carrying their first bottles, competing with their rivals to have their Beaujolais Nouveau declared the first wine of the vintage.

Experts have pronounced the 2017 Beaujolais Nouveau better than most, in part because this was the smallest harvest since 1945. Severe hailstorms in July, and unexpected frost, brought a smaller yield, concentrating the flavors. But in most years, production is high: about 28 million bottles are distributed worldwide, including almost 8 million bottles exported to Japan alone (compared to less than 2 million imported by the U.S.). The Japanese even bathe in it: a bathhouse near Tokyo features a hot Beaujolais Nouveau bath. (Actually it’s a small pool and only nine liters of wine are poured into the water, just enough to turn it reddish.)

I wouldn’t recommend bathing in Beaujolais Nouveau, but do buy a bottle this weekend – and enjoy it while it’s young, preferably in the next month. Don’t save this one; come next spring, it will lose its pizzazz. This is a wine that encourages all of us to celebrate the moment!

Wine Lingo:  Primeur = wine that’s young, produced quickly. Beaujolais Nouveau is sometimes referred to as, “vin de primeur.”

Beaujolais Nouveau

Vino ‘View: Duboeuf is the most familiar name in Beaujolais Nouveau sales, and it’s easy to see why. The 2017 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau (13 percent alcohol, $12.99) is not only delicious, it’s an affordable way to toast the holiday season. The initial aroma is strawberry milkshake, but the Duboeuf is a floral wine with almost a perfume taste. That strawberry shake flavor (but no sweetness) persists for about half a glass before it quiets to a soft marmalade. Mostly this wine is about fruit; I got watermelon, cherries and red raspberries with a touch of cinnamon – no pepper and almost no tannins. Artist Ari Azzopardi won a contest to have his flower-petal painting, “Candy Coated,” featured on the label; it appears on about a million bottles sold in the U.S. This wine would pair nicely with turkey and root vegetables, especially if you chill it; 57-59ºF is ideal. If you don’t have a wine cooler, put it in the fridge for half an hour before you serve it – but no longer. You don’t want to miss those satisfying summer fruits.

[The 2017 Beaujolais Nouveau was sent to BigSexyReds for review.]

Happy Turkey Day!

Mary