Saturday, November 22, 2003

A Vine Celebration 

This past Thursday marked the official release of this year’s fresh-off-the-vine Beaujolais Nouveau. I look forward to this day every year, so I celebrated last night by enjoying a bottle with my husband and friends (OK, two, and I have the headache to prove it).

I know that most of the time people talk about wines and the aging process as though they were speaking of the Holy Grail. But I like my wines fresh and fruity and bursting with flavor. I prefer wine that doesn’t attack my mouth with spice or dry it up like an old sock (or taste like one, either). And it’s not that I don’t have a refined palate or can’t appreciate wine complexities; I’ve been to lots of wine tastings and I know my Merlot from my Cabernets. I just have a thing for Beaujolais Nouveau. Besides its drinkability (some say gulpability), part of its attraction for me is its history.

A couple of thousand years ago, Beaujolais Nouveau was the sole province of the indentured grape pickers – their end of the season reward for all of that backbreaking labor in the vineyards gathering grapes for the rich people’s wine. In fact, the wine’s original name was “Servia Potio,” or “Slaves Drink.” I can just imagine the party that took place.

Beaujolais Nouveau gets its name from a town named Beaujeu, located in the southern region of Burgundy, France. The wine, made from Gamay grapes harvested only three months ago and pressed after only three days, can be produced by only a hundred or so wine communes who have the right to use the name “Beaujolais Nouveau.” Beaujolais Nouveau is “released” with much fanfare in France at exactly midnight on the third Thursday in November each year.

Apparently this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau is supposed to be the vintage of the decade, and is causing quite frenzy overseas. According to CNN, in Tokyo, where the wine went on sale at 9 a.m. (their time) November 20th, hoards of people stormed the local department stores to get a taste and buy it by the case. (In fact, Japan is the largest importer of Beaujolais Nouveau in the world, second only to Germany.) In Korea, over a half-million bottles were flown in for the official release!

According to local Beaujeu lore, Beaujolais Nouveau must be drunk before Christmas. Guess I better get back to it!
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