In Norway, as in the rest of the world, there is a lot of talk about Beaujolais, especially at this time of the year.
That makes this a good time to go over some truths and debunk some myths about Beaujolais. Make yourself comfortable as we dive into the eight most common claims about Beaujolais.
Here we go.
Claim #1: Beaujolais is a grape variety
MYTH: No, Beaujolais is a wine region in France. It is situated north of Lyon.
Claim #2: Beaujolais produces only red wine
CLOSE TO THE TRUTH: The vast majority of wine produced is red, with the Gamay variety being dominant and accounting for well over 90% of all production in Beaujolais. However, white grape varieties can also be found on occasion, most often, Chardonnay.
Claim #3: All Beaujolais are “Vin de primeur” being released same year as harvested
MYTH: Beaujolais Nouveau is the name for “Vin de primeur” from the Beaujolais region. Beaujolais Nouveau is probably the most widely recognized wine product of Beaujolais but is far from the only one. Beaujolais Nouveau represents about a third of total wine production in Beaujolais.
Claim #4: Beaujolais Nouveau is released on the third Thursday in November
TRUTH: But this practice has also changed through the years. First, it was December 15, starting from 1937, when Beaujolais AOC was founded. From 1951 it was moved to November 15, and in 1985 third Thursday of November was set as the release date of Beaujolais Nouveau, meaning that shipping could start on this day just after midnight. However, in this century, wines can usually be shipped beforehand and offered to the general public on the third Thursday. So you can enjoy it in Norway the same time as the rest of the world.
“Le Beaujolais Est Arrivé!” is a phrase that signals that a new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau has come to the shops and restaurants.
Claim #5: Beaujolais Nouveau is the historical name for the young wine from the Beaujolais region
MYTH: The late George Duboeuf, sometimes called the king of Beaujolais or pope of Beaujolais, the largest producer in the region, actually spread and popularized the name Beaujolais Nouveau as a synonym for Vin de primeur from Beaujolais.
Claim #6: There aren’t any Crus in Beaujolais
MYTH: There are 10 Beaujolais Crus – Fleurie, Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Saint-Amour, Chiroubles, Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, and Régnié. Crus are of course the top of the Beaujolais classification, Beaujolais Villages being in the middle and Beaujolais AOC being the basic level from where most of the Beaujolais Nouveau wines come from.
Claim #7: You have to drink Beaujolais as soon as possible
MYTH (but partly based on the truth): Beaujolais Nouveau is a wine made for drinking early, and it doesn’t have much to gain from aging. You are encouraged to drink it soon as possible, but if you find a Beaujolais Nouveau that is a couple of months old, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it. Try to drink it within a year. It will probably already be on a downward slope if you hold on to it for longer.
On the other hand, Beaujolais Nouveau isn’t the only Beaujolais around. Most Beaujolais wines are light and fruity and should be drunk young, but there are more serious and complex wines coming from Beaujolais Villages or Cru Beaujolais that can age for a couple of years.
Claim #8: There is a special technological process for making Beaujolais
TRUTH: The processes used for making Beaujolais are carbonic maceration or semi-carbonic maceration.
Unlike conventional fermentation, where fermentation should start after the grapes are pressed, carbonic maceration, sometimes called whole grape fermentation, is a process where fermentation starts within grapes before being pressed, although part of the grapes that are on the bottom of the vessel go through conventional fermentation by being pressed by the weight of the grapes above it.
Carbon dioxide is added to the environment in which the grapes are being processed as a by-product of the fermentation. It further stimulates fermentation within the grapes.
Semi-carbonic maceration is short carbonic maceration followed by conventional fermentation.
These processes help in making light, fruity wines with low tannins.
The big day
With the third Thursday of November just around the corner, be ready to pick up a bottle of fresh Beaujolais Nouveau just as it hits the shelves of the stores across Norway and indulge yourself in this light and fruity, low tannin red.
You shouldn’t expect anything very serious or complex; these are simple pleasure wines.
You can expect high acidity, a light body, dry, vibrant wine with a lot of red fruit flavors like cherry, cranberry, raspberry, and strawberry.
Banana and bubble gum aromas can also often be found.
Earthy, smokey, and mushroomy notes are more often found in other Beaujolais wines.
Enjoy it slightly cooled, a couple of degrees lower than the temperature you drink other reds; 11 or 12 degree Celsius should do the trick.
Roasted chestnuts are our simple suggested pairing for Beaujolais Nouveau. Charcuterie and cheese platters are also a good place to start for food pairing.
Cheeses such as Camembert or Brie pair very well with Beaujolais Nouveau. Pizza with ham, sausages, or mushrooms should also complement it nicely. You can also give it a try with roasted chicken or smoked salmon.
Beaujolais Nouveau doesn’t cost a pretty penny, so it is a suitable budget variant when you need one.
After you have a go at Beaujolais Nouveau, check out some other Beaujolais wines at your local store.
A nice selection of Beaujolais can be found in Norway, so we urge you to start exploring!
Have a merry Beaujolais Nouveau day!
Pssst! You can read Vedran’s take on nine great white wines that you can find in Vinmonopolet here.
Vedran is a wine lover and a wine drinker, a father and a husband, a manager, and a hedonist. He’s a member of the Croatian Sommelier Club. He’s also Norway Today’s go-to person for all things related to wines.