Beaujolais Novice

I’m new to the Beaujolais Nouveau experience: This is the first season, really, that I’ve paid attention. And if ever there was a wine drinker born to love the legend, it is I. Everything about Beaujolais appeals to me, at least in the abstract: the wine’s youth, its simplicity, the element of seasonality. As one more devotee of seasonal cooking, and of the notion that seasonality, in food, brings a sense of connectedness to the earth, I positively love the idea of a wine that goes so quickly from harvest to bottle to wineglass, and I love the idea of it as an autumnal tradition, a wine that people await and celebrate just like the persimmons that always make the passing of the peaches nothing to lament. The third Thursday in November! The first of the new vintage! It conjures such a vision of farmers and vintners as integral members of a small community, bringing out their latest products with great joy. It conjures a wine hitting the shelves with the same good tidings that summer’s first peaches arrive at the farmers’ market.

A chilled, low-alcohol red wine—this, too, captures my imagination, probably because my first real engagement with wine came one summer in college, when I developed a habit of mixing red wine with orange juice and ice, and sipping it slow in the sunshine. (If you haven’t tried this, don’t scoff, because it’s not half bad when you’re underage and misbehaving.) But I’m wondering now if the Beaujolais bug is really going to bite me. I’ve bought and tried two from the recent vintage, and they’ve been thin, unbalanced, and tainted by off flavors. And reading around, I find myself immersed in laments, in various news sources and blogs, about the attenuated quality of Nouveau, and the way it has harmed the reputation of all wine from Beaujolais. So maybe this particular love will have to wait—until I find myself in Beaujolais itself, perhaps, with the right people at the right time, to drink this sweet old idea the way it was meant to be.

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