Wine with Food: Beaujolais Nouveau| Pairing Tips
Wine with Food: Beaujolais Nouveau
By Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. | March 1983
I have fallen victim to the personal computer age! After a modest contribution to this giant industry, I now can process these words on my word processor. In fact, it is really slick! I do not know how I did without it all this time. What one writes, appears on the screen in such a tidy and orderly manner, that it helps keep the thought-flow on course.
Now..what does that have to do with Food with Wine? Hold on, I’m getting to that!
“After you learn word processing” said the saleslady, “you can get into Supercalc, and learn how to solve WHAT-IF problems.”
I am into Supercalc, but it won’t solve my WHAT-IF problem!
My WHAT-IF problem for this new series is: “WHAT-IF someone gave me a special bottle of wine; what would I serve with it?” And to be specific: “What-if someone gave me a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau, what should I serve with it?”
First let’s see what is Beaujolais Nouveau? It is a wine made in southern Burgundy from the Gamay grape, and named after the region Beaujolais. But, it is not regular Beaujolais. It is made by a modified process of fermentation that preserves the fruitiness of the grape even more than regular Beaujolais, and makes a delightful red quaffing wine. It is not aged in wood barrels, and is bottled immediately after fermentation for immediate consumption. Do not confuse it with Beaujolais, Beaujolais Superiore, Beaujolais Villages, or other individual town designations from the same region, which do not have the word Nouveau in the names. These are made from the same grape, in the same region, but by the traditional process, and have some longevity to their life. (Even regular Beaujolais is one of the few red wines that drinks best when young, and it is on a downhill trend after a couple of years.)
December through February are the fun months in Paris bistros. It is the time when Beaujolais Nouveau has been delivered, and the establishments display signs of its availability. For some years now, the same wine has been flown to important cities in the USA at time of release. Being a unique red wine, which loses its best qualities within six to eight months, the Beaujolis Nouveau fever has also hit the pilgrims here.
Beaujolais Nouveau is a very refreshing, young tasting, red wine, that is inclined to be light and extremely fruity. It has a characteristic, easy to identify, flavor of the grape it is made from. It is a beginner’s red wine. It is usually crisp and fresh. It is best served chilled (but not iced).
A few California wineries have recently introduced their version of Gamay Beaujolais Nouveau (notably Mirassou and Sebastiani) and they are not bad but in fact, rather good. But, it is this writer’s opinion that the French and California should be classified in different categories and not compared. There is something about good French Beaujolais and Beaujolais Nouveau that should be judged on its own merits and with its own peers. Try them both, it is a learning experience.
What to serve with Beaujolais Nouveau? It is a wonderful apperitif wine, and it should not be classified in the true red wine category for this purpose. Serve it with light canapes like cream cheese or ham blends. Plain crackers and mild cheese. For a luncheon wine, serve it with ham, both cold or hot. A favorite lunch salad it will be complemented by is cold beef salad, even with some of the no-no salad dressings. A Beaujolais Nouveau could stand up to them. Try it. For dinner, it is a great casserole wine, and stews go well with it. I do not think it is suitable as an after dinner wine, even with cheese.
But whatever you do, drink it now! Do not store this wine, age it, or even postpone enjoying it. It started going downhill the day it was bottled, and any wine older than one year from the vintage date (usually bottled late in November of the year designated on the bottle) should be approached with caution. If you consider serving it to guests after the November of the year following the vintage date on the label, be sure you taste a bottle, and make sure it has not lost its zest and charm. I chuckle when I see some of this Nouveau that is a few years old, on wine shop shelves. They are invariably over the hill.
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