I always make a point of tasting Beaujolais Nouveau—and it’s that time of the year again. Beaujolais Nouveau often gets a bad rap (sometimes deservingly so), but it’s more than that. It’s a celebration of the most recent harvest, and a time for community celebration. The pub next door to my house even offered a French cuisine menu to celebrate the release of the 2013 vintage, which was well received in my local Sussex community.
Beaujolais Nouveau is not a complex wine—after all, it is usually sold a mere six to eight weeks after being harvested—but nonetheless is an interesting wine, at least for being quite atypical. Because winemakers use whole berry carbonic maceration (anaerobic fermentation) instead of a crushed berry aerobic fermentation, the wine is driven on fruit aromas and lower tannin levels.
By keeping the berries whole or intact, in an environment artificially saturated in carbon dioxide, the fermentation process does not extract as many potential harsh compounds (tannins, for example), and the overall metabolism produces fruitier molecules compared to a “classic” fermentation.
In fact, it is technically very hard to achieve a pure carbonic maceration: filling a tank with several tonnes of grapes will automatically generate grape crushing because of the weight applied to the berries at the bottom of the tank. What occurs is that both anaerobic and aerobic fermentations occur simultaneously.
In practice, a tank is filled with whole berries and goes through carbonic maceration for a week or two. Then it is emptied, pressed, and the wine produced goes through the aerobic alcoholic fermentation.
Beaujolais Nouveau can be very soft and quite light. Some may say that it lacks of complexity, but what you are looking for when you taste such a wine is that it is simple, straight forward, and affordable. No snobbism there.
Frankly, I feel it can be nicer than some of the wines found in supermarkets in the same price segment. But if you don’t care so much about drinking it, maybe you would consider bathing in it?
Jonathan Médard – Winemaker